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Reviewed by Rosie Malezer for Readers' Favorite
Initiation is the first book in the Sky Raider Academy series, written by Kirstin Pulioff. When eleven-year-old Tommy starts life over, moving to his uncle’s farm and attending Mustang Mountain Elementary School, he is constantly teased and bullied by Devan – a student renowned for taking pleasure in tormenting others. Nobody cares that Tommy had moved because of his father’s sudden death. But when Benjamin Bellarium mysteriously appears, offering Tommy a place in the elite Sky Raider Academy, Tommy cannot believe his luck. Attending Mustang Mountain Elementary School by day, and Sky Raider Academy by night, Tommy learns of the sinister evil behind the erratic changes in the weather – the same evil which had killed his father – and Tommy gives his all to become the best Sky Raider to ever graduate. Not only does he aspire to avenge his father’s death, but Tommy is also willing to risk everything in order to save the planet’s inhabitants... including the bully whose only focus is on seeing Tommy suffer.
Kirstin Pulioff’s first book in the Sky Raider Academy series is possibly one of the most interesting and adventurous that I have ever read. Not only does it touch on the reality of bullying in schools and climate change, but it also injects just the right amount of fantasy, adventure and humor. Living through the pain of losing a parent when a child is so very young must be utterly unbearable, but having the weight of the world on your shoulders as well would be enough to shake the foundation which keeps any young mind afloat. The home setting of a farm was one which truly touched my heart, having grown up in the outback of Australia on a large farm. The action and excitement, in the form of attending a school for budding anonymous superheroes, gave the Sky Raider Academy series the perfect boost to set the scene for some of the most troubling aspects of today’s climate. With just the right dose of fun, entertainment, adventure, drama and suspense, I found myself unable to put the book down until the very end. I recommend Initiation to readers, young and old, who not only relate to schoolyard bullying and have concern for the future of our planet, but wish to indulge in a purely imaginative fantasy.