Airborn by Kenneth Oppel | Review

Pages: 550

Genre: Science fiction, steampunk


Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.


My thoughts

Rating out of five:


A very good book with steampunk aspects, flying ships and creatures, not to forget the sky pirates. Of the similiar books I’ve read here and there, this is definitely the winner so far, it has it all.

– the characters – 

This is how a young adult book should be. The two main characters are Matt Cruse, the boy on the airship Aurora, and Kate, a wealthy girl who arrives on it and is very excited about the mechanics behind how it works and science in general. They’re both adventurers, in their own way, but Kate is definitely more of one.

Matt has proved his abilities on the ship multiple times with some awesome action in the beginning, but because he’s young and too poor to go to school to become captain (i don’t think that’s the right title) he has to work harder to rise in the grades on Aurora. On the other hand, Kate’s parents are not excited about their daughter’s interests in science and adventure, and she’s constantly trying to get away from her chaperone, who doesn’t think anything is fitting for a girl. They’re both treated like kids and certainly has recklessness enough at times, but still tries to overcome their situations and do better.

“She didn’t slow down. “Good point. But we mustn’t be governed by our fears, Matt Cruse. We have a duty, you and I.” “A duty?” “To science, absolutely. If there are bones on this island, we must find them.”

– the plot & action – 

The action was definitely there, having to deal with pirates turns out to create chaos. The lesser characters like Matt’s friends, the workers on board, and Vlad the cook is well made, as is the villain. In the middle of the book there was some “lost on deserted island” vibes, where the adventure certainly continued. Still, the plot is very divided into actions ten years before, before the pirates, island and after pirates. It feels like it could’ve been divided into multiple books, or maybe it was some parts that was to slow in contrast. It became obvious which parts was important to include to get a fitting ending, even if the suspense was still there. It wasn’t obvious if it would end well, like other similiar books.

– the writing – 

There was lovely long sentences, stretching over half a page sometimes. And good writing overall. Matt Cruse’s view on his life and the reasons he prefer to be on board of a flying airship was heartwarming, his father used to work on the same ship and he felt freer in the air than on land. It showed the contrast between his and Kate’s interests and personalities, and I while the ending left some of a bitter taste, it made sense.


I would recommend this book to anyone who feels interested. Here’s some more proof of the good writing:

“She nodded absently, as if pulling open drawers in her mind, searching for something.”

“At night when the sky is scalloped with clouds and the moon does a vanishing act, you fall back on instinct when looking for moving objects. Almost like looking for shadows on shadow.”

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