Sarah's Stars

Kenneth Oppel.  Skybreaker
HarperCollins   $22.99   ISBN 978-0-00-200699-6   340 pg.
Reviewed by Lindsey, Age 13

A sound, very much like someone exhaling, whispered through the Control Car.

We all went rigid. My eyes skittered over the bodies on the floor, half expecting them to stir and crack free of the ice. Hal, a pistol suddenly in his hand, whirled towards the ladder, which was the only way in and out of the Control Car. No one was poised on its rungs, or in the hatchway above.

“Who’s there!” he shouted.

"Crowwwwsnessss…” came the reply.

This time I caught its source, and gave a shout, pointing. The unearthly whisper was emanating from an icy grille mounted on the side of the Control Car. It was the endpoint of the crow’s nest speaking tube. Heat flashed across my back and down my arms. I pictured the lookout, raising the mouthpiece to his frozen lips, exhaling his last sounds from his ice-crusted throat. We stared mute, at the grille.

“…essssssssssssss,” said the voice, and then it became nothing more than a shushing of dead air along the speaking tube.

This fast-paced action story begins at nine hundred feet aboard the rickety airship the Flotsam. A deadly storm named the Devil’s Fist is fast approaching and the ship is caught in its massive downdraft and then forced up to an altitude of 20,000 feet in the updraft. There, the air is dangerously thin and the cold is unbearable. All of the crew on the ship is oxygen-starved and unconscious, except for one. Enter Matt Cruse, hero of the story, Airborne. He’s on a training trip from the Air Academy. He, alone, remembers the coordinates of the mysterious airship, the Hyperion, which disappeared forty years ago. He sees it at 20,000 feet and as soon as he gets back to Paris he finds himself steeped in trouble from his lady friend Kate, a mysterious gypsy girl named Nadira and a ruthless imposter named John Rath, who’s determined to salvage the treasure aboard the Hyperion. When Matt, Nadira, Kate and a charming but cold captain named Hal Slater set out on a quest to salvage the Hyperion, they find more danger than they expect; a dangerous floating octopus creature that has electrical tentacles, fast and powerful winds, the dry, freezing cold and most of all, the lack of oxygen in the thin air. They also run into pirates and …ghosts? Does the long-dead crew haunt the Hyperion?

Oppel has done it again. He has moved on from the successes of the Silverwing trilogy and Airborne to craft yet another fine tale. Oppel delves deeper into his characters’ personalities. There are plenty of action-packed moments and even a bit of romance as Matt struggles to sort his thoughts out. Does Kate really love him, or is he just some rich girl’s pawn? The story moves along at a satisfying pace and there are plenty of twists and surprises to keep you reading, and as I got closer to the end I found myself unable to put the book down! A very satisfying conclusion.

This reviewer gives Skybreaker five action-packed stars.

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