Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppel; sequel to Airborn.
The Plot: Matt is now in the Paris Airship Academy, struggling with both academics and with being a working class student; the money difference is not only at school, but also makes itself known in every interaction with Kate, his very wealthy maybe girlfriend who is also studying in Paris. (For those of you new to the series, this is set in an alternate Edwardianesque world where air travel is by airships, not planes.)
Matt is on a training mission when he spots the mythical floating ship the Hyperion; not only is its very existence one of rumor, it's also supposed to be full of gold and treasures and scientific discoveries; but the training mission ends in near disaster, with no one believing that the ghost ship was really spotted. No one except Kate; and the mysterious Nadira; and the self made millionaire, Hal. Together, each for their own reasons, the four go in pursuit of the ghost ship. And they are being pursued by treasure hunters, willing to do anything to get the treasure.
The Good: While this is a sequel, it stands on its own. It's a self contained adventure. In some ways, I like this one better, but that's because I'm not an animal person so the sky cats of Airborn didn't interest me. Treasure hunts with ghost ships? Much cooler.
I like rich girl Kate and understand Matt's feelings for her. But Kate also annoys the heck out of me, and it's Oppel's fault because he has so perfectly captured how she is so inherently spoiled as shown by such things as her inability to understand Matt's financial situation and her assumptions that things will be what she wants them to be because she's always gotten her way. It's not that she's spoiled in things; she's spoiled in attitude. At the same time, Matt's own insecurities and his failure to adequately address them are also addressed. Yet, this doesn't stop the action.
I also love Oppel's humor:
"I'm going aboard," Kate said angrily. "I didn't come all this way to knit socks by the hearth."Other good things: likable characters, a promise of more adventures, fast paced action, a solid mystery, a ghost ship, pirates, being marooned, chases, dangers, and thrills. There's never a moment to just sit and breathe; yet, at the same time, Oppel manages to work in tons of details about Matt's world.
"I'm perfectly content to knit by the hearth," said Miss Simpkins, who was, in fact, knitting by the hearth.
Links: the Skybreaker website; author interview.