Select one of the keywords
Skybreaker    by Kenneth Oppel order for
by Kenneth Oppel
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2005 (2005)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Skybreaker succeeds Airborn in Kenneth Oppel's stunning new series, that follows the adventures of young cabin boy Matt Cruse in a Victorian world in which blimp-like airships rule the skies. My son and I found this sequel even more thrilling than the first book, impossible to put down. It takes the adventure from tropical seas and islands to the frigid cold and low oxygen of high altitudes.

Kate de Vries was a rich passenger on Matt's airship in Airborn. The duo defeated pirates, discovered a new species, and won enough treasure to fund Matt's enrolment in the Parisian Airship Academy. As this story opens, Matt is on a training cruise aboard the scruffy Flotsam, under reckless Captain Tritus. A series of bad decisions by the latter lead them into a storm, resulting in a dangerously fast descent and then ascent, pushed by the storm's updraft. This takes them to dangerously high altitudes where they spot a ghost ship, the Hyperion, owned by eccentric inventor Theodore Grunel, and reputed to be a 'floating treasure trove'. Though they fail to reach her, Matt notes the location.

Back in Paris, Matt encounters several parties interested in the Hyperion - including his friend Kate, who's after Grunel's extensive taxidermy collection. Next to express interest (in Matt as well as treasure) is a young gypsy girl, Nadira, who ends up rescuing him from pirate thugs who try to extract his knowledge of the lost ship. Matt and Nadira (who keeps her secrets close) escape after a daring rooftop race, and she suggests a partnership to seek the Hyperion. Ultimately, Matt, Nadira, Kate, and Hal Slater (owner of the Sagarmatha - a Skybreaker, designed for high altitudes) team up. This involves interesting romantic triangles, jealousy on both Matt's and Kate's part, and suspicion of Nadira's loyalties.

They sail on the Sagarmatha to locate the lost airship in polar Skyberia, followed (naturally) by the villains. The details of getting into and exploring the Hyperion are just as fascinating and technically challenging as accessing a sunken treasure ship. And the ghost ship's contents are very unexpected, including a significant element of horror in spooky occurrences and seemingly dead monsters - aerozoans whose tentacles give fatal electrical shocks. The bad guys' objectives with respect to the Hyperion are also surprising, and almost fatal to Matt's party. For them, survival involves a highly unlikely, but cleverly conceived hair-raising escape at the very last minute.

Kenneth Oppel is at the top of his game with this series - both Airborn and Skybreaker are brilliant, innovative and inventive, and I can't wait to see where in the heavens the author takes Matt Cruse next.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews