Airborn – Kenneth Oppel

airbornOn The Cover: 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.

Published: 2005

Other Books by this Author:

Silverwing


 

The Review:

I was super nervous when I picked this book up. Kenneth Oppel’s book Silverwing was one of my all-time favourites growing up – yet I’ve never read any of Oppel’s other works. What if this book doesn’t live up to all of my beloved childhood memories of Oppel’s worlds? (No pressure, Airborn!)

Within the first few pages I was immersed. The same feelings I got from reading Silverwing were weaved throughout Airborn, and I felt practically giddy with happiness the entire time I was reading this book. Oppel has a way of sucking me into his worlds, of completely convincing me of his realities, and the excitement and adventure are so solid that I never have a moment of doubt when reading his books.

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Hands down my favourite aspect of this book is being on an airship. The descriptions of the ship flying, sailing, even landing and taking off are majestic. Oppel certainly has an appreciation for the beauty of flight. The descriptions of the airship itself were equally fascinating. Oppel manages to convey a great deal about the ship’s inner workings using very little description, and Matt’s viewpoint was especially well utilized to give the reader an inside view to every working aspect of the airship. I also appreciated that the action itself used every corner of the airship – from the passenger lounges to the outside sails, from the cargo bays to the bridge, the book was inside and out of the airship and I absolutely loved how much the airship was used. It was not just a setting – it was an integral part of the story, intertwined in the narrative itself.

Perhaps the easiest complaint would be to pinpoint the simplicity of the characters. On the surface the characters are young, naïve, and appear as one dimensional – Kate is a rich brat, and Matt has only one desire in life – to fly. But as I progressed through the book I began to appreciate both characters for their subtleties and the nuances of their choices. I do think these characters will appeal to the younger side of YA readers – but the adventure contained in these pages will appeal to readers of any age who only want to soar above the clouds.

Rating: 5 / 5

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Quotations:

“The ornithopter’s drone grew louder. Crouching, I could just see it, behind the Aurora’s tail fins, coming in. It seemed to be hardly moving, wings scarcely beating now, and I thought he would make it first try. But when the ornithopter was only feet away from the docking trapeze, it shuddered and dipped, and I heard shouts of alarm from the passengers as the ornithopter dropped away and banked sharply.” (OverDrive eBook)

“The foliage was so high and thick that I couldn’t see the sky. The humid air pressed against my chest. Great pine-like trees, with slender drooping branches, bristled with spiky flowers. Ferns and fronds and vines and brilliant petals were everywhere. A shrieking parrot flashed by, scarlet and green. Insects chattered in the perfumed heat. I kept looking for the light between trees, the brightness overhead, just wanting to punch through it all. Just wanting a horizon.” (OverDrive eBook)

 

Poison Study – Maria V. Snyder

poison-studyOn the Cover: Choose: A quick death…Or slow poison…

About to be executed for murder, Yelena is offered an extraordinary reprieve. She’ll eat the best meals, have rooms in the palace—and risk assassination by anyone trying to kill the Commander of Ixia.

And so Yelena chooses to become a food taster. But the chief of security, leaving nothing to chance, deliberately feeds her Butterfly’s Dust—and only by appearing for her daily antidote will she delay an agonizing death from the poison.

As Yelena tries to escape her new dilemma, disasters keep mounting. Rebels plot to seize Ixia and Yelena develops magical powers she can’t control. Her life is threatened again and choices must be made. But this time the outcomes aren’t so clear…

Published: 2007

Other Books by this Author:

Inside Out
Corsets & Clockwork (Contributor)
Brave New Love (Contributor)


The Review:

I loved this book because it is highly unique. I love the concept of a food taster as the main character and that every time Yelena tasted food it added tension to the story. But my favourite part of the food tasting world is Yelena and Valek discussing different poisons and the techniques used to identify them. Not only is it interesting to read, but it’s totally distinct from other YA novels that I’ve read and I greatly appreciate that. Plus I love that Yelena throws herself into the task and reads books on poison and conducts further research to extend her knowledge. She can never count herself as safe, and I like that not only was her life continuously challenged, but that she learned to thrive within the realm of her new existence.

Snyder also doesn’t back away from the big subjects. There’s a lot of dark material in this book, such as rape and slavery, but I think it is handled well and that Snyder strove to give them the respect that they deserve. I also greatly appreciated that Snyder tied these elements into overarching themes such as loyalty, protection, and love, and the values she brought forward throughout the story were really well done.

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Finally, while I was not expecting it, this book does contain elements of transgender characters and hints at lgbt relationships, and I loved the way they were incorporated into the story. The characters that Snyder created to represent these roles were truly great. Most of all, I liked that the lgbt elements were part of the story, but they were not the main focus or truly part of the plot twist, it was just a natural part of this world.

Snyder’s writing is elegant and I felt totally immersed in her world. I am so impressed by the quality of lessons and values that she brings forward in this story. Plus I loved this novel because it showed me a world that was totally new and ultimately very thrilling. I am so excited that this book is part of a series, because I look forward to continuing in this wonderful world that Snyder had created.

Rating: 5 / 5

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Quotations:

“I was either going to screw up and be replaced as the food taster, or I was going to foil an assassination attempt with my own death. I might not technically die from a broken neck, but the haunting image of an empty noose would always plague me.” (p 94)

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“Where’s your test?’

Amusement touched Valek’s face. He rose from behind his desk. Sweeping his arm with a dramatic flourish, he indicated two rows of food and drinks on the conference table. ‘Only one item isn’t poisoned. Find it. Then eat or drink your selection.’

I tasted each item. I sniffed. I gargled. I held my nose. I took small bites. I spat. Some of the food had grown cold. Most of the meals were bland, making the poison easy to spot, while the fruit drinks masked the poison.

Finishing the last item, I turned to Valek. ‘You bastard. They’re all poisoned.”(p 76)