Yukon Books - Whitehorse, Yukon
Yukonbooks.com > Bookends: Dan Davidson

  Bookends: Dan Davidson


Reviewed: August 2, 2006
By: Kenneth Oppel
Publisher: HarperTrophy Canada
322 pages, $15.99

Much as I enjoy a good pun, I must admit that I missed the one in Airborn's title until I was halfway through the book and finally happened to notice the spelling.

After all, a book dealing with the adventures of a young man who is part of the crew on a large airship could easily be called Airborne, right? Except that it isn't; it's called Airborn, and that has to do with the fact that Matt Cruse was quite literally born to be in the air.

Perhaps it's because he wants so badly to follow in the footsteps of his late father, who worked and eventually died while serving on the Aurora. Perhaps it's because he feels the need to support his family - and at the same time to get away from them.

Whatever the case, Matt really only feels comfortable when he is airborne - can't even sleep well when he isn't.

Matt is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a 900 foot luxury airship that sails the skies in a world that is a bit sideways from ours. Matt's ship sails across an ocean called the Pacificus, out of a place called Lionsgate City, in an age which is a bit like the pseudo-Victorian era familiar to those who have seen the movie The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. What if the gentler spirit of the Victorian Age had never quite been broken by the Great War? What if there were a non-explosive lighter than air gas called hydrium to lift the ships without the danger of them becoming vast fireballs? If those things were true, might not the whole history of air travel be different? Still faster than travel by sea, but more like a luxury liner in terms of time, facilities and style.

When the story begins, Matt is instrumental in the airborne rescue of Benjamin Molloy, a solitary balloonist who had flown too high, too long and had had balloon trouble enough to injure him beyond saving.

Matt had no idea then that he would meet Molloy's granddaughter, the wealthy Kate de Vries, just a year later on an ill-fated cruise to Australia. He had no idea that they would be attacked by air pirates, be stranded on an island, find the strange creatures Molloy had been mumbling about when he died, and have all sorts of other adventures. Nor would he have thought that a poor cabin boy with ambitions to rise in the merchant service could have anything in common with an upper class girl scientist.

Airborn is as delightful novel that smacks of old time adventure stories, but updates the form so that it avoids the pitfalls of the genre. Matt faces trials in his quest to further his career, but he is a lad who works with what he has and does his best to overcome the obstacles in his way. He's a realistic protagonist without either arrogance or false modesty.

Kate is equally important to the development of the story. She's a clever, ambitious young woman, out to make her mark in the world of science, where females are not welcome, determined to prove that her grandfather was not a crazy old man whose obsessions cost him his life.

Many of the other characters in the book are stock, but Oppel's take on the pirates, especially Captain Szpirglas, who is the scourge of the seas - er ... airways - and as brutal as they come, while being a devoted family man at the same time, is quite effective.

Oppel was previously best know for his Silverwing Trilogy, the animal fantasy quest tale about bats. It would be safe to say that Matt's adventures share only a love of flying and a well plotted, engaging adventure with those earlier novels.

Airborn has been massively successful, earning him a Governor General's Award. There is already a sequel, Skybreaker, and I read in a recent interview that he has a third book in mind. I'm looking forward to them.

In June, as it happens, Oppel was the first winner of the Children’s Author of the Year Award, a new honour recently created by the Canadian Bookseller’s Association.

Print Preview


[Special Order Desk]
Great Deals
New Arrivals
Special Offers
Recover password
Contact us
Privacy statement
Terms & Conditions
Shipping Information
Special Orders Desk

Copyright © 2007 Yukonbooks.com