Hope you had a productive weekend catching up on reading and all of your holiday awesome! Today, I'm reviewing the fantastic and imaginative The Lost Kingdom by Matthew Kirby!
MMGM is a feature hosted by author Shannon Messenger on her blog every week!
Hardcover, 348 pages
Published August 27th 2013 by Scholastic Press
Format reviewed: E-ARC via NetGalley
Synopsis via Goodreads:
In this extraordinary adventure story, Billy Bartram, his father, and a secret society of philosophers and scientists venture into the American wilderness in search of the lost people of the Welsh Prince Madoc, seeking aid in the coming war against the French. Traveling in a flying airship, the members of the expedition find their lives frequently endangered in the untamed American West by terrifying creatures, a party of French soldiers hot on their trail, and the constant threat of traitors and spies. Billy will face hazards greater than he can ever imagine as, together with his father, he gets caught up in the fight for the biggest prize of all: America.
THE LOST KINGDOM is an epic journey filled with marvelous exploits, courage and intrigue, and a bold reimagining of a mythical America. Matthew J. Kirby brings his signature storytelling prowess and superb craft to this astonishing story of fathers and sons, the beginnings of a nation, and wonder-filled adventure.
It looks like the trend’s going to continue this week, because I was in serious awe of Matthew J. Kirby’s excellent The Lost Kingdom. This is a rip-roaring adventure of father and son, as they traverse across an alternate 1700s America, to find a lost Welsh Colony.
After a lifetime of watching his botanist father take off on adventures of his own, Billy Betram is thrilled to finally get his opportunity to join his father and a secret society of philosophers and scientists on an adventure to find the lost people of Welsh Prince Madoc.
(Which is a real urban legend: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Madoc!)
As the assembled society traverses through the American frontier on an elaborately designed airship, they encounter dangers, adventures and challenges unlike anything they’ve ever known before.
There are many reasons to love Kirby’s book, beginning with the fact that it’s a creative, inventive look at an alternate history of America.
Kirby incorporates a number of real-life historical figures and items into the story – the scene involving a certain snake flag made my inner Revolutionary War history geek smile – and I think that readers of all ages will seriously enjoy how Kirby has intermixed fact with his absolutely unique brand of fiction.
Outside of the unique setting and world building, readers will find an engaging, thoughtful hero in Billy. Though his specific age is never really mentioned, Billy begins the story as an astute young boy, who really allows the journey and his adventures help him cross the threshold into burgeoning young adulthood.
Kirby does an especially wonderful job of stressing the idea of individualism and self-determination through Billy’s growth, particularly vis-à-vis his underlying motivations for joining the search for Madoc’s colony. Billy initially joins the trip to become more like his father, but through his experiences, learns more of what he wants for himself.
I’ll be honest – even though the book was already on the longer side for MG at 320 pages, I was so intrigued by Billy’s physical and emotional journey, I could have easily read another 300 pages about him.
Of special note: educators, librarians and parents will undoubtedly enjoy the relationship that Kirby has crafted between Billy and his father. Their relationship is richly drawn, and shows a dynamic of respect and understanding that doesn’t always appear in MG novels.
But more importantly, I think that older readers will appreciate the fact that Billy isn’t afraid to stand up to his father, when he believes that his father holds the wrong viewpoints on race. However, Billy is also able to accept that he and his father will likely never see eye-to-eye on this issue, and is able to still maintain a cordial relationship with him.
It’s an important lesson that Kirby handles with honesty and frankness, while emphasizing the underlying idea of respect for differing opinions.
I highly recommend this book for all readers, but especially for readers who are looking for a book that focuses on the positives of familial relationships, especially between father and son.
I also recommend this book for fans of alternate history – Kirby has created an American that is richly inventive, which readers of all ages will absolutely appreciate.
Disclaimer: I received an e-ARC of The Lost Kingdom from Scholastic via NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!