A review by roseice
The Boundless by Kenneth Oppel


I love Kenneth Oppel. He restores my faith in Canadian authors (most of which tend to be horrid, but I probably have my Canadian education to thank for that--we're required to study Canadian authors, and curriculum more often than not dictates studying the dark, depressing, shocking and violent shades of life. If I were a teacher, all my kids would be studying Oppel.)

Anyway, Oppel is one of my favourite authors on the whole, not just in Canadian fiction. The Boundless was a stellar addition to his collection. The premise was flawlessly executed--a train with four classes and a circus. The train itself was richly sketched--a movie theatre, a swimming pool, a shooting gallery? Anything you can think of, it's a part of that train. As always, Oppel writes a meticulous, high risk adventure--a boy from first-class struggling his way back from the caboose while a bunch of murderers tail him. Oh, and he joins the circus! Seriously. Kenneth Oppel's mind must be bursting with ideas, he's so ridiculously creative.

One element of the story that I thought fell short though was the characterisation of the two main characters, Will and Maren. I found I wasn't interested in either of them, despite Maren being a talented tight-rope walker and escape artist. Will himself was fairly bland, just an ordinary boy rolling with the chaos around him. Rather than being shaped as a character, I felt he was only reacting to the busyness of his circumstances and the colourful setting. Not a terrible character by any means, but not very interesting, either.

That said, there was a character I loved. From the beginning, having a character named "Dorian" reminded me of The Picture of Dorian Gray, so I warmly appreciated how the plot unfurled. Naturally, there's a portrait,
Spoilerand it's a life or death situation. That nod toward Oscar Wilde was rather irresistible.
I loved Mr. Dorian as a character; he couldn't be more different from Dorian Gray. He's the ambigious type--you're not sure if he's good or evil, and that made him a little uncomfortably attractive, especially with how suave and brilliant he is. He's the ringleader of a circus, adept in magic, and directly orchestrates important elements of Will's journey that we only learn about later. We see flashes of his true nature when he mentions his Metis heritage, and these little pieces really enrichened his character, made him intriguing to me. Which is why
Spoilerhis death at the end was abrupt and disappointing for me. He says throughout the book he doesn't believe in magic, but his life motivation centers around finding this canvas that, when he portrait is painted on it, will allow him to live past 39 years. In the end, when this goal is accomplished, it simply doesn't work, and he dies. I felt like I'd pulled the short straw, because I loved him, but alas. And Mr. Beauprey! Ahh, I'm so glad he got to toss two people off the train in the end... (his character was also amazing, if only for comic value.)