A motherless boy. An accidental journey. An isolated king with a hobby others don't understand. All of these elements have played a part in other stories, but they combine to form the basis of Castle in the Stars.
Seraphin's mother, Claire, was determined to uncover the secret of aether. She went aloft in a balloon an incredible 11,000 meters into the atmosphere, but never returned. Now a year has passed, and her logbook has been found by none other than King Ludwig of Bavaria, who is also interested in the possibilities of aether. Before they even reach Bavaria Seraphin and his father realize there is some sort of plot going on. As the story unfolds the reader learns that someone plans to sabotage the king, his experiments, or both.
The book is done in gorgeous watercolor illustrations with the feel of a Jules Verne adventure. The setting is obviously our world in 1869, but an alternate history with a bit of steampunk vibe. The characters are easy to distinguish by their appearance and their personalities. Seraphin is a fair-haired young boy, idealistic, and still devoted to his mother. His father is a balding, austere engineer who is a strict taskmaster. And the individuals they meet in Bavaria are either loyal to the king or plotting against him, but it takes time to figure out whose side everyone is on.
The action is full of dangerous balloon ascents, explosions, chases, near escapes, and humorous accidents. And the ending will leave everyone eagerly waiting the next volume to see what happens next.
If you enjoy steampunk, alternate history, or adventures like the writings of Jules Verne, then you need to pick up a copy of Castle in the Stars. I read an e-book provided by the publisher through NetGalley.