Skandar and the Phantom Rider (Skandar #2)

 
4.0 (2)
 
0.0 (0)
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Skandar and the Phantom Rider (Skandar #2)
Author(s)
Age Range
8+
Release Date
May 02, 2023
ISBN
978-1665912761
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Skandar’s adventure among the warrior unicorns continues in this spectacular sequel to the instant New York Times and international bestseller Skandar and the Unicorn Thief.

Skandar Smith has achieved his dream: to train as a unicorn rider. But as Skandar and his friends enter their second year at the Eyrie, a new threat arises. Immortal wild unicorns are somehow being killed, a prophecy warns of terrible danger, and elemental destruction begins to ravage the Island.

Meanwhile, Skandar’s sister, Kenna, longs to join him, and Skandar is determined to help her, no matter what. As the storm gathers, can Skandar find the key to stop the Island from tearing itself apart before it’s too late for them all?

Editor reviews

2 reviews
Action-Packed Plot
Overall rating
 
3.0
Plot
 
3.0
Characters
 
3.0
Writing Style
 
3.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
Skandar and the Phantom Rider finds Skandar and his friends in their toughest plight yet. Someone is killing the wild unicorns, the island’s magic is becoming unstable, his friends are divided, and his sister won’t stay in contact with him. Those are just the problems he knows about. Secretly, his sister is being held prisoner and is the focal point for a dark plan. All these events make for an action-packed read.
I have come to admire Mitchell’s character. He is a smart and steadfast friend to Skandar even when facing the prejudice of his father whom he wants to gain approval from. Same with Flo who stays by his side and stands up for injustice even when it could mean her imprisonment at the Silver Circle Stronghold.
I did like in this book that Skandar is finally able to live openly as a spirit wielder. However, there is so much prejudice and fear that he faces that it is hard to read at times. These fictional injustices could make for a good discussion of real-life injustices and prejudices that minority groups face.
What left me wanting more: I found the plot for A.F. Steadman’s bloodthirsty unicorn adventure to be sometimes distracting and hard to accept. There are many parallels to other middle-grade fantasies like the Harry Potter and Kelcie Murphy series that could make Steadman’s series the perfect next read for fans. However, there are times I felt like things happened just to make it pointedly different from Harry Potter so that instead of feeling authentic it felt distracting. The biggest instance of this is his very smart and capable female friend, Bobby Bruna. Instead of being a faithful and loyal friend like Hermione who helped Harry survive all his obstacles we have Bobby refusing to be his “sidekick” and off trying to establish her own glory almost at the cost of her friends’ lives. I lost patience with her attitude even though in some ways it is likely how many middle school perfectionists may have reacted.
Overall, A.F. Steadman has created an interesting fantasy world that has a mix of unique traits such as bloodthirsty unicorns and familiar story tropes like the chosen one needs to face the big evil with the help of his friends. I can see why there are mixed reactions about how much people are liking this series. I did find it hard to stay engaged in the plot when there were many times it just felt like things were being done to be different. With all that being said, I am interested to see what happens with Kenna and the fate of spirit-wielders in future books.
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Saving the wild unicorns
Overall rating
 
5.0
Plot
 
5.0
Characters
 
5.0
Writing Style
 
5.0
Illustrations/Photos (if applicable)
 
N/A
What worked:
The revelation that Skandar’s a spirit wielder, the spirit element also called the death element, is the biggest issue affecting his character. His abilities scare all of the other riders at the Eyrie, a school for new unicorn riders, because they don’t understand what he can do. Spirit wielders have a unique ability to kill bonded unicorns although Skandar would never consider doing something that atrocious. However, his mother is an evil spirit wielder called the Weaver and she has no reservations about performing ghastly, violent attacks. No one besides his close friends knows the Weaver is his mother but he’s still ostracized by all the other riders and society due to the fact he’s a spirit wielder.
The character relationships are more complicated than the first book and that makes the story more interesting. Riders at the school are grouped into teams of four and Skandar’s friends face their own, individual challenges. Flo has an opportunity to join the elite Silver Circle but their main focus is getting rid of spirit wielders. Mitchell wants to do well in school and remain friends with Skandar but his father is highly demanding and prejudiced and he expects his son to become the Commodore. Bobby also has high aspirations, she won last year’s trial, but she’s tired of being perceived as Skandar’s sidekick. Skandar becomes obsessed with uncovering the truth about his sister and possibly helping her bond with the wild unicorn that was supposed to be her lifelong partner.
The underlying conflict connecting all of the events is news that wild unicorns are turning up dead which results in devastating elemental disasters on the Island. Wild unicorns are supposed to be immortal so how are they being killed? Who would want to kill wild unicorns and what could be their motivation for doing it? As noted, spirit wielders are already feared and despised so immediate suspicion is directed at the Weaver. Not surprisingly, suspicion then turns toward Skandar so the plot becomes a mystery adventure. An additional complication develops as some riders are overcome with bloodlust and you can probably guess who’s blamed for that too.
What didn’t work as well:
You need to read “Skandar and the Unicorn Thief” before reading this book. Some information about previous events is shared but you’ll want to have a more thorough understanding of the Weaver and how the Eyrie works.
The Final Verdict:
This book may not appeal to lovers of unicorns as the creatures this time are prone to violence and enjoy eating raw meat. The author artfully crafts Skandar’s intriguing story as he battles unfairness and accusations of evil to save the Island from destruction. I highly recommend you read this book, after reading book one of course.
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