A Darkling Plain

Theo had been climbing since dawn: first on the steep roads and paths and sheep-tracks behind the city, then across slopes of shifting scree, and up at last on to the bare mountainside, keeping where could to corries and crevices where the blue shadows pooled.

The end of the series. Wars, disputes and moving towns versus static towns come to a climax.

The characters we know are traveling into the four corners of the world, adding more world-building and diverse detail to the known story. Time has passed, the conflict has hardened, conspiracies have bubbled to the surface and the city where it all began – London – seems to be not so very dead after all.

The 500+ pages (about 200 more than the earlier books) may look impressive, but with Reeve’s light, easy style it is impossible not to breeze through them. The characters stick to their characteristics instead of clogging the story up with unnecessary redemptions. Real life happens in a very fantasy world and there’s an ending that will make you weepy. A satisfying conclusion for an original series.

A Dark Plain, Philip Reeve, Scholastic Press 2006

Infernal Devices

At first there was nothing.

Just when you thought Philip Reeve was getting close to stale (more unlikely adventurers and humans-can-be-this-evil bad guys), he turns things upside down and creates with Infernal Devices just another thrilling fantasy novel.

This one starts with a ‘[amount of time] passed’ angle, risky because it can look sloppy (was the author bored of his own work?), but pulls it off with keeping the story close to that in the previous books. This time the protagonist is a daughter of the previous ones, and – not entirely willingly – she drops head first in a lot of adventure.

The world has evolved to war (again), the resistance is fleshed out some more and new parties give the now familiar experience some extra shine. There’s corruption, pirates and (double-)spies, slaves and coming-of-age lessons.

What I continue to like from these books is that one of the main characters is very unlikeable. She has some excuses for her behaviour, but is never woobified or excused. It is what it is and some people simply never change. All too often every character has likeable features, regularly even when it’s the bad guy. Hester continues to be black/white and adds some spice to the story that way.

Infernal Devices, Philip Reeve, Scholastic 2006

Predator’s Gold

Freya woke early and lay for a while in the dark, feeling her city shiver and sway beneath her as its powerful engines sent it skimming across the ice.

Part two of the series that plays in a futuristic world with moving, cannibalistic cities. The review on the first book can be found here.

Philip Reeve blew me away with his world building the first time ’round, and didn’t disappoint this time. Instead of sticking to what the reader already knows, the world expands and new characters are added. The Magravine of Anchorage (a young woman who doesn’t know what to do with her half-empty city) is here, there are terrorists, bounty hunters and resistance movements.

It’s clear that humankind can’t go on like this, but a different way has yet to be found. Predator’s Gold is a novel to finish in one go, coming up for air after being bombarded with adventure, silly characters and teen emotions. It’s a thrill and I can’t wait for the third part.

Predator’s Gold, Philip Reeve, Scholastic Press 2003

Mortal Engines

It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried out bed of the old North Sea.

I loved this. I want the TV series, without even having read the following book. This is how awesome (YA) fantasy can be.

Mortal Engines shows the reader a world a couple of hundred years into the future. A lot of the world has been run over by water and the remaining parts are pretty much lifeless. Cities have to hunt down towns and villages for sustainment: wood, iron and so on are fuel for the ovens that make the city move (because not moving is a risk, even if you’re the biggest around), inhabitants are ‘adopted’ and put to work.

Tom is just a lowly assistant, but he hopes to one day become someone, to contribute to the city of London. Just like his hero, Thaddeus Valentine. When Valentine turns out to have some bad sides and Tom is dropped into the wasteland of the earth’s surface, the heroic part of the unlikely hero story starts.

Tom discovers that the city authority has been keeping information from its people, that not all activists are terrorists and sometimes there is just no easy way out. Philip Reeve manages to build a fascinating yet terrifying world, add some Messages without being preachy and top it off with loads of fun.

Mortal Engines – The Hungry City Chronicles, Philip Reeve, HarperCollins 2001