The best way to describe Airborn, by Kenneth Oppel, is "Steampunk Treasure Island." In a pseudo-Victorian world populated by gas-powered airships, cabin boy Matt Cruse makes a name for himself aboard the Aurora by rescuing a hot air balloonist stranded above the Pacificus, who unfortunately dies shortly thereafter. One year later, his granddaughter Kate boards the ship, intent on seeing what he described in the balloon's log: winged, cat-like animals, a species never before seen. Throw in an attack by vicious pirate Vikram Szpirglas and a shipwreck on a remote, uncharted island, and you've got yourself all the ingredients for a fine adventure. Although there were several moments where coincidence played a bit too much into the plot, the characters (especially Kate) were engaging and the book highly entertaining. Oppel also included some nice bit of character development in between pirates and scientific discovery. Matt, whose father died three years previously by falling off the Aurora, discovers that he can't outrun grief, while heiress Kate has her sense of entitlement severely shaken. I am looking forward to reading the remaining volumes in the trilogy, Skybreaker and Starclimber.