Review: The Lost Kingdom by Matthew J. Kirby

Matthew J. Kirby
Scholastic Press
Publication Date: August 27, 2013

From the back cover:

A remarkable adventure by award-winning author Matthew J. Kirby brings a fantastical American West filled with secrets and spies and terrifying creatures to vivid life.

In this extraordinary adventure story, Billy Bartram, his father, and a secret society of philosophers and scientists venture into the American wilderness in search of the lost people of the Welsh Prince Madoc, seeking aid in the coming war against the French. Traveling in a flying airship, the members of the expedition find their lives frequently endangered in the untamed American West by terrifying creatures, a party of French soldiers hot on their trail, and the constant threat of traitors and spies. Billy will face hazards greater than he can ever imagine as, together with his father, he gets caught up in the fight for the biggest prize of all: America.
THE LOST KINGDOM is an epic journey filled with marvelous exploits, courage and intrigue, and a bold reimagining of a mythical America. Matthew J. Kirby brings his signature storytelling prowess and superb craft to this astonishing story of fathers and sons, the beginnings of a nation, and wonder-filled adventure.

Matthew J. Kirby knows how to tell a compelling story. THE LOST KINGDOM is a mix of fantasy, historical fiction and steampunk. The adventure moves along at a fast pace while managing to draw characters that are realistic, and more importantly, flawed. I really enjoyed the fact that the author does not ‘dumb down’ the book. It’s a big book, clocking in at over 300 pages, but he never skimps on historical details or characterizations, choosing to trust his readers to come along on the journey he has laid out.

Each character on the expedition has their own reason for joining in, and Kirby does an excellent job of slowly revealing their motivations as the book progresses. And then, of course, there is the protagonist, Billy Bartram, who Kirby pens with an exceptional amount of depth and forethought. As Billy joins his first expedition into the American Wilderness, he realizes that the adventure is not all that he hoped, and while he’s always looked up to his father, seeing him in action makes him question some of the ideals his father holds dear. In essence, Billy grows up on this journey, learning to make his own choices while still appreciating (and loving) his father, even when he doesn’t agree with him. Beyond the fantastical, wonderfully imaginative plot, this very human, mature realization, from a boy learning to become a man is the greatest take-away of THE LOST KINGDOM.

I read this book with my two children and thoroughly enjoyed every page. The story and writing are something adults and children alike are sure to appreciate.



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