Dominion, by Shane Arbuthnott

Dominion, by Shane Arbuthnott  (Orca Book Publishers, Middle Grade/Tween, February, 2017)

Are you in need of a steampunk fantasy set in an alternate New World where air ships powered by aetherial spirits travel through the skies in search of other spirits to capture and sell?  This is the life that Molly has grown up with, and now she's the engineer on board her family's air ship, the Legerdemain.  But Molly is not behaving as a proper engineer should.  Instead, she's talking to the spirit powering the airship, and feeling it respond.  When she finds herself capturing an extremely powerful spirit, she hears it speak to her.

It is a spirit that knew one of Molly ancestors long ago.  And that starts her down a path that ends up in Molly finding truths she's never thought possible about her world, and challenging the owner of the most powerful company in Terra Nova who is threatening that world with his greed (and who has taken the Legerdemain from Molly's family).

So yeah, Go Molly!  Challenge arrogant corporate greed!  Have the intelligence, sensitivity, and empathy to listen to spirits instead of dismissing or fearing them!  Realize your ancestors did bad things, and work to undo them! Believe in your mechanical abilities and yourself!  And Go Spirits too, from small spirits forced to power little bots, including one who is utterly charming and helpful, to the greater spirits like the one who powered Legerdemain.

In short, Molly's a great heroine and the whole set up with the spirits is fascinating.  I wish we'd been given more of a look at this alternate world--we only see the sliver of sky traversed by Molly and her Family, and the one city where they dock, though there are hints of the bigger world.  And likewise it seems like the author knew more backstory about Molly's family than is given in any detail.   I'm hoping Molly's world will be broader in future installments, because she's a great heroine who really deserves a great world to adventure in! 

Note on age:  It's definitely middle grade; Molly's only 14, and there's no sex, and it feels middle grade.  But it will be enjoyed more by the older end of MG, pushing YA-ward-- so  11-14 year olds. 

Kirkus and I agree on this one-- "Though some of the physics may leave some readers dizzy, feisty young Molly will keep them grounded in this page-turning mystical adventure." (here's the Kirkus review).

disclaimer: review copy received from the publisher for Cybils Award consideration.


  1. Am I in need of .... ? Why, yes, as a matter of fact, I think I need this book very much! Sounds like a worthy successor to Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series, which I loved.

    Also, girl engineers!

    1. the sequel, Terra Nova, comes out in March, so now is a good time to read it! I hope you enjoy it.


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