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Matt Cruse is the main character and narrator in the Airborn series written by Kenneth Oppel. He is described as a cabin boy in the first book, though he goes on to be first mate of his own ship for a short time in Starclimber and even part of a team going to outer space. At the very end of the book, he becomes the fiancé of Kate de Vries.
Matt has very distinct character traits. He is known for being very brave, loyal, and respectful. He likes to be called "Mr.Cruse." Matt has more than once risked his life to save others. Matt also has a jealous streak, which he describes as "volcanic." His jealous streak is mostly seen whenever Kate de Vries is around any other young male. Matt also has some doubts about himself, as he is usually the youngest person on any adventure.
Matt commonly worries about Kate's feelings for him, his mother and sister's economic state, and remembering his deceased father. Matt also has an extreme love for flying and claims it is because he was born in the air.
Role in Airborn
Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a large passenger airship that sails above the ocean, ferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. He chose to become a cabin boy because his father had worked on the same ship until falling off in an accident when Matt was twelve. During his second year on the Aurora, when he is fourteen, Matt meets and rescues the balloonist Benjamin Molloy, who later dies from dehydration, malnutrition, and heart failure. Before death, Molloy mentions beautiful creatures in the sky.
A year later, Matt meets the granddaughter of Molloy, Kate de Vries. She came aboard the Aurora because although Molloy's notebooks had described fantastical creatures, no one would believe in them, and she wanted to prove that what her grandfather saw was real. Matt reveals himself to be the rescuer of Molloy, and befriends Kate, who confides in him the creatures and her goal. Later, the Aurora is attacked and shipwrecked by pirates, and through coincidence, the crew and passengers crash-land on the island where Molloy had reportedly seen the creatures.
Matt and Kate later find bones of the creature while exploring the island. They name the creature, which resembles a panther with wings, the Cloud Cat, and takes back the bones. A typhoon hits, wrecking the Aurora, but Matt discovers sources of the much-needed lifting gas (called hydrium), and saves the day. Matt and Kate also catch sight of a living Cloud Cat, and Kate leaves alone to look for its nest. Worried that her absence would delay the Aurora's timely departure, the captain sends Matt and Bruce (who Matt regards as a rival) to fetch her back. They end up attempting to take a picture of the Cloud Cat, but their plans go wrong and they are separated.
Later on, Matt and Kate realize that the pirates who had shipwrecked them actually use the little island as their home base, and through coincidence, gets taken to the pirates' base. They plan to trick the pirates with fake identities, and then escape to the Aurora to warn everyone else. However, the pirates attempt to murder them after discovering their identity. Matt and Kate barely escape, and for the first time recognize the romantic feelings developing in between them by sharing two kisses. In the end they successfully save the entire crew and passengers of the Aurora through a series of adventure. Bruce, however, was unfortunately killed.
At the end of the book, Kate displays the bones of the Cloud Cat in a museum located in Paris, France, while giving a lecture. Matt meets with her, and then reveals that he is going to be attending Paris' Airship Academy to learn more about aeronavigation. He encourages Kate to consider Sorbonne University as her new place of study (because of Sorbonne's location in Paris), and takes her hand as they watch the Aurora depart atop the Eiffel Tower.
Role in Skybreaker
Matt is a student of the famous Airship Academy in Paris, and is on a training tour when the book opens. Through coincidence, he becomes the sole person in possession of the famed ghost ship Hyperion's last known coordinates, which results in his near-kidnap by a hired pirate named Rath, his rescue by a gypsy girl named Nadira, and a business proposal offered by her.
Matt's scientifically-minded love interest, Kate de Vries, is also interested in the Hyperion, because the ghost ship is rumored to carry a rare assortment of zoological specimens. This common goal eventually brings them all to a young captain named Hal Slater, who pilots the Sagarmatha (Nepalese for Everest), one of the few "Skybreaker" airships in existence that could bring them to the altitude where the Hyperion is. The four team up and embark on a journey to find the Hyperion, intending on salvaging its riches. Matt and Kate's loyalty and faith in each other is also tested during the journey, with Slater making a move on Kate, while Nadira takes an interest in Matt.
The team find the Hyperion, though damages on the Sagarmatha forces them to salvage the ghost ship in mid-air instead of towing it back to a safe harbor. Rath's men, hired by a wealthy member of the Aruba Consortium (which has near monopoly on the extremely important power source, Aruba fuel) named Barton, arrives on scene later and attempts to destroy the Hyperion. Apparently the ghost ship's owner, inventor and billionaire Theodore Grunel, had made a clean energy machine that uses the sun's light to create water, energy, and hydrium (a fictional, inflammable lifting gas) from air and water. This creation, the "Prometheus Engine", threatens the Aruba Consortium's existence, and thus Barton seeks to destroy it. Matt's group also want the engine's blueprints as a possible means to make a fortune, and a chase begins between them and Barton's men, during which Matt plays several pivotal roles.
In the end, the four barely escape the burning and falling Hyperion safely, coming away with 40 gold bricks as their reward. Matt and Kate end up mending their relationship, and grows closer as a couple. The Prometheus Engine is ultimately destroyed.
Role in Starclimber
At the start of the book, Matt survives an attack from Babelites while working on a summer job to help build the Celestial Tower, a French attempt at reaching outer space. Babelites are those who are against the tower being constructed, insisting that the Heavens are not meant for men.
Later, Matt is given the opportunity to try out for a Canadian space venture aboard the Starclimber. He enters training in Lionsgate city, his hometown, and befriends fellow trainee Tobias Blanchard. Matt's love interest, Kate de Vries, has also been offered a spot because of her accomplishments in zoology. In the end, Tobias was chosen as one of the Starclimber's three crew (called "astralnauts"), while Matt was not. The same night, Matt also discovers Kate's engagement to a young heir named James Sanderson. Furious and hurt, he goes drinking with other unselected trainees, then goes home.
The next day, the Starclimber's captain, Samuel Walken, comes by to inform Matt that he's been chosen to replace one of the astralnauts, who had an accident and couldn't come on the voyage. The Starclimber is revealed to be a space elevator, built by the Lunardi Line with support from the Canadian government. The elevator cable is made from a fictional metal that supposedly comes from meteorites found in the Badland Craters, lighter and stronger than all known material on Earth. Matt ends up going on the venture, though his feelings and misgivings towards Kate and her actions create many interesting moments during the voyage. During the voyage, monumental discoveries were also made in terms of life in outer space. The team observes a gigantic whale-like organism, which Kate names "Etherian".
One of the two main crises in the book happens when the Starclimber team discovers that the counterweight rocket (used to hold up the elevator cable) never got to its intended height, and was slowly falling. The team race to the counterweight, and relaunch it just in time, solving the crisis. Matt saves captain Walken's life during this crisis, although his relationship with Kate seem to take a downhill turn.
The second crisis in the book happens when, on the return journey, the Starclimber crew discover that a kind of space coral has been growing on the cable. While trying to dislodge a kind of space barnacle, Shepperd, an astralnaut, unintentionally severs the cable while getting killed in the process. Unattached to the cable, Starclimber has no way to contact the ground, and is slowly losing power. Through ingenious calculations made by Dr. Turgunev, the team's chief scientist, and the help of special toilets, Starclimber eventually returns safely back to Earth. The book ends with Matt's proposal to Kate, and her agreement.
Starclimber, Kenneth Oppel 2009 Skybreaker Kenneth Oppel 2007
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