In a fantasy/alternate Colonial America, Billy Bartram joins his father and other members of the American Philosophical Society in a quest for allies in the coming war against the French. They seek the Kingdom of Madoc, a rumored ancient Welsh colony beyond the Mississippi River. Their mode of transportation, a unique air-sailing ship, is also sought by the French, in hot pursuit of the explorers.
The setting and plot are interesting, and I enjoy alternate history and fantasy. The mix here, however, starts to spiral toward the end, until fantasy completely takes over for the final handful of chapters, and situations get increasingly far-fetched. This is a land of mastodons, and a 12-foot-tall bear-wolf capable of tracking a flying vessel across half the continent. To what end other than destruction, I have no idea. Perhaps colonists are particularly tasty. Secret messages tossed from the air into rivers inerringly find eddies and shores for easy retrieval. Convenient! There is plenty to recommend about this book, but I can’t quite give it full marks.