The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

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The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

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Category: Confident Readers
Rating: 5/5
Reviewer: Jill Murphy
Reviewed by Jill Murphy
Summary: Wonderful, vivid adventure set on the world's longest train and featuring murder, mayhem, circus performers and the mythical sasquatch. What more could you possibly want?!
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 332 Date: September 2014
Publisher: David Fickling
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 1910200107

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William Everett's father has risen high in the railway. But it wasn't always thus. He spent many years working for Cornelius Van Horne as a manual labourer, cutting and blasting through swathes of Canada and laying tracks. When Will and his father witness the laying of the last piece of track, there's an avalanche. And Will's father saves Van Horne's life. Promotion and success followed and now Van Horne is dead, Will's father is general manager and the world's biggest train - the Boundless, at 987 carriages long - will carry his body in perpetuity.

But evil is afoot. There's a plan to rob the funeral car of Van Horne's treasures. And when Will witnesses a murder, the conspirators intend to silence him before he can reveal their dastardly plan. And that's not all. Circus owner Mr Dorian has an agenda of his own and there's a vengeful sasquatch to contend with too. Can Will get to his father before the conspirators get to him? Can he trust Meren, the strange, wild, tightrope-walking girl? And will he ever achieve his ambition of becoming an artist?

I really did enjoy The Boundless. It has a huge scope in the history of Canada and you can see that an enormous amount of research has gone into it. How to contain all this information and still create a tight, suspenseful story? Why, set it on a train, of course! I think this central conceit is absolute genius. The Boundless is a pioneer train and so, huge as it is, it's also a microcosm of a place and its time in history. Because it's done like this, Oppel manages to squeeze a great deal of revealing historical accuracy into his story without ever losing focus on the plot. The Boundless is both a cornucopia of people and dreams and potential and a claustrophobic place in which danger is difficult to escape.

I thought it was marvellous. Honestly. From the descriptions of circus acts, the sheer effort involved in constructing railways, the majestic landscapes through the understanding of the problems faced by the poor and those of mixed race to the chases and fights of the actual plot, The Boundless held my attention. And for readers in Britain, it will all be new and unfamiliar. I didn't falter for a moment. There's a lot of history, plenty of derring-do and a little bit of magic. It's great. In fact, I can't think of a single nit to pick!


My press sheet rightly points out that Oppel isn't as well known in the UK as he should be. So I think you should look at some of his other books. How about This Dark Endeavour, his take on Frankenstein? Or Half Brother, a completely gorgeous and tremendously affecting story about animal experimentation and family dynamics?

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Buy The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel at


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