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I can’t remember the title, but it has a character called the toe collector and there is a glowing yellow material that is very valuable.

I read it in middle school (2021) it has a floating city or a ship with a hot air balloon attached to the top of it on the cover and the cover is a drawing in black and white.

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  • Hi, welcome to the site. In roughly which year did you read this and when do you think it might've been published? Also, can you tell us anything else about the plot or characters? Dec 26, 2023 at 18:30
  • How sure are you about "the toe collector"? I'm not seeing any matches on Google Books
    – Valorum
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:42
  • This question is very terse and could be improved by going through the checklists here and editing in any relevant info you can think to add.
    – Valorum
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:45
  • Like in middle school and I don’t remember the year but the characters I remember were the main character that was a young boy who was found by a airship captain and the starting location of the story was a floating steampunk city and it was a fantasy world like no real places in our world
    – Odd
    Dec 26, 2023 at 18:49
  • In which years were you in middle school? Dec 26, 2023 at 18:53

2 Answers 2

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Could this be Stormchaser (1999) or one of the other Edge Chronicle books by Paul Stewart?

Twig Verginix has now realised his dream of becoming a sky pirate, exploring the skies of the Edge as a crew-member of The Stormchaser. That is until Cloud Wolf forbids him from coming on the dangerous quest to collect stormphrax – a valuable substance created inside the heart of a Great Storm.

Twig refuses to leave his beloved skyship and smuggles himself on board The Stormchaser – but can the ship, and its crew – survive the destructive force of the Great Storm itself?

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This one opens in a floating steampunk city and features a character called Screedius Tollinix otherwise known as 'The Toe-Taker'.

He hung the lantern on a hook above a huge chest of ironwood and glass, opened the lid, crouched down and set to work. One by one he pulled the severed toes from his bag and, like an insane manicurist, scraped beneath the nails with a small file. Tiny particles of dust – some glistening white, some tinged with sepia – dropped down into the chest with the rest. And when he was satisfied that every speck had been removed, he tossed the toes on to the great heap with the others.

The yellow substance is stormphrax.

‘Vilnix's eyes gleamed greedily. Pure lightning! he thought. What power must each piece of stormphrax contain. He looked up. “And … errm … what does it look like exactly?”

‘The professor's expression became dreamy. “Of unsurpassed beauty,” he said. “A crystal that fizzes, that glows, that sparks…”

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  • Does he take all toes regardless of position, or does he favour a specific toe?
    – fez
    Dec 26, 2023 at 20:03
  • @fez - He seems fairly agnostic about the whole thing; "There were big toes, small toes, hairy toes, scaly toes, toes with razor-sharp talons, toes with claws, toes with webbing – all of them shrivelled and black. And these were just a fraction of the total number – the select few – for at the far end of the hull in a massive wedge-shaped drift, were thousands upon thousands more."
    – Valorum
    Dec 26, 2023 at 20:05
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The answer by Valorum sounds like a better match (especially with the specificity of the 'Toe Taker' character), but this reminded me of The Aeronaut's Windlass, by Jim Butcher, 2015, so I am leaving this as an answer here in case it is helpful to someone.

The Aeronaut's Windlass also has steampunk cities accessed by flying ships, although in this case, they are technically spires emerging from a sea of toxic clouds, but could be easily remembered as islands since travel on the surface is rare and dangerous, requiring special equipment. There are also crystals that provide propulsion for the airships, although I don't recall them being yellow.

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