The historical meets the fantastical when key members of the American Philosophical Society, circa 1753, employ an aeroship to search for the lost Kingdom of Madoc, of Welsh legend.
Ben Franklin encourages young Billy Bartram to accompany his father, botanist John Bartram, on an expedition to determine if Madoc’s kingdom will solve England’s territorial problems in the New World. Characters loosely based on real-life Philosophical Society members are sprinkled throughout the story, demonstrating diverse motivations and interests, from electricity to immortality. With a ship designed by Francesco Lana de Terzi, they fly above challenges posed by weather, advancing French troops, Native Americans, herds of incognitum and bear-wolves. Edgar winner Kirby deftly combines historical truths with rich, multilayered creative imaginings including mystery, cultural discord and ongoing father-son conflict. While the one female character aboard ship seems disproportionately at fault and the end feels like a crescendo of hodgepodge elements, readers will enjoy the vigorous blend of colonial struggle with a touch of Jules Verne.
An old-fashioned adventure story to curl up with on a rainy afternoon. (author’s note) (Steampunk. 8-12)