Welcome to part 2 of Matthew J. Kirby week! Check Monday’s post of Icefall if you missed it.
In this rousing old-fashioned yarn, reminiscent of Treasure Island, an expedition of the American Philosophical Society sets off in 1753 to find the lost Kingdom of Madoc.
Billy Bartram is elated to accompany his father, botanist John Bartram as part of the team, and the development of Billy and his relationship with his father is the thematic heart of this story. Billy is “like [John] in so many ways, but unlike him in others” and it is his recognition of these contrasts that ultimately allows him to find his own path.
There is nonstop action and intrigue on the voyage in the steampunk-esque flying ship, culminating in a thrilling battle in which each of the vividly realized expeditioners uses his scientific expertise to fight off the French marines.
Kirby skillfully mixes fact, fiction, myth and fantasy, while scrupulously delineating them in an author’s note, to create an adventure that also weaves in wider themes of difference and father-son relationships.