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Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes. We were two nights out of Sydney, and there'd been no weather to speak of so far. I was keeping watch on a dark stack of nimbus clouds off to the northwest, but we were leaving it far behind, and it looked to be smooth going all the way back to Lionsgate City. Like riding a cloud. . . .
Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt's always wanted; convinced he's lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist's granddaughter that he realizes that the man's ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.
In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.
Airborn (Matt Cruse #1)
By Kenneth Oppel
Hardcover: 368 pages
An original and imaginative Victorian-era fantasy. Matt, 15, only feels alive when he's aloft working as a cabin boy aboard the Aurora,a luxury airship that is part dirigible, part passenger cruise ship. When wealthy Kate and her chaperone come aboard, Matt soon discovers that she is determined to prove her grandfather's claims that he saw strange creatures flying in the sky in that area the year before. The man's diary describes them as huge, furry beasts with batlike wings and sharp claws. Soon after Kate arrives, pirates attack the ship and rob the wealthy passengers. A storm forces the damaged Aurora to set down on a seemingly deserted island. Kate and Matt discover the skeletal remains of one of the creatures, and, later, a live but deformed one that lives among the treetops. In their attempts to photograph "the cloud cat," they stumble upon the pirates' hideout and are captured. Can they escape in time to stop the brigands from stealing the Aurora? Will Kate prove the existence of this undiscovered species? This rousing adventure has something for everyone: appealing and enterprising characters, nasty villains, and a little romance. Oppel provides glimpses of the social conventions of the era, humorous byplay between the main characters, and comic relief in the form of Matt's cabin mate and Kate's straitlaced chaperone. Reminiscent of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines (HarperCollins, 2003), this adventure is much lighter in tone and has a lower body count.–Sharon Rawlins, Piscataway Public Library, NJ (School Library Journal)
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