Friday, 10 April 2009

A Darkling Plain - Philip Reeve

Read: November 2007

It is six months since that fateful night on Cloud 9 when the Stalker Fang attacked Brighton in search of the Tin Book. A great many things have happened since. Hester is missing, presumed dead, the legacy of her betrayal hanging over her memory. Once again in possession of the Jenny Hanniver, Tom and Wren have become air-traders, travelling the bird roads and making use of the fragile truce between the Green Storm and the Traction Cities. Wren is enjoying life as an Aviatrix but when Tom spies a face he is sure he remembers from London, he is catapulted back in search of his past and begins an expedition to discover just what is going on in the wreck of London. There is something he is not telling anyone, and Professor Penneyroyal has a lot to make up for.

And unknown to anyone, little Fishcake is rebuilding the Stalker Fang and she has plans to change the face of the Earth forever.

A Darkling Plain is fantastic. Nothing more needs saying. Everything that was great about the other three books returns here, bigger and more impressive than ever. The characterisation is superb, Hester and Shrike in particular will be long remembered and always loved for their complexities. Almost twice as long as any of its predecessors, A Darkling Plane tracks the fortunes of its many characters as the truce between the Green Storm and the Traction Cities begins to crumble.

And so the thrilling Mortal Engines quartet draws to a close. It is an ending which will delight all who read it, equivalent to His Dark Materials in the way it manages to sum everything up, cap the atmosphere and the action without spilling over into sentimentality or over explanation. Much is left unsaid, but the atmosphere which has built up is brought gently to conclusion. J.K. Rowling could learn a lot in how to end a much loved series from Philip Reeve. He is an author of unquestionable ability, and Mortal Engines is a quartet which everyone who loves well written, imaginative and exciting fiction should read.

8 out of 10

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