Title – Author: The Lost Kingdom – Matthew J. Kirby
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: August 27, 2013
Format – Source: e-ARC – Publisher via NetGalley
Billy Bartram and his naturalist father go on the adventure of a lifetime: along with a society of philosophers, they will travel by airship to search the American wilderness for the elusive Welsh King Madoc, who they hope will aid the colonies when the French inevitably invade.
I read Icefall by Matthew J. Kirby a while ago and it was excellent, so when I saw his new book on NetGalley, I sent in my request ASAP. This author excels at just plain storytelling, where the characters leap off the page. He writes them with such complexity. The Lost Kingdom is another hit for Kirby.
From the description, I expected an epic adventure story and Kirby does deliver on this front. There’s the excitement of boarding the air ship, the danger of a spy onboard, and perilous chase scenes culminating in a battle of survival. Fantasy is expertly woven into the American West during a time of expansion and uncertainty for the colonies.
But this story is so much more than just a quest for a mysterious king. Where the book truly shines is in the relationship between Billy and his father. There’s a great coming-of-age story here where Billy discovers that his father isn’t the shining idol he thought he was. Billy starts off idolizing his father, wanting to become a naturalist just like him. The further along in their journey they go, the more Billy starts to realize how flawed his father is. Billy struggles with dismissing his father because of his prejudiced views and with respecting his father because he can be a good man too.
Prejudice plays a big part not only in Billy’s relationship with his father, but also with his own growth as a person. In a time when Native Americans were seen as savages, Billy’s father harbors extreme distrust and irrationality when it comes to Native Americans. Because of this, Billy discovers what his own views are and learns to speak up for what he believes in. The reason behind his father’s prejudice is revealed near the end, and subtleties in characterization like this are one of Kirby’s strengths. Billy’s father becomes a sympathetic character. This happens with the other philosophers aboard the airship. There is no black-and-white when it comes to Kirby’s characters.
With adventure, a complex father-son relationship, and great storytelling, The Lost Kingdom is another excellent book from Kirby.
7 – really good but missing a little something – George Weasley