Monday, January 4, 2010

Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel

"Former cabin boy Matt Cruse, now a student at the prestigious Airship Academy, is first to identify the Hyperion, the private airship of a reclusive and fabulously wealthy inventor that disappeared forty years ago with its owner. Armed with the Hyperion's coordinates, which only he possesses, Matt, heiress Kate de Vries, and a mysterious young gypsy board the Sagarmatha, an airship fitted with the new skybreaker engines that will allow them to reach the Hyperion, 20,000 feet above the earth's surface. Pursued by others who want the Hyperion and will stop at nothing to get it, and surrounded by dangerous high-altitude life forms, Matt and his companions are soon fighting not only for the Hyperion but for their veru lives.

In this thrilling sequel to Airborn, a Michael L. Printz Honor Book, Kenneth Oppel evokes the classic storytelling of Robert Louis Stevenson and Jules Verne, creating a world in which a new discovery can have unimagined consequences--on earth and miles above it."
At first I thought I wouldn't like Skybreaker, even though I totally loved Airborn. The first chapter started off kinda slow and I found myself struggling to get into it. But then I got about halfway through the first chapter and couldn't put it down!
Skybreaker was a thrilling sequel to Airborn, though it had a bit less action. I was fine with that fact, though, because the last half of the book had enough action to make up for any slow spots. Also, if there had been more action, it would have thrown the story off. Things unfolded and progressed just as they should have, but without being predictable or boring.
Once again, Matt and Kate proved to be some of my favorite characters to read about. Matt's narration was interesting and honest. His struggle over his feelings for Kate and Nadira was fun to read about, even though it caused him quite a bit of pain. It was a little maddening how obsessed he was with money and impressing Kate, but also understandable somehow. I liked that he knew and admitted he thought about money and status more than he should have, rather than ramble on about it in his mind without noticing it was almost all he thought about.
Kate annoyed me a little in this one. I think it might have been because her side of the story was so vague, sine everything was told from Matt's point of view, and because Kate's behavior was frustrating Matt, so you couldn't help but feel a bit of that with him. I'm glad her strange behavior was explained in the end, though I felt like the problems between Matt and Kate were solved a little too quickly. They went from not talking to each other at all to being a couple in about two pages. I just hate it when problems are resolved so quickly (though I wonder if my opinion would be the same if the solution was dragged out over a whole chapter).
I didn't like Hal Slater. I simply didn't. He was annoying, he was cocky, and he was a liar. I know it sounds bad, but I kept hoping he would die. Also, his name frustrated me, it made me think of Saved by the Bell, something I never wish to think about. I was really happy when they stopped calling him Slater or Mr. Slater and just called him Hal.
Nadira annoyed me too. It just seemed like she was there to bring conflict to the group. She was an okay character in that she wasn't a sissy, but when her fighting skills really mattered, she was useless. I didn't like that.
Speaking of Nadira being useless, there's something I absolutely cannot review this book without addressing: The girls were treated like helpless children. As soon as they boarded the Hyperion, they became weak and defenseless. Matt and Hal were always watching out for the girls because they didn't appear to be able to watch out for themselves. It was always "make sure the girls have enough oxygen" and "the girls stumbled when the ship rocked". I wish they'd been less... girly.
Anyway, I should talk about the story.
The quest for the elusive Hyperion was interesting, though had a few slow spots. For about half of the book (possibly more), they were just sitting in the lounge aboard the Sagarmatha doing... nothing. Well, there was the awkwardness between Kate and Matt, Matt avoiding Kate and Nadira, and Hal being annoying to keep things interesting. Also, Miss Simpkins, Kate's chaperone, was present for most of the book, which proved to be quite interesting. Some of the things she said, like when she asked Nadira out of the blue if she could read palms (just because she was a gypsy) was kinda funny. It wasn't so much the question as everyones' reaction to it. For most of the book, she would just sit there reading or sewing and occasionally throw her two cents in. I was a bit surprised to find out that Miss Simpkins was only in her twenties (or early thirties), for I pictured her much older. Somewhere between forty and fifty. It was just the way she was always complaining about things, like the altitude, or the dry air, or the company.
The end of the book was rather exciting. I can't say much, because that would give away the story (something I really don't want to do), I will just say it was an excellent end for a wonderful beginning (beyond the first few pages) and middle. I can't wait to read the third book in the series, Starclimber.

I give Skybreaker four Fists of Rock.

Eclectically yours,

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