Monday, July 28, 2014

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

The Boundless is the largest train ever assembled at seven miles long with 1,000 cars carrying 6,500 passengers. Will Everett is traveling first-class with his father who is overseeing its first intercontinental trip. A circus troupe is aboard complete with elephants, tight-rope walkers, magicians, and a sasquatch. Big Foot is alive and ferocious in this adventure full of twists and magic. Add to the mix a mysterious funeral car rumored to be full of a wealthy man's treasures, a spunky girl, a magical painting, and a bunch of murdering thieves and you have a tale that will appeal to many young readers.

Will Everett's father, James, begins as a poor workman on the Canadian Pacific Railway when he saves the life of the railroad's owner. He is given a promotion and the owner recognizes James potential moving him up the company's echelon and becoming friends with the family. Will struggles with their newfound wealth and socio-economic status finding that his father works all the time and has big career aspirations for Will. Unfortunately, James does not support Will's life-long desire of becoming an artist. When Will meets Maren, the wire artist, he begins to look more closely at his career goals and his growing attraction for her.

The pacing is fast and the plot has some nice twists. Taking the myth of sasquatch and making it real is one that grabbed my imagination. There is one gory part at the end and a murder but they are not described in graphic detail. They might bother the reader that is sensitive to violence. The villain is one-dimensional, but scary enough as he chases down Will trying to get the special key to the funeral car. While some of the chase scenes are unbelievable they are fun and add to the fast-paced action.

The minor characters are interesting with Maren compromising her morals in order to save her family from starvation. Mr. Dorian seems a bit out of character at the end. He is quite careful at protecting people until the part when he seems to needlessly put people in harms way to save his own skin. Will's outrage mirrored my own and while Will tries to empathize with Mr. Dorian, I didn't buy it. Some might also find James change of heart too sudden as well.

While mainly a coming-of-age story, the middle shows shy Will learning to take the stage and be confident. He is in disguise and it is by pretending to be someone else that Will finds the freedom to overcome his lack of confidence. Will also grows as an artist realizing what is missing when he paints versus sketches. When he sketches Will tries to just capture the essence of a person; whereas when he paints he overworks the drawing. He discovers this during a high-stress moment that shows him growing as an artist and person. A nice message about being confident and pursuing what you love. A piston-packed adventure. Go for it.

4 Smileys

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