Written by Kenneth Oppel
A cross-continental Canadian steampunk circus train con job adventure, plus sasquatch to boot.
Through a classic rags-to-riches turn of events our young man Will Everett finds himself traveling first class on The Boundless, the largest steam engine train ever built, for its maiden transcontinental voyage. However, when Will witnesses a murder and becomes a target himself, he must literally join the circus on-board the immense train in order to save himself, his friend the mysterious escape artist Maren, his father the railroad magnate and head engineer, and possibly the entire train.
Like many Americans, I know perilously little about Canadian history and geography. The Boundless is an unapologetically Canadian book, and it’s all the better for it, but it is also a book that plays fast and loose with reality. Sasquatches and other mythical creatures are accounted as real, so being an ignorant American it is hard to know just where the historical realities end and the fantasies begin. Poking around on the Internet after finishing this book I was almost surprised to find that William Cornelius Van Horne was in fact a real railroad president who actually did manage the colossal construction of a transcontinental Canadian Pacific Railroad. But was his body actually interred in an electrified railcar tomb filled with treasure? Did the mighty Boundless engine actually exist and pull 900-plus cars in one cross-country trip? Who knows? Who cares? This is just a fun adventure and its historical Canadian setting only makes it all the more fantastic for American readers, while giving Canadian readers a great national children’s novel to get behind.
Content note: this book portrays violence, some minor swearing of the damn and hell variety from the , brandy-clinking and cigar-smoking Robber Barrons with impeccable facial hair, a creepy animatronic severed hand, scenes of sustained tightrope walking, and more.
A few possible read-alikes: The Lost Kingdom by Matthew Kirby, The P.K. Pinkerton Western Mysteries by Caroline Lawrence, and The Mark of the Dragonfly by Jaleigh Johnson, anything by Jules Verne.
Review by Joshua Whiting, District Library Support, Educational Technology Dept.
Rating: ★★★★✩ (4 stars)
Interest Level: Grades 5+
Author Website: http://www.kennethoppel.ca/
Written by Kenneth Oppel
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Release Date: April 22, 2014
ISBN: 9781442472884 (hardcover)