Review : Boundless

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel. 9781442472884. 2014. Gr 5-8.

The BoundlessIn Kenneth Oppel’s Printz Honor book, Airborn, his characters took to the air in a magnificent flying airship; in The Boundless, most of the action takes place on an extraordinary train. Booklist’s starred review says that “Oppel offers a grand adventure story that is firmly rooted in Canadian history but which is never limited by mere recorded facts.” And thank goodness for that!

We first meet Will Everett as he is waiting the return of his father from working on the Canadian Pacific Railway. So when Cornelius Van Horne, the railway builder himself, invites Will to attend the golden spike ceremony celebrating the completion of the railroad, Will hops on board. And here’s where the book veers away from those “mere recorded facts.” During the ceremony, disaster strikes twofold. An avalanche threatens their lives, and just when it seems like all will be saved, the sasquatches attack! (Please, no comments on whether or not sasquatches are real…)

Jump ahead three years. Will’s father has been promoted to manager of The Boundless, a huge train designed by Van Horne, and Will is along for its inaugural journey through the Canadian wilderness. The Boundless is massive—seven miles long, with fancy staterooms and dining cars for those who can afford them, and even a shooting gallery, as well as a mysterious locked funeral car…with treasure inside? When the train makes an extended stop, Will wanders to the end of the train and becomes the only witness to a murder!

From then on, the action never stops. As the train starts to pull away, Will jumps onto the caboose—and now he must somehow make it to the front of the train to warn his father while trying to hide from the pursuing murderer and his cohorts. But there are more dangers and mysteries on board, and ghostly swamp creatures, and a circus troupe with secrets of their own, and new friends that may not really be friends. And Will keeps falling off the train!

The Boundless is an exciting blend of historical fiction, folklore, and steampunk—and quite a bit of social critique thrown in for good measure. It will be released on April 22, 2014.

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