The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel
Published by Scholastic in 2014
Will’s father has been working on the rail lines. Will travels with his mother to meet him. They get to town and Will runs into the rail baron. He gets invited to ride up to the rail camp. He rides up with the rail baron and a man who runs a circus.
At the rail camp, Will sees his father. They all gather at the ceremony to see the last spike driven in. Unfortunately, the person who drives the spike in fails to succeed. Will is given the opportunity to drive the last spike in to finish the railroad. He drives the golden spike in, but an avalanche occurs. Will and his father are swept away and almost attacked by a sasquatch. Another railroader tries to steal the spike and is attacked by the sasquatch instead. The circus ringmaster has his team catch the sasquatch.
Three years later: Will’s father is promoted and the rail baron passes away. Will is adapting to his new lifestyle. Will’s father is now overseeing the railroad. His father is overseeing the Boundless’ (largest railroad in the world) maiden voyage across the country. The rail baron wanted his remains to ride his legacy, so he rests in an electrified rail car where only Will’s father and the guard have the key.
In first class, the circus performs a skit for the train riders.Will sees someone he hasn’t seen since his the night of the avalanche. Maren is now an escape artist and tightrope walker with the circus. Will is deperate to see her and ask her about their interaction 3 years ago, so when the train stops, he stops by the vendors that line the track to try and find her.
He witnesses a group of brakemen who murder the guard. Will steals the key and gets on the train as it is pulling away from the stop. He tells two of the men what he saw. One of the men turns out to be with the group of murderers. He escapes into one of the cirucs cars and Mr. Dorian, the ringmaster agrees to hide him. Maren helps him find a skill and a make up artist disguises him.
At this point the story does a good job of providing depth for Mr. Dorian as a Metis. They highlight the struggles he’s faced, but recognize his success. He agrees to help Will get to the front of the train safely to get to his father, but it turns out that Mr. Dorian wants to steal a painting from the funeral car.
This story does a great job of providing enough action to move the story along quickly and has great characters with a lot of depth. The story also does a great job of discussing the realities of life at the top of the food chain as compared to the bottom of the food chain during the turn of the century.
“That day, in the mountains, he was given a story, and a grand one at that. He felt then like his life was about to properly start-that he’d finally have adventures of his own, maybe with his father.” (p. 47)
“It’s like the rails cut a scar across the continent and released all sorts of things.” (p. 202)