by Kenneth Oppel
Matt Cruse is lighter than air. His father fell to his death working on an airship, and Matt is only ever at home where he can feel his father with him: in the sky. He serves as cabin boy on the Aurora, the finest passenger airship to fly the skies. On the ground he can’t sleep; he’s too confined. But in the sky!
One night they rescue an old man adrift in a hot air balloon. He raves of creatures that belong in the sky and never touch the ground. A year later, his granddaughter rides the Aurora as a passenger, and she’s determined to find what her grandfather raved about. When pirates attack, Matt’s only hope might be that the raving old man was right.
In this novel, Kenneth Oppel writes a romance to the sky. This adventure story will leave you in love with the winds and longing to leave the ground. I wish that airships – gigantic blimps the size of the Titanic – were around. Oppel through thorough research and vivid imagination, has constructed a marvelous empire of airships. I love his nods to maritime and nautical adventures, but keeping things up in the air instead. If you’re a fan of Master and Commander and its ilk, but still love fantastic elements in stories, you’ll want to check this novel out for the setting by itself!
The setting does not shine alone. His characters feel real and attractive. Matt Cruse serves as an instantly likable protagonist. Through his eyes we fall in love with the heavens. He is clever, kind, and hates the earth with a passion. Kate De Vries, the second lead character, grates – but by design. Her headstrong ways annoyed me quite a bit, but again, they were well within the character Oppel designed for her. Her character arc seems far more dramatic than Matt’s. The other crew and characters all shine. The pirates have the right balance of menace and dashing adventure.
And the plot. Oppel has written a book I don’t think I ever could. He surprised me over and again with new plot twists, but didn’t pay as much attention to what I thought would be the star attraction of the book. It’s to his credit that I don’t feel disappointed! His pacing worked well. I never found myself bored.
The book feels like a swashbuckling adventure in the sky. If you remember Talespin with fondness, do yourself a favor and check this out. It’s aimed at 7-8th grade boys, so it is a fast read, but a fun one and worth your time.