The Lost Kingdom
This is an entertaining middle-grade historical fantasy set on the American frontier during colonial days. Young Billy Bartram, his naturalist father, and a group of scientists and philosophers – members of a secret society – travel west in a flying airship. Their mission: to find the legendary lost tribes of Welsh prince Madoc and enlist them to help British America during the coming war with France. The gallant band must battle deadly mythical creatures, the unfriendly French, and a traitor in their midst as they travel farther into the wilderness in search of the lost Welsh kingdom.
The tale is so fantastic that the reader may find it a little hard to suspend disbelief, but that is really just a minor quibble. This is an action-packed, hold-on-to-your-hat, bold adventure that will appeal to children ages 8-12 or even to teens and adults. What sets it apart and makes it compelling are the characters’ relationships. The issues between Billy and his father are explored, as are questions of trust, loyalty, and courage. Prejudice against Native Americans comes up, and is treated sensitively as it is examined within the realities of that time period.
There is a welcome author’s note at the end, detailing what is historically accurate and what is not. Real historical figures are part of the story, and the author wisely explains where he rearranges the facts to suit the fantasy. Matthew J. Kirby is a prolific author and an Edgar award-winner for his middle-grade novel Icefall. This book is a worthy follow-up to his other works.