Skandar and the Unicorn Thief (Hardcover)
Skandar leaves the Mainland to take his chance to be claimed by a hatchling unicorn and train his way with the “bonded” foal into the ranks of the Riders. But these unicorns are like nothing you’ve imagined and training with them is often a life or death experience. It will take everything Skandar can summon to learn from his instructors and his peers and protect the Mainland from an encroaching menace: “The Weaver” and all of the wild, unbonded unicorns who live in a perpetual state of immortal decay. Yikes. You smell them before you can even see them. Full of twists and turns, battles and frenemies, this is a unicorn tale like no other. Don’t go looking for rainbow poop. There isn’t any.— Collette, Wild Rumpus
Skandar Smith has always yearned to leave the Mainland and escape to the secretive Island, where wild unicorns roam free. He’s spent years studying for his Hatchery exam, the annual test that selects a handful of Mainlander thirteen-year-olds to train to become unicorn riders. But on the day of Skandar’s exam, things go horribly wrong, and his hopes are shattered…until a mysterious figure knocks on his door at midnight, bearing a message: the Island is in peril and Skandar must answer its call.
Skandar is thrust into a world of epic sky battles, dangerous clashes with wild unicorns, and rumors of a shadowy villain amassing a unicorn army. And the closer Skandar grows to his newfound friends and community of riders, the harder it becomes to keep his secrets—especially when he discovers their lives may all be in graver danger than he ever imagined.
Unicorns are dangerous, bloodthirsty and immortal. They become slightly less vicious when bonded with a rider, so destined children are found and trained to channel the creature's magic. At 13, children take the Hatchery exam--those who pass may attempt "to open the Hatchery door on the Island" and find a unicorn egg. Skandar has watched years of rider/unicorn pairs competing in the Chaos Cup and dreams of joining their ranks. Thus, he is devastated when his teacher inexplicably denies him the test and astonished when a mysterious rider whisks him away to the Island anyway. But nothing there is as he expected. Unicorn riding isn't all winning challenges--Skandar must learn to fight. The Islanders are terrified of a shadowed figure called the Weaver and Skandar must learn how to work as an effective battle team with his unpredictable unicorn, Scoundrel's Luck. As Skandar works to uncover the Weaver's secrets, he realizes he may be the Island's only hope.
Steadman fantastically reinvents the traditional Western unicorn mythology by inverting the classic images--serene, majestic, noble, gentle, sparkly--and presenting instead a creature that is ferocious, deadly and nearly unstoppable. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is filled with incredible worldbuilding, a fully realized system of magic and an unforgettable cast of riders and unicorns. --Kyla Paterno, freelance reviewer
— Shelf Awarness