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Ken Karp
Utah writer Matthew J. Kirby is the author of "The Lost Kingdom."

THE LOST KINGDOM,” by Matthew J. Kirby, Scholastic Press, $17.99, 348 pages (f) (ages 8-12)

Legends can be the foundations on which great stories are layered. Such is the case with Utah author Matthew Kirby’s latest fantasy, “The Lost Kingdom.”

It rests on the rumors that 300 years before Christopher Columbus’s discovery of a new world, Prince Madoc sailed from Wales, settling in what is believed to be the Alabama territory. Traditions passed down by Cherokee Indians of “white people” and evidences of pre-Columbian forts bearing striking similarities to the ancient Wales fortifications further the rumors that still circulate today.

The setting for “The Lost Kingdom” is Colonial America where Benjamin Franklin supports a secret society of philosophers and scientists in searching out the rumored Welsh clans, taking legal possession of the people and land — as assertion of prior discovery — before the French can destroy the established colonies.

The exploration is in a flying machine with lifting power from newly invented vacuum balloons. The ship bears the English flag.

John Bartram, botanist and philosopher, takes along his teenage son Billy on his first exploration. It is Billy who becomes pivotal in the story and tells of the adventure. At first, he is in awe watching a famous father, but becomes less enchanted making singular decisions that at times alienate father and son.

Other strong-willed philosophers and scientists on the venture add to the tension of the exploration as they experience conflicts in philosophy. At times, there is near rebellion against leaders on the flying ship as opinions are cast about and it is apparent that the chemicals on board are apt to cause annihilation.

The untamed West, hunger on board, treacherous storms, a spy for the French, ancient monoliths and a bear-wolf (“towering twice as tall as the tallest man”) add to the adventure of the mismatched group.

In hand-to-hand combat with the French, Kirby adds another layer of improbabilities that can leave readers considering the basics of sunlight reflection and energy combustion. Details of the English and French battle are literally and figuratively a blast.

“The Lost Kingdom” is an American fantasy based on recognizable settings in the colonies. According to the author’s notes, the American Philosophical Society founded by John Bartram and Benjamin Franklin was an actual group that fell into inactivity by 1753. Many of the characters here are loosely fashioned after members of the society. As for the rumors of Prince Madoc of Wales, “it took on a life of its own, and folklore surrounding Madoc persists to this day.”

For the flying ship and some of the inventions and weapons, Kirby has drawn on his able ability to interject steam-punk fantasy into a story as seen in his previous “Clockwork Three.”

“The Lost Kingdom” is a thrilling ride full of suspense and action.

Kirby is also the author of “Icefall,” which won an Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, and “Cave of Wonders,” the fifth in the Infinity Ring series, is also scheduled to be released on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

If you go ...

What: "Lost Kingdom" book lauch and Matthew Kirby book signng

When: Thursday, Sept. 5, 7 p.m.

Where: The King's English, 1511 S. 1500 East, Salt Lake City

Web: kingsenglish.com, matthewjkirby.com

Note: Places in the signing line are reserved for those who purchase a copy of "The Lost Kingdom" from The King's English.

Also ...

What: Teen-apalooza book signing: Matthew Kirby, "The Lost Kingdom" and "Infinity Ring, Book 5: Cave of Wonders"; Natalie Whipple, "Transparent," J.R. Johansen, "Insomnia," B.K. Bostick, Huber Hill series; Erik Olsen, Flin's Destiny series; and Adrienne Monson, "Dissension"

When: Saturday Sept. 14, 6 p.m.

Where: Barnes and Noble, University Crossings Plaza, 330 E. 1300 South, Orem

Web: barnesandnoble.com

Email: [email protected]