Book Review: The Planet Thieves by Dan Krokos

planetthievesTitle: The Planet Thieves
Author: Dan Krokos
Genre: Science fiction, middle grade fiction
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Source: Review copy from the publisher
First line: The prank Mason Stark pulled on his sister was doomed from the beginning.

Goodreads blurb: Two weeks ago, thirteen-year-old Mason Stark and seventeen of his fellow cadets from the Academy for Earth Space Command boarded the SS Egypt. The trip was supposed to be a short routine voyage to log their required spacetime for summer quarter.

But routine goes out the airlock when they’re attacked by the Tremist, an alien race who have been at war with humanity for the last sixty years.

With the captain and crew dead, injured, or taken prisoner, Mason and the cadets are all that’s left to warn the ESC. And soon they find out exactly why the Tremist chose this ship to attack: the Egypt is carrying a weapon that could change the war forever.

Now Mason will have to lead the cadets in a daring assault to take back the ship, rescue the survivors, and recover the weapon. Before there isn’t a war left to fight.

The Planet Thieves was our latest read-aloud selection. The boys and I still spend about 30 to 45 minutes together each morning over breakfast, during which I read aloud to them. We have shared many, many books this way, and it is only the best that thrill each of us equally. You’ve got me, a 40-year-old woman, plus three boys, ages 11, 14, and 15. When a book manages to keep all of us enthralled, compels us to keep reading past the time when we really should have started our science lesson, and even put off chores to find out how it ends, you know it is good. The Planet Thieves was the latest book to fit that description.

Krokos has given us a terrific main character in Mason Stark. He is a typical thirteen-year-old, getting into disagreements with other students, pulling pranks on his sister, fiercely loyal to his best friend, Merrin. And yet when circumstances call on him to be more than just typical, he steps up, followed by his friends and fellow students.

The world-building in The Planet Thieves is also very well-done. As I read, I could completely visualize the SS Egypt, the Tremist soldiers, and the planet Nori-Blue. The boys became completely immersed in the world of the book as I read aloud to them, and continued to talk about what had happened in that day’s chapters long after we were done reading.

I believe the best kind of children’s fiction is the kind that communicates truths about life without being preachy, and this is another thing that Krokos does very well. He deals with issues like taking responsibility, courage, fear, loyalty, diversity, and familial love, all seamlessly inter-woven into the story itself.

The boys also loved the fact that Krokos writes like a true sci-fi/fantasy fan, with names that they could recognize as being derived from some of their favorite works in the genre. The Planet Thieves is a fantastic read, no matter your age, and would make a perfect Christmas present for the young readers in your life.

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