Your Preview Verdict: Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

Your Preview Verdict: Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

The first book in the hotly anticipated new fantasy adventure series for readers age 9+, from A. F. Steadman. If you like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Eragon or His Dark Materials, you’ll love this…

Soar into a world where unicorns are real – and they’re deadly. They can only be tamed by the rider who hatches them.

Thirteen-year-old Skandar Smith has only ever wanted to be a unicorn rider, and the time has finally come for him to take his Hatchery Exam, which will determine whether he is destined to hatch a unicorn egg. But when Skandar is stopped from taking the exam, and the mysterious and frightening Weaver steals the most powerful unicorn in the world, becoming a rider proves a lot more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. And what if Skandar was always destined to be the villain rather than the hero?

Get ready for unlikely heroes, elemental magic, fierce sky battles, ancient secrets, nail-biting races and, of course, bloodthirsty unicorns.

Buy a copy of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief here.

Read some great reviews from our Preview readers here:

I LOVED this book! I wouldn’t consider myself a girly-girl, so I’m not a huge fan of cute and fluffy unicorns, and that’s why the unicorns in this book were exactly my preference. They’re dark and definitely do belong in nightmares but I thought they were epic – thank God, no pink! I especially liked the bond they create with their rider. There’s so much fantastic magic in this novel and I felt like I was transported to another universe, but Skandar’s character also made it feel real and relatable. Seeing Skandar become the hero has inspired me to never give up and chase my dreams and reminded me that I can achieve anything. The major twists and turns also made me feel like I was on a rollercoaster ride. I really hope there’s a second book. Sophie, aged 9, NSW, 5 Stars

I loved Skandar and the Unicorn Thief. It was fast-paced, imaginative, descriptive and totally unexpected. Highly recommend it for children seeking new ideas, role reversal and at the edge of your seat storylines. Brooke, aged 9, NSW, 5 Stars

OH MY GOSH, that was so good! What a twist!!!! I loved the use of everyone’s magic, how cool would that be! I thought the wild unicorns were going to be scary but I don’t think they are. I think they just needed someone to see them for what they were on the inside, not how they looked from the outside. I really hope there is another book because I want to see what happens next year with Skandar and Scoundrel and all the elements! I also giggled lots at Reds party trick with the flaming farts! hehe. Aubree, aged 10, WA, 5 Stars

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is a great book overall. My favourite part was when Skandar’s sister, Kenna gets to ride Skandar’s Unicorn, and I also liked the training trial. The twist towards the end is a great addition to the book. My least favourite part was the ending, the reason is I wanted to keep reading! I am very much hoping there is going to be a sequel. Darcy, aged 11, VIC, 5 Stars

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief was a different novel to read. It was not what I think unicorns are and it took a mystical beast and turned it into something dark. The novel was full of adventure and mystery and I recommend it to others to read. Tora, aged 11, WA, 5 Stars

I think people who like adventure and fantasy stories will like this book. It kind of reminded me of the Percy Jackson and Harry Potter books. I really liked the plot because there were lots of exciting moments and it would constantly make me think one thing and then change. My favourite character was Mitchell, Skandar’s friend, because he went through a positive change. The unicorns were also cool and I liked all their elemental powers, especially the firepower because the description sounded good. The book was written well but the language was not too difficult to read. I would recommend this book for 8-12 year olds. Adam, aged 10, QLD, 5 Stars

It’s a great book. For me it’s a must-read and the characters are amazing. I absolutely love it. One of my favourite parts is when Skandar opens the hatchery door to meet his new unicorn companion. Don’t worry this happens toward the start. The book is about both of them. The more you read the more interesting it gets. I recommend it highly! Katherine, aged 10, WA, 5 Stars

I absolutely loved this book! ‘Skandar and the Unicorn Thief’ is full of relatable, funny, and well-developed characters, surprising plot twists, and suspenseful moments that make it impossible to put the book down. This was a really great read. I will never look at my little sister’s unicorn posters in the same way! I feel the ideal age group for this book would be 10+, because it is a little bit darker than some of my other reads, but with plenty of funny moments to balance out the scary scenes. If you loved Harry Potter, Nevermoor or Percy Jackson you’re going to love this! I can’t wait for the next book to see what happens next. Favourite quote: “That unicorn has a problem. This is a graveyard, have some respect.” – Bobby. ‘Skandar and the Unicorn Thief’ truly deserves 5 Stars. Georgia, aged 11, WA, 5 Stars

A wonderful read. I did not predict the climax there were enough twists to keep me guessing. The plot was cleverly written with elements of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern books, with the unicorns reflecting some of the traits of Perns dragons. I enjoyed the grouping of the elements and feel that this is a great book to introduce young readers to Science Fantasy. The four main characters reminded me a bit of the Harry Potter books and I look forward to reading more about them and seeing them develop. Steadman was able to get me hooked from the first chapter and I look forward to reading this book with my Grandson. Ainsley, QLD, 5 Stars

Can a story be unique even when drawing inspiration from such well-known sources as Harry Potter, The Hunger Games and Avatar, the Last Airbender? In the case of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief, the answer is a resounding yes. Much like the fresh twist this story takes on the legend of Unicorns as angry, dangerous spirit animals instead of the cute and colourful beings of childhood stories, Skandar and the Unicorn Thief weaves something new out of its story elements. A.F. Steadman has created great chemistry between the central quartet of protagonists; Skandar, Bobby, Flo and Mitchell, as the newly arrived unicorn riders on The Island find themselves unravelling mysteries one at a time, with each revelation upping the stakes. Like the ties weaved between rider and unicorn, the emotional ties between central and peripheral characters strengthen as the story unfolds, drawing you in to the fate of all involved. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is a tremendous debut in what could become a series to rival, if not surpass, the feats of the series from which it draws its main inspirations. Nathan, NSW, 5 Stars

I wanted this book as a gift for our 12 year old who has read the Harry Potter series about 8 times! He will be ecstatic! ‘My book of the year. Not since Harry Potter have I felt this excited about a series. 13 old Skandar has only ever wanted to be a unicorn rider. To be one of the lucky few selected to hatch a unicorn, to bond with it for life, to train together, to be a hero. But attaining this dream is more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. Meet unlikely heroes, elemental magic, sky battles, ancient secrets, nail-biting races and unicorns like you never imagined. This will be an epic adventure series that will have your heart soaring! It has been an absolute privilege to review this book!! Helen, NSW, 5 Stars

Wow! What a great book. I loved the fast pace from start to finish, a real page turner. From the beginning you find Unicorns in this book are not what you’ve always thought. I loved Bobby, who has a vulnerable side despite showing everyone how strong she is. Skandar is a complex character who has to hide his real power. I loved the bond between him and Scoundrel. A book to be loved by young and the young at heart. Helen, QLD, 5 Stars

‘Skandar and the Unicorn Thief’ by A.F. Steadman shares the captivating world of Skandar Smith who is swept away to a secretive island where unicorns are the stuff of nightmares. Most YA novels do follow the same outline, but that is what makes them interesting to read. They’re like a warm blanket that allows you to escape into a new fantasy realm. The characterisation could be a little off at times, there was a scene at towards the end of the book that took me completely out of it. But all in all, an interesting take on unicorns and a new fantasy world to explore. I’ll be looking forward to the next instalment. Emily, WA, 4 Stars

I loved this adventure & can’t wait to see the kids’ reactions after I pass it on. Also can’t wait for the movie (& hopefully a second book soon to see what happens next…) Ayesha, NSW, 4 Stars

I read this to my grandson and we both really enjoyed it. I didn’t know what to expect and Archie hadn’t heard about it so we had no preconceived ideas. For me it felt a bit like a couple of other books smashed together, but I think this is what Archie liked about it. Murderous Unicorns! What 7 year old boy isn’t going to love that. I’m not sure it would keep older readers interest but if your looking for a book to share with a younger reader this adventure is great, Thank you Better Reading. Archie, aged 7, QLD, 4 Stars

I really liked the main character Skandar. This book is full of action and excitement. Little bit scary and sad in parts but I liked the mystery around the weaver. Brooklyn, aged 10, SA, 4 Stars

The book was mysterious, interesting and magical. Nahla, aged 7, NSW, 4 Stars

Have you ever wondered what it would feel like to be in a world where unicorns roam free, a world full of nightmares? Skandar Smith has always dreamt of having a unicorn of his own, and with this year’s Hatchery exam, it might be the only chance for his dream to come true. But on his exam day, he loses all hope as the unexpected happened. At his lowest moment, a mysterious stranger gives him a second chance. But just as things seem to start getting better, the island goes into peril because the unicorn thief is freely stealing and killing unicorns. Skandar is stuck in the middle of all this, keeping his secrets to himself and his friends. But as he explores the truth behind The Weaver, he might be the only one capable of stopping this. ‘Skandar and the Unicorn Thief’ is a marvellous fantasy book, not only does the book have a great plot, but it also keeps us in suspense. I quite like the ending, but I hope that we see Skandar again, and not letting The Weaver get away this time. I recommend this book, especially to readers who like a magical adventure. Sejal, aged 13, VIC, 4 Stars

Thank you for the Skandar and the Unicorn Thief book to review. This isn’t a book that I would pick to read myself but I was interested in it when I saw that it claimed Unicorns were Ferocious, Magical and Deadly! I have never read a story where the Unicorns were not magical happy creatures that were good and kind so this was something different and I was very happy while I was reading it. I like Skandar, he reminds me a little of Harry Potter! The story has lots of interesting characters and I hope that there are more books to continue the adventures with these characters. I think I will tell my friends about this book as I think some of them will like it to. Nikki, aged 11, QLD, 3 Stars

Unfortunately my 7yo deemed this book “too scary” so I got to keep it for myself to review! This book changed everything I thought I knew about unicorns. This book has mythical, dark, Hunger Games and Harry Potter vibes all rolled into one and would suit ages 10+. Alanna, TAS, 3 Stars

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is the first in a five-book series. Earlier fantasy writers have clearly influenced A. F. Steadman where destiny is realised despite the challenges that the characters face. It isn’t enough to rely on fate one must make one’s own luck. The hero is a thirteen-year-old boy who lives with his father and sister. It’s prestigious to be a unicorn rider but first he must get through the rigorous testing and from the outset the odds are against him. He should not have made the selection cut in the first place. The unicorns in this world aren’t the majestic beasts from our myths and legends. These are wild bloodthirsty elemental beings and those that aren’t bonded with a human are relegated to the wastelands where the Weaver resides. Both Skandar and the Weaver are spirit wielders and their connection to the wild unicorns is considered too dangerous to be allowed. While the story arc may seem familiar for those who have read other fantasy books I think this will be an exciting read particularly for preteens. I’m looking forward to the second book and seeing how it evolves and hoping there will be a few surprises. HR, NSW, 3 Stars

As unicorns are my six-year-old’s favourite animal, I thought he might be fairly captivated by this story. Unfortunately this was derailed by him asking numerous questions after (and during) every sentence. So I finished it myself and I’ll get his review if we ever get to the end together. I enjoyed reading this story, I love fantasy and all the Chosen ones and wizarding schools, that have emerged since Harry Potter. I think this book is being well set up for success with the movie deal in place and a massive PR push. I think there were some massive gaps and leaps in the worldbuilding that made it a bit super-confused and I hope subsequent books give us some more history on why unicorns NEED a rider and have all their weird elemental powers. Placing this in the modern era was also an odd choice. I was always wondering where the Island was and how unicorns had never been discovered before. The strength is definitely in the characters who have interesting personalities and great, nuanced interactions. A particular favourite is Bobby who struggles with panic attacks but is otherwise brave, capable, and loyal. Will definitely read more of this series. Richard and Stanley, VIC, 3 Stars

Thank you very much for allowing me to review this fantasy book based on the magical unicorns. It covered other themes such as friendship and family. I really liked the characters Skandar, Bobby, Flo and Mitchell, they made a great team. It took a while for me to get interested in the book, towards the end was the best bit for me. There are a few good twists. A lot of time, there was too much going on I felt but I think the author is very creative and imaginative. Alle, aged 12, VIC, 2 Stars

Reviews

Unicorns Belong in Nightmares: Read an Extract from Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

Review | Extract

4 May 2022

Unicorns Belong in Nightmares: Read an Extract from Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

An Exhilarating New Adventure: Read Our Review of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

Review | Our Review

4 May 2022

An Exhilarating New Adventure: Read Our Review of Skandar and the Unicorn Thief by A.F. Steadman

Publisher details

Skandar and the Unicorn Thief
Author
A.F. Steadman
Publisher
Simon and Schuster
Genre
Children’s Fiction
Released
28 April, 2022
ISBN
9781398512429

Synopsis

For ages 9+

The first book in the hotly anticipated new fantasy adventure series for readers age 9+, from A. F. Steadman. If you like Harry Potter, Percy Jackson, Eragon or His Dark Materials, you’ll love this . . .

Unicorns don’t belong in fairy tales; they belong in nightmares.

So begins Skandar and the Unicorn Thief. Soar into a world where unicorns are real – and they’re deadly. They can only be tamed by the rider who hatches them.

Thirteen-year-old Skandar Smith has only ever wanted to be a unicorn rider, and the time has finally come for him to take his Hatchery Exam, which will determine whether he is destined to hatch a unicorn egg. But when Skandar is stopped from taking the exam, and the mysterious and frightening Weaver steals the most powerful unicorn in the world, becoming a rider proves a lot more dangerous than he could ever have imagined. And what if Skandar was always destined to be the villain rather than the hero?

Get ready for unlikely heroes, elemental magic, fierce sky battles, ancient secrets, nail-biting races and, of course, bloodthirsty unicorns. This will be the biggest new series of 2022.

A.F. Steadman
About the author

A.F. Steadman

A.F. Steadman grew up in the Kent countryside, getting lost in fantasy worlds and scribbling stories in notebooks. Before focusing on writing, she worked in law, until she realized that there wasn’t nearly enough magic involved. Skandar and the Unicorn Thief is her debut novel.

Books by A.F. Steadman

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