July 19, 2014

The Boundless

by Kenneth Oppel
HarperCollins Canada
978-1-443410328 
336 pp.
Ages 10-16
April, 2014

"ALL ABOARD... The Boundless for a mesmerizing adventure of historical proportions, with death-defying leaps of faith, Sasquatch encounters, illusions of the fourth dimension and murderous employees looking for the gold after death.  Leaving now for its first journey. Get on board now to be one of the first to enjoy this newest series by award-winning author Kenneth Oppel."

Life changes for Will Everett and his family after Will helps in the hammering of the last spike of the CPR railway in British Columbia and his father saves the life of Cornelius Van Horne, president of the CPR, in an avalanche.  Three years later James Everett is in charge of the Boundless, the seven-mile long train of spectacular design created by Van Horne, who is now ensconced in a secured and guarded funeral car near the front of the train.  And, on its maiden voyage, Will is enjoying the amenities of first class and looking to reacquaint himself with a young wirewalker/escape artist, Maren, travelling with Zirkus Dante, the circus of Mr. Dorian, the man who'd captured a young sasquatch after that avalanche years earlier.

Beyond the incredible opportunity of travelling on the longest and most powerful train in the world, essentially pulling a city of nine hundred and eighty-seven cars, Will enjoys the opportunity to experience the towns of vendors that arise to service the train's passengers, the wilds of the Canadian landscape with its supernatural creatures including the muskeg hag, the Wendigo and the sasquatch, and convince his father that he should be allowed to attend art school in San Francisco.  But Will places himself in a dangerous position when, at a stop, he recovers a key dropped by the funeral car's guard moments before the man is stabbed by a man Will recognizes.  Barely catching the caboose at the end of the train, Will must use all his skills and wits and trust a few new friends if he is to stay alive and find his way back to his father in the locomotive.

The Boundless is an endless adventure of hopping train cars, outsmarting murderous fiends, marvelling at unforeseen inventions, surviving encounters with mythical creatures and trusting some and not others, including a first love.  Never does Kenneth Oppel make you believe that Will can easily survive this drama.  Readers will be holding their breaths wondering which fall will kill Will or leave him in the Boundless' wake. Or whether Mr. Dorian's plan will save him or put others in jeopardy.  Or whether every brakeman on the Boundless is a threat.  Or whether Will's father, miles away at the front of the train, knows anything of the goings-on in the funeral car and beyond.  And I'll be surprised if you don't start wondering which pieces of Canadian history are valid and accurate. Cornelius Van Horne, Sam Steele, Simon Fraser and Donald Smith and others make appearances in The Boundless, though they are legitimate characters who helped in the making of our nation.  But what of the golden spike?

Yep.  The Boundless has all that and more. And only reading Kenneth Oppel's newest steampunk will allow you some opportunity to answer those questions or at least make an attempt at it. So get on board with reading The Boundless, a phenomenon of engineering and text, courtesy of the imagination and pen of one of Canada's finest writers for young people. 

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