Kirby, Matthew J. The Lost Kingdom
August 27th 2013 by Scholastic Press
Billy Bartram enjoys helping out his naturalist father in this alternate late 1700s United States. When his father is asked by Ben Franklin to go on a mission in an air ship to find the lost Welsh kingdom of Madoc and ask them to help fight against the French, Billy is allowed to go as well, since his father hopes to gather specimens when they are out west. A group of various people take off, and it is soon discovered that the daughter of the mission leader, Jane, has stowed away. This ends poorly when the airship lands and is in danger of being attacked, and Jane is nowhere to be found. While she makes it back, her father does not, and Mr. Bartram becomes the mission leader. The group also has to deal with vicious bear-wolves, technical difficulties, and a variety of threats. When they finally find the Welsh settlement (after losing the airship to an attack), they are disappointed that there are not more of them, but when the French find the mission at the Welsh settlement, the groups are able to band together and use technology to defeat the enemy.
Strengths: Bonus points for Kirby for attempting an American fantasy instead of a British one with dragons. Readers who enjoyed Gratz's The League of Seven or connoisseurs of Steampunk will like this one, and I can even see readers who normally like Revolutionary or Civil War stories enjoying this.
Weaknesses: Kirby is one of those authors who rarely speak to me. Icefall does okay in my library because it has shown up on the Battle of the Books list, but this sort of fantasy book just doesn't have many readers at my school. Whenever I read a book, my first thought is "To whom would I recommend this?" I have a couple of readers who could be coerced into reading this, but when no names jump into my brain, it's hard for me to invest in the book.