Review: The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel

Genre: historical fiction, adventure Age Level: middle grade Series: N/A
Genre: historical fiction, adventure, fantasy
Age Level: middle grade
Series: N/A

Will Everett has always wished for an adventure. 

Little does he know his adventure starts the moment he boards the Boundless. There is a murder, and now Will protects a key that can unlock the train’s hidden treasures. Villains are fast on his heels and strange creatures are lurking outside he windows as the Boundless hurtles across the country. Together with Maren, a gifted escape artist, and Mr. Dorian, a circus ringmaster with amazing abilities, Will must save the Boundless before someone else winds up dead. 

His adventure may have begun without him knowing… but how it ends is up to Will. 


Such a fun book! The Boundless is a pleasing blend of fantasy and historical fiction that is intriguing and gripping.

I loved the fact that the story is based off the CPR, a mostly proud moment in Canadian history – apart from the treatment of the Chinese workers. They worked for little money in the most dangerous jobs and lived in crowded, unsanitary conditions. This concept was included in the novel, albeit in simple terms, much to my surprise. The novel also portrayed the treatment of the colonists, the struggles of the Métis, and the tensions with the Native peoples. I did not expect so much depth from the novel and it was a pleasant surprise. The Boundless also touches upon the unfair divisions between the classes – the cramped conditions of the poor and the lavish wastefulness of the wealthy.

Will was a wonderful narrator and I loved the first person POV. He is dimensional and developed, finding himself caught in the midst of a deadly adventure. Will tackles the trials of growing up and must convince his father to allow him to chose his own path in life, rather than the one his father picked for him. In the novel, Will asks many big questions about who deserves to live and the value of a life. The Boundless does not shy away from death either – people die and the characters must cope with their passing.

Oppel turned the train into so much more than a train. It is a rich fantasy land that I’d love to visit. A whole city on wheels, it would be so awesome to explore. The landscape through which The Boundless travels is filled with Sasquatches, Wendigos and the hag in the Muskeg. The circus only adds to the atmospheric novel and is an integral part of the story. The plot is very well done; twisty, mysterious and action packed. There is a lovely literary allusion near the end that I rather enjoyed.

There’s probably more I could say, but I think I’ve written about all the important parts. Fans of novels set in Canada and fans of middle grade should love this!

Have you read this book? What did you think? I’d love to hear from you!


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