Title: Zeina Starborn and the Sky Whale
Author: Hannah Durkan
Illustrator: George Ermos
Publisher: Orion children’s books
Genre: Older children’s/middle grade fiction, Fantasy
Book format: Pre-publiscation proof copy
Sweet Strawberries: Sweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet StrawberrySweet Strawberry

Description:  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 infamous 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 Willhoughby fortune, can’t dampen her excitement.
But a series of clues makes he 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 a journey of a lifetime.

*Free copy provided by publisher for review…

Review:  This is such an amazing adventure I just couldn’t put it down!  Zeina lives in Ravenport, with her dad who takes care of the airships that the Aboves use.  As a Below, poorer people who live below in the city’s smog, Zeina doesn’t have much chance of ever leaving Ravenport, especially as her apprenticeship will be starting soon.  But when she wins a ticket to go to a famous sky whale hotel and meet her hero, explorer Vivianne Steele, she takes it even though her father forbids it.

This is an amazing and very different story, I love how creative and amazing this is and how it has a great environmental message all wrapped up in a beautiful and very exciting tale.  The book begins by following Zeina as she bumps into rich kid Jackson Willoughby.  Unlike Zeina Jackson is an Above, and lives high up in an apartment that reaches into the sky and above the filthy smog layer that has filled the whole city.  Zeina and Jackson are very different characters and both dislike each other at first but soon the two of them can’t help but be stuck together when Zeina wins the chance to go to the sky whale hotel that Jackson’s family own.

The story is interesting from the start with the whole world being different from our own in many ways, but also eerily similar.  The city is filled with smog and the Aboves and Belows are treated very differently and live very differently to each other.  I love how we find out about the life of Belows as well follow Zeina home and see how tough it is for those people to live.  I love how determined Zeina is from the start to be like her hero and I really enjoyed what she at the start of the book which becomes an important item later on in the story.  Jackson’s character is very different from Zeina but  I liked him from the start too, especially with his fear of flying and how his family life at home affects him.  The two kids end up going to the sky whale hotel, a hotel on the back of a whale that lives in the sky.

As the story moves on we find out more about sky whales and I love how inventive this story, inverting our world to make whales beings in the sky rather than in water.  I love what happens and how this book shows us some truths about our world today through the story of the sky whales and the wider story of the other creatures that live in the world.  When Zeina finally meets Vivianne Steele there’s the two kids end up heading into the sky to search for something important.  There is a lot of action in the story, never a moment that was dull and I love how later on there are some twists and things revealed.

The story builds to a brilliant finale and I just love how things resolve for all the characters.  It’s a brilliant ending to the Zeina and Jackson’s stories as well as some of the other characters and I just love how this wraps up nicely with an additional epilogue which makes the story’s end that much more brilliant!

This is such a great standalone novel, although I wouldn’t mind a sequel one day as the story’s setting and characters have so much more that can be explored.  I have loved reading this so much, from start to finish and I just couldn’t put it down and read the whole book in just one day!  It has such a brilliant environmental message as well as being such an amazing, exciting and interesting adventure.  I couldn’t recommend this enough for its target audience which is older children, but I also would recommend this to teens and older too.  The adventure is so exciting and the story so interesting and different that I know a lot of people would love reading this and I know I’ll be re-reading it in the future too! 🙂

What do you think of this book?  Do you like whales or fantasy children’s stories?  Let me know what you think in the comments below 🙂