Sunday 2 July 2023


 by Hannah Durkan. Artwork by George Ermos;  


Small image of book cover. A northern lights style sky in reds greens blues and yellows occupies the the top third of the cover with twin horned blue/green sky whales flying in en mass. Underand in the middle section of the cover with a glacial mountain backdrop, is the vooks tiltle lettered in an emerald green. Beneath is a snow/ice blue green landscape. to the left a large bear marches off on all fours. To the right and following the bear across the page is a fan propelled snow ski. Within is a girl, who is steering. Behind is another young person. Hannah Durkan's name is picked out in white across the bottom.

An Adventure Book Review by Erin the Literary Cat©, International Book Reviewer.

Hello, and welcome to my weekend Book Review featuring Adventures in Middle-Grade Fiction. If you are here for a Sunday Selfie, please head to my post about Valentine!

Without further ado, lets get stuck into this weeks adventure. 

Large image of book cover, duplicated from above. A northern lights style sky in reds greens blues and yellows occupies the the top third of the cover with twin horned blue/green sky whales flying in en mass. Underand in the middle section of the cover with a glacial mountain backdrop, is the vooks tiltle lettered in an emerald green. Beneath is a snow/ice blue green landscape. to the left a large bear marches off on all fours. To the right and following the bear across the page is a fan propelled snow ski. Within is a girl, who is steering. Behind is another young person. Hannah Durkan's name is picked out in white across the bottom.

AUTHOR:  Hannah Durkan


Cover art by: George Ermos


Published by: Hachette Childrens Group


Publication date: Paperback, 6 July 2023


Paperback ISBN:   978 1 510 11185 1

Cover price for Paperback: £ 7.99

Available on Kindle at £4.49


Pages:  304


Age range:  9+

Any dogs or cats? No. Well, sort of.




YES! Lots of spoilers as to Book 1, and some as to cast and plot direction of Book 2.

Thank you to... 


We are exceedingly grateful to Hachette Children's Group and NetGalley for the privilege of getting to Read & Review this much-anticipated sequel before publication.

As ever, our views are our own, and we only share reviews of books we have bought, been given as gifts, or received in exchange for an impartial review.

First and foremost, the books we review are those we like and feel our global readers deserve to know about and that we hope they and their children and friends and students will enjoy.


The plot

This is the second book in the series and picks up shortly after the events of the first. Whilst I didn't review Book 1, Seina Starborn and the Skywhale, on the this blog, I did on the NetGalley review site. That review is copied here for you:-

I was not entirely sure what to expect from this adventure but soon found myself lost in the thick smogs of a dystopian world of contrasts. Rich and poor – Aboves and Belows, spend lives and indeed continents apart from each other. They only meet at the smog line or when one is a servant or employee to the other. 

Whilst the rich cruise in airships or the famed hotels built on the backs of colossal living sky whales up in the upper atmosphere, the poor work in smog and can only dream of escaping. 

Zeina Starborn, 11year old daughter of an airship engineer, is lucky. She lives with her father in his workshop on the 50th floor of the Willoughby Towers and gets to see the airships and clear skies. She dreams of voyaging beyond her daily life spent in the smog and being like her heroine, the famed adventuress, Vivianne Steel. She also desperately wants to travel by airship and visit the Willoughby Whale, the largest and most luxurious of the celebrated sky whale hotels. The hotels built on 'tamed' whales' backs cruise in the upper atmosphere and visit the sights of the four known continents.  

When Zeina literally bumps into Jackson Willoughby, the son of Lord and Lady Willoughby, the owners of the biggest and grandest of all the sky whale hotels, the Willoughby Whale Hotel, the adventure starts to weave itself into a series of events that make Zeina's dream become a reality. For Jackson, who doesn't really know his parents, just wants to keep his feet firmly in his earthbound velocycle, it soon becomes a nightmare. For both, there will be lessons in trust, friendship and the values that matter. 

Crammed with delightfully tense, murky and high flying, suspense-filled action and adventure, this has plenty to involve the active mind. A plot filled with pirates known as Smog Rats that terrorise the airships and the rich in the floating palaces to spies and those with more deadly plans had us guessing to the end. 

The book does, of course, have messages too. It is redolent of the situation we find in our world, with the environment and the endangerment of species and the treatment of indigenous peoples across the ages and continents. 

An excellent read. And one to provoke discussion at home and in the classroom.

All that said, let's get on with this adventure, and it IS one heck of a ride!
Zeina and her father now work alongside the Smog Rats, which we have now discovered are fighting the tyranny of the Aboves and freeing all the Sky Whales from the abdominal diabolical STAN systems that hold these sentient beings against their will to become mere means for floating hotels.

Jackson, the now orphaned son of the creators of the STAN system, won't rest till the last whale is freed. With Vivianne Steele and his uncle Hamilton now dead, he wants to fight with the Smog Rat crews, who are the freedom fighters of the story. But it has been months since their ship, the Nightjar, was sent into action, and Jackson and Zeina are kept back from the front line. 

Zeina helps her father invent devices for the cause, but she, too, wants to be doing other things. Her latest machine, to create clean energy from the sun, is stalled as she can't rest till some other friends on a mission return home. Jackson's stress isn't helping matters either!

When the Nightjar's sistership, the Osprey, returns with their friends, including Prince Katu, a Kotarth prince, it has a new passenger, an Above, called Nedra. A one-time thief and master of disguise, she escaped being a prisoner in the Above mines and now seeks refuge with the Rats, Zeina, and her friends. Katu brings a secret message for the fearsome Captain Parr, who is in charge of the Nightjar. It is a mission to seek an alliance in the Northen lands with the new King of the Feln. 

They are a race of huge bearlike beings, warriors, but also guardians of the Sky Whales in all their forms. The meeting will take place in the Glacial Palace at the time of the Equinox celebration.

If the Katu and Parrs negotiations succeed, an alliance between the Feln, Kotarth and Smog Rats would be sealed. The Feln ruler, known as the Emerald King, is keen to see Zeina's gadgets, especially the solar power unit, which promises clean energy, so very different from the pollution smog energy of the Above. 

But, things are put at risk when an anonymous reporter for the Smog Rats, called Pseudonym, reveals critical and sensitive information that annoys the King. So much so, the King decides that unless Captain Parr finds and turns over for trial and punishment, Pseudonym, who, from the information disclosed, must be a part of the Smog Rats crew, the treaty and effectively the tipping point in the fight against the Above's, is off. 

Through it all, Jackson, who has been forced to go on the mission instead of rescuing Sky Whales, is seething, which spills over into his actions along the way.
When they head to the meeting by sledge rather than airship, the crew and friends realize something isn't quite right in the land of the Feln, and their journey across the thinning ice becomes perilous.

When suddenly the King vanishes along with Zeina's new gadget, the whole book and adventure explode into the most daring of life-threatening cliffhanging adventures.

Which is where I have to say goodbye. Rest assured, dear readers everywhere, the thrill of an action-packed movie awaits the imagination.

So, what did we think?

This sequel goes above and beyond. In fact, it voyages to a whole new level and new continents in pursuit of adventure. And my, has Hannah come up trumps!

An epic, edge-of-the-seat adventure in a world akin but deliciously different to Lyra's from His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman, but geared squarely BUT without limitation to Middle-Grade readers. Everything to love and marvel at!


The writing is bold, pacy and engaging, with twists and turns, betrayals and surprises aplenty. It is also super relevant to our lives, dealing with pollution, corruption and the broader global impact of actions and greed.


I can't add to that, as there are heaps to enjoy and take on board with this adventure. We both gasped at the concluding chapters, and then Mrs H had tears, followed by a cheer towards the end. 


I may just have said too much there, but let me tell you now, the adventure was one I wish I could have been a part of!


As I sometimes say, how Hannah can raise this already very high bar, I don't know. I, for one, will be queueing up to read and review to find out. 

So . . .

Crunch time. 


One to treat the adventure-loving Middle-Grade reader in your family or even in yourself!

Want to buy a copy?

To get a copy, please DO NOT take a Sky Whale! Take a gentle stroll or even cycle, to your local independent bookshop. There are plenty out there, and each shop is just waiting to serve up whatever kind of mystery, fun and adventure you desire.


Hannah Durkan's  web page can be found HERE or type this:


George Ermos' Behance web page can be found HERE or type this:


Hachette Childrens Group's web page can be found HERE or type this:


That's it for this week. I hope you'll tune in again soon for more adventures in Middle-Grade writing!


Till laters!



  1. It's so good when a sequel works, that's not often the case. Excellent review sweet Princess!

    1. Thank you. Yes, we were very impressed. Can it be bettered? I do hope so 🙂

  2. This sounds like such an imaginative story, Erin and Mrs. H. And I like how it has messages about the need to take care of our world and all living things therein. We will check it out, for sure!

    By the way, we just finished "Our Cats in Amsterdam." And true to your review, we absolutely loved it. Thank you for recommending it.


    1. I am so glad you liked book two. It is different to book one, but has the same flare. Quite the thinking cats book.
      Books with messages do appeal, and it is great kids get this message early. No if only the adults would listen.

  3. Great review. Sounds like a fascinating read!

  4. When I started to read your review for the previous book I thought It wasn't really my cup of tea, but as I read on, and the second review I have totally changed my mind. It is so different and I think I would really enjoy both of them. I have so many "to read" books that they will have to wait for the dark winter nights.
    Didn't see your selfie though!

    1. My apologies re. the selfie, which appeared on my post about Valentine and not on this post.
      I have to say this second book is so very impressive and covers more ground than the first. Thought the first was a great adventure in it's own right and a worthy prelude to this. Hopefully, there will be a sequel. This is a great book and deserves all the push and PR it can get.

  5. Erin, thanks for sharing the review of this book. When my girls were little they loved, loved good books. This probably wouldn't have been up their reading alley but it's an interesting story. Have a pawesome week, furriend!

  6. We have to say, this sounds really good. If only there weren't so many books already on Our TBR shelves! Our Human is beginning to fear She may never get to some of them!!!