Zeina Starborn And The Sky Whale by Hannah Durkan

Publication Date: 12 May 2022

The Blurb

Zeina Starborn spends her days dreaming of adventure in the sky and escaping the smog-filled city of Ravenport.

So, when she wins the chance to visit the famous Willoughby Whale Hotel – a ginormous structure built on the back of a flying whale – Zeina grabs it. Even clashing with Jackson, spoiled heir to the Willoughby fortune, can’t dampen her excitement.

But a series of clues makes her question what she’s been told about this dazzling world of inventors, explorers and mighty sky whales. Zeina and Jackson must put aside their differences to uncover the secret plot around them as they embark on the journey of a lifetime.

Cover illustration by George Ermos

The Review

I genuinely don’t know where to start with this review other than to say I love this book. It’s immersive, compelling, nail biting storytelling that makes it impossible to put down once you start reading.

The world building is full of vivid imagery that brings the smog-filled cities and airship filled skies, and their inhabitants to life. The stark differences in lifestyle of the Belows and Aboves are brought sharply into focus from the very beginning when we see Zeina and Jackson meet in the shadows of Willoughby Towers, both evading the stern eyes of Mrs Hogwood. The Belows lives are spent with a respirator on, never venturing above the smog line to the clear air above, whilst the Aboves live in luxury, able to open windows to breath in fresh air in their homes.

Zeina is ambitious and adventurous, keen to leave her life in Ravenport behind and journey above the smog line to see the Sky Whale hotels above in the Upper Atmosphere. Jackson has his own ambitions to keep his feet firmly on the ground rather than follow his father’s footsteps to run the family business above the clouds.

When fate brings the two together on the Willoughby Sky Whale, opulence and elegance abound, and Zeina realises just how different her education has been. She knows nothing of the Sky Whales beyond snippets and scraps of books and newspapers she has found, while Jackson understands how these magnificent, wild creatures have been tamed to allow them to carry hotels on their backs. They have also entered a world where greed knows no bounds, and Smog Rats will stop at nothing to destroy the Sky Whale Hotels.

Societal class systems, ecology, environmental activism and animal welfare are all strong themes within the pacey plot that twists and turns. Just as you think you have something or someone worked out, you are made to think again. This is a world I would definitely venture back into given the chance, and I would love to find out more about Katu’s people and home.

Great for fans of:

  • Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy
  • Orphans Of The Tide by Struan Murray
  • Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Huge thanks to Hachette for the early proof copy.


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