Billy Bertram wants to be like his father John, who is a renowned botanist. Billy gets the opportunity to go with his father on an expedition into the wilds of Ohio. They and the other scientists are looking for the Kingdom of Madoc. War between the French and British is coming to the colonies and the British would like to have Madoc as their ally. They believe that the Kingdom of Madoc was founded hundreds of years ago by Welsh explorers and still exists somewhere. They take their flying ship and all their scientific equipment and head out of Philadelphia pursued by the French. Along the way, they meet Major George Washington and different Indians. It is also on the journey that Billy’s opinion of his father changes. He is exposed to his father’s prejudicial hatred of the Indians; hatred that blinds him to all else. The journey is filled with dangers and revelations. Billy has to start thinking for himself and stand up to his father.
On one hand I really liked this book as a fantastical, historical adventure book. On the other hand, I found some parts really hard to believe. I liked the accuracy of the characters (many are based on real people) and there really is a legend of the Kingdom of Madoc. Billy’s personal journey is also really good. He becomes a man on this trip instead of the boy he was. I thought it was crazy that the French were able to follow the expedition from Philadelphia to Ohio so easily (even with the spy). I also thought the whole bear-wolf thing was just a little bit silly. I’m not sure what a bear-wolf is and I really don’t think it would follow a flying ship for hundreds of miles. Despite the silliness, it was a good story and a great adventure.
I received an advanced copy of this book from both Netgalley and ALA 2013.