Thursday, June 14, 2012

Skybreaker (Matt Cruse #2) 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 very 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.

Released: November 29, 2005          Pages: 384
Publisher: HarperTeen            Source: Library

Why aren't these books more popular?  Seriously.  This book has pretty much everything you could ask for in a book--adventure, heart-stopping action, romance, strong female characters, a likable underdog protagonist, mystery, treasure-hunting, and giant flying electric jellyfish (more on this later). 

First off, I love the level of action in this series.  It's everywhere.  This book keeps you guessing, in a good, old-fashioned pageturner sort of way.  It keeps you turning pages, constantly wondering how the main characters are going to survive.

Question: Why do characters like Edward Cullen and all the other unrealistically attractive supernatural guys get all the fangirls?  Edward and the other don't have anything on Matt Cruse.  I love him, as a character.  Where Edward can...stun you with sparkliness and his knowledge of Clair de Lune (though it is a fabulous piece of music that I've probably played 400 times),  Matt Cruse can take you up in an airship and fly you across the sky, while discovering new life forms, defeating notorious pirates, finding lost treasure, and generally saving the day while making sure you don't die of oxygen deprivation.  That, girls, is the kind of guy you should go after.  Not the sparkly ones who lust after your blood. 

The main point of that paragraph was that Matt Cruse is an awesome character.  He's believable, too.  And realistically flawed, just like all the other characters.  Like Kate de Vries, for example.  She's no damsel in distress, either.

There are gigantic, flying, electric jellyfish in this book.  How cool is that?  It's purely awesome, is what it is.  It might just be the coolest thing since Paolini's giant snails.  Eragon Shadeslayer, Vanquisher of Snails.  Matt Cruse, Vanquisher of Jellyfish.  They'd made a good team.

I also think it's worth pointing out that this is a HarperTeen book with no love triangle.  They do exist.

Overall, I very much enjoyed this book.  The characters are extremely likable, and the plot is exciting and compelling.  The setting is cool, too--Victorian era with airships!  Recommended for fans of steampunk, science fiction, alternate history, and just good old adventure stories.  It's more of a 4.5 star read, but 4.5 is the only rating I won't round up, so 4 stars it is. 
Reviews of other Matt Cruse novels:
Airborn (Matt Cruse #1)
Starclimber (Matt Cruse #3)
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