In 1731 Lisbon, Bartolomeu Lourenco and his younger brother, Alexandre, sail from the earth in Bartolomeu's scientifically designed flying ship, the Passarola. Thus begins a great adventure that withstands the small-mindedness of the envious, the rigors of unfriendly climates and the political machinations of those who would deny the brothers their dream, their final rite of passage a journey across the Azores, an eight-hundred mile trip in three days. This magnificent invention will sail all over the world in years to come, all below insignificant in contrast, gliding from one continent to another, undeterred by doubt or hardship: "We braved air currents, we plowed into rainbows and we sailed through clouds."
From metaphysical philosophy to the religious fanaticism of the Inquisition, from royal hubris to doomed military campaigns, the brothers Lourenco rise above it all, their flying ship the metaphorical ascent of man's intellect and reaching for God's boundaries. His grand ambition realized in the Passarola, Bartolomeu dreams of riding the currents of the skies, unobstructed, until an Inquisitor, Cardinal Conti, threatened by the unknown, declares the endeavor evil and schemes to bring about its destruction. Their reputation in tatters thanks to the Cardinal's vicious gossip, the brothers leave behind their successes in Portugal, fleeing to France, where they are taken under the protection of King Louis XV. Louis sends them headlong into a maritime battle in Poland and later to explore the Equator and the Polar Circle. Desperate to repair his battered ship, Bartolomeu agrees, a higher purpose ever in his Jesuit-trained mind: "I want to see what exists at the edge of the world."
All that military men and monarch's can imagine as a consequence of the Passarola is a fleet of warships, Bartolomeu's magnificent creation betrayed by the martial ambitions of kings and their lackeys. This superior vision, a sampling of all the world has to offer is too foreign a concept for men who seek to conquer by force. But harsh reality fails to subdue the beauty of this fable. His protagonist based on a true character, the author has embellished history in this imaginative mix of fact and fiction, intellectual paucity and religious stricture trumped by one Bartolomeu's curiosity and trust in scientific truth, two brothers embarked on a journey of a lifetime. Luan Gaines/ 2006.