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The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

All aboard the greatest train known to man! The Boundless is many miles long—with 947 cars. It houses 6,495 passengers, a movie theater, a circus troupe, a captured Sasquatch, and young artist Will Everett.

Will is on the maiden voyage of the massive locomotive across the wilds of Canada. His father recently inherited the Canadian Pacific Railroad by saving the life of previous owner Cornelius Van Horne.

Of course, someone's life can only be saved so many times. The now-deceased Van Horne had the ambition to build the Boundless. Now Mr. Everett must see it across the country safely, all the while insisting that Will give up his artistic dreams for a better job. 

But Will has other concerns on his mind. Most prominent is Brogan, the brakeman plotting to rob Cornelius Van Horne's funeral car. Will knows that Brogan has killed before to get what he wants, and he knows that the crook is well aware of him. When Brogan tries to attack Will during a train stop, the boy just barely escapes as the front end of the train speeds away.

Thankfully, the Boundless does not lack railcars. Will jumps on the caboose at the last moment. From there Will joins the circus car where he finds Maren, a tightrope walker his own age, who stole his lucky Sasquatch tooth years ago. She helps him stay disguised as an entertainer and figure out how to stop Brogan. The only problem is, several others want what is in the funeral car, too.

Kenneth Oppel has a gift for language, crafting stories that sound authentic no matter when or where they are set. The Boundless offers the look and sound of the late 1800s. The book also addresses issues of class inequality and the oppression of Native Americans more subtly than most children's novels. Mr. Dorian, the circus owner who is of mixed ethnicity, acts as the book's social conscience. He is a fascinating character in that he also has his own faults, as Will quickly learns.

What secrets does Cornelius Van Horne's funeral car hold? Will must blend in with his circus brethren, jump over moving railcars, and resist the hypnotic Muskeg hag! Thankfully, all we have to do is come along for the ride!