My introduction to the genius of Kenneth Oppel took place well over a decade ago with Silverwing. Since then, I’ve become what many would call a diehard fan, devouring every book Oppel publishes will relish. The Boundless is no exception.
Set in the late 1800s, The Boundless is an edge of your seat thriller that unfolds against the backdrop of the Canadian Pacific Railway. After witnessing a murder, Will Everett, our young hero, is on a mission to get back to his father and stop a band of thieves from looting a treasure trove. The success of this mission and, more importantly, his survival, depends on the help of Mr. Dorian, Zirkus Dante’s mysterious ringmaster, and Maren, the captivating tightrope walker.
“You finished the railway, Will!” his father says, slapping him on the back.
“All aboard for the Pacific!” shouts Donald Smith.
From down the tracks the company locomotive blasts its whistle. Men take out their pistols and begin firing in the air. The shots echo between the snow-ladden slopes, one great firework crackle.
When the shooting subsides, the rumble is so low that it is barely audible, but Will can hear it, and he looks at his father in alarm.
The Boundless expertly weaves together the romance of train travel, the lure of the circus and the danger of the Canadian wilderness. Oppel also sprinkles folklore and a touch of the supernatural with sasquatches emerging from avalanches and a hag rising from a swamp.
She’ll sit beside you, nice and calm, and you won’t be able to move or call out. Wouldn’t do you no good anyhow, because no one else can see her but you. And you’re helpless because you can’t move, and you can’t stop her when she leans in nice and slow and whispers in your ear.
But it doesn’t end there. The Boundless gives readers the single most fascinating lesson on Canadian history ever: The acquisition of aboriginal land, the shameful treatment of Chinese railroad workers and the unrelenting racial prejudice faced by minorities are all included in his tale of daring innovation. Thus, making The Boundless not only a Canadian thriller but also an examination of social injustice.
“They rely entirely on these hunts for food and hides.”
“Well, I’m not taking their buffalo, am I? I’m helping them!”
“Not by shooting at their hunters.”
“What’s one less Indian?” snorts the man just before an arrow buries itself in his heart. He staggers back, dead before he hits the ground.
“Or one less white man,” murmurs Mr. Dorian.
With The Boundless, Oppel once again proves himself to be the master of action and adventure. I don’t know what he has planned for us next, but I certainly can’t wait to find out.
Follow me on twitter @InderjitDeogun