Sparrow Rising by Jessica Khoury

Sparrow Rising, the first volume of a promising new fantasy series for middle-graders, depicts a race of winged humans.

Sparrow Rising (Skyborn #1) by Jessica Khoury. Scholastic, 2021, 269 pages.

Reading Level: Middle Grades, ages 10-12

Recommended for: ages 10-14

Ellidee Meadows is a member of the sparrow clan of winged humans, and an orphan to boot. That’s two strikes against her in a rigid society where sparrows are never expected to rise above farming. But she has ambitions! Chiefly to qualify for the Ascension Race in the capital city of Thelantis, which in turn would give her a chance at becoming a Goldwing. The Goldwings are made up almost entirely of the higher clans (ospreys, eagles, hawks) but are entrusted with protecting all citizens of the Clandoms. Ellie has held this ambition ever since that terrible day when a gargol attacked her parents and would have killed her too, if a Goldwing hadn’t rescued her from its clutches.

Ellie is close to winning her qualifying race until a cry for help distracts her. The cry comes from Nox, a member of the Crow clan, who claims to be on a secret mission. Though he’d rather not have her company, Ellie insists on going along to Thelantis once he informs her she can still enter the Ascension Race as a “wild card.” Thus the sparrow joins Nox and his two companions on a mission that she begins to doubt. Once they’ve stolen a rare jewel called a skystone, her doubts are confirmed—and from then on, friendship and loyalty will clash with the notions of honor that have inspired her dreams.

The wings seem a tad gimmicky, but the story develops real character depth and nuance. Ellie faces honest dilemmas over what’s real and what’s image, and Nox isn’t what he seems at first. The story is told from their alternating perspectives, but other characters show promise of emerging further. Also, we can be pretty sure gargols will occupy a lot of territory in the future. Questions raised in the first chapter aren’t answered by the last (this is only Vol. 1), but the story reaches a satisfying conclusion while maintaining enough momentum to make most readers eager for a sequel.

Consideration:

  • At one point (p. 157), Ellie is advised to “follow your heart, whatever it tells you is right.” I could have done without this piece of contemporary wisdom, which has become a way of defining morality down.
  • On the other hand, this thought might be worth discussion: “When the rules are designed to break you, you have to break the rules.” True or false, and how do you know?

Overall Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)

  • Worldview/moral value: 3.75
  • Artistic/literary value: 4.5

Read more about our ratings here.                 

Also at Redeemed Reader:

  • Review: Jessica Khoury is a home school graduate and the author of the Corpus series, beginning with Origin.
  • Resource: If fantasy is your wheelhouse, see our Mega Fantasy Booklist!

We are participants in the Amazon LLC affiliate program; purchases you make through affiliate links like the one below may earn us a commission. Read more here.

Stay Up to Date!

Get the information you need to make wise choices about books for your children and teens.

Our weekly newsletter includes our latest reviews, related links from around the web, a featured book list, book trivia, and more. We never sell your information. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Support our writers and help keep Redeemed Reader ad-free by joining the Redeemed Reader Fellowship.

Use code Redeemed15 for 15% off!

Stay Up to Date!

Get the information you need to make wise choices about books for your children and teens.

Our weekly newsletter includes our latest reviews, related links from around the web, a featured book list, book trivia, and more. We never sell your information. You may unsubscribe at any time.

Something went wrong. Please check your entries and try again.

Janie Cheaney

Janie is the VERY senior staff writer for Redeemed Reader, as well as a long-time contributor to WORLD Magazine and an author of nine books for children. The rest of the time she's long-distance smooching on her four grandchildren (not an easy task). She lives with her equally senior husband of almost-fifty years in the Ozarks of Missouri.

We'd love to hear from you!

Our comments are now limited to our members (both Silver and Golden Key). Members, you just need to log in with your normal log-in credentials!

Not a member yet? You can join the Silver Key ($2.99/month) for a free 2-week trial. Cancel at any time. Find out more about membership here.

4 Comments

  1. Steph C. on December 7, 2022 at 8:11 am

    Thanks for this helpful review! My daughter just found this at the library, and I went right to your site to see what you all had to say about it! So relieved you have already reviewed it and I can give her a go ahead. (I’ll read it, too, but now I don’t have to hurry to read ahead! ) Love your wide span of reviews across genres and ages. Thank you, RR!

    • Janie Cheaney on December 8, 2022 at 4:21 am

      Thanks for the kudos, Steph! It’s great to know we were “Reading ahead for you.”

  2. Amanda on April 12, 2023 at 6:03 pm

    Hi,
    Is there a review for the second and third book on this series?

    • Janie Cheaney on April 14, 2023 at 3:01 pm

      Amanda,
      Unfortunately, no. I wish we had time to at least skim further books in a series, but there are always new books being published that we have to look at!

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.