May 2004 by Harper Collins
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 Silverwingtrilogy, 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.
From the first sentence, I was glued to the page, err, to the ear phones...since it was an audiobook. That idiom doesn't really translate. Anywho, it pulled me in right from the start, and I don't know that I can actually nail down what exactly it was that pulled me in. Maybe it's just the spirit of the adventure. There's something terribly compelling about swashbuckling, sailing novels, and I especially love air ships. Airborn is like Leviathan but without the geopolitical stuff. Just sailing. Flying. Exploring. Soaring.
And excellent characters. Matt is one of those genuine, root-for-able, hardworking, underdog characters. He's not a terribly deep character, but I did appreciate the angle with him dealing with his father's death. Kate is annoyingly short sighted and irresponsible, but her rigid determination is part of why I like her. In general, the characters are not particularly deep or dynamic. Airborn is a bit gimicky in the same way Dark Life is with one life-threatening situation and escape after another. But you know what? I didn't care this time. I just got caught up in the adventure.
The audiobook is excellent. It's a full cast recording with excellent choices for each of the voice actors. It's definitely worth it if you're looking for something to listen to.
After reading This Dark Endeavor, I was worried that Airborn would just be okay, but it was great. I couldn't put it down, even when I was supposed to be reading books to plan for next year's curriculum. It's a thick book, but you can whip through it quickly.
And also SKY PIRATES!!! What else do you need?