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Sunday, July 9, 2017

Our 'A Darkling Plain' book review

review of a darkling plain by philip reeve
This is a SPOILERY REVIEW.

You'd think a guy running a Mortal Engines movie website would have read all the books before he began down such a path but we didn't so we're playing catch up.

After the great story that was Infernal Devices I began to wonder how the damn tale was going to end.

How was everything going to come together? I had high hopes as it seemed so well set up for a final climatic finish.

And then I accidentally read something online about the ending and I was a bit sad as it was one of the great book endings of all time.

But it's all about journey to the end right?

And what a journey right?!

This was the first Mortal Engines book to really amp the story to block buster / global levels and in doing so it lost a fair bit of the teenage angst (yes it's till there..) and got into the real deal of the piece:

Killing things.

You thought there was a lot of death in the prior books?

By Quirke does Philip Reeve have some news for you!

Wait.

What I think I'm trying to convey is that the weight of the whole world the Reeve has created rests on the shoulders of this book and it is extremely well carried by Tom, Wren, Theo and even bad old Pennyroyal.

But I'll tell you about my first favourite moment.

The books starts with the tale of Theo who proved his worth in Infernal Devices. It's nice and all but it was a great distraction for the arrival of of a key character. A dark shadow of a figure comes out of the desert on some kind of sand boat with sails. It's a dark and menacing threat. As I reader I felt a sense of dread.

And then it turned out to be Hester who proved to be quite the murderous soul.

And I was like, yep, she's back. Like the original Terminator but meaner.

Get out the way Sarah Connor!

And now we discuss even more spoilers & things.

Got that?

My second favourite moment was when Anna Fang went off the reservation (as if she wasn't already) and turned the ODIN weapon on the good people of Earth.

It was gripping writing by Peter Reeve and page turn after page turn of excitement. This moment was an excellent pay off for all the ground work that had gone into setting up Stalker Fang and everyone chasing the McGuffin of the 'Tin Book'.

Reeve's line of "There was nothing there but fire, the million mournful voices of the wind" was a chilling reflection of the destruction Fang had just caused.

It also reminded me of Arthur C Clarke's wonderful short story, 'The Nine Billion Names of God' - only in name as the story is completely different except for the fact we're dealing with the end of the world for so many people in each case...

And that just serves to highlight how far an author Reeve's had come by the time he did this fourth book in the Mortal Engines series. While you can argue it's 'same same but different', I felt Reeve's was writing with a deliberate purpose.

I suspect that's because he had thought of an AMAZING ending and couldn't wait to get there himself but he just had to set things up just right for it to be of any long lasting effect on the story that he was concluding.

A question that is a total spoiler.

Ready player one?
Hester's suicide.

Did she really hate herself that much?

While Tom and herself in many ways were star crossed lovers, she was no Juliet.

Why couldn't she live on for Wren? We know she kinda resented her a bit from her experiences in Infernal Devices but jeez Louise!

Game over man, game over. 

Professor Nimrod Penny Royal was a cliched pastiche of a fellow from the moment he met Tom and Hester in Predator's Gold.

In the end he played a heroic part - which was kinda clever as everything was set up nicely for a Shrike / Fang rematch so his intervention at the right moment was an enjoyable surprise.

I mean that in terms of the reading of the book, not for the character. No, he was a pain in everyone's ass and probably deserved to get a knife in the eye from Hester but he didn't. I suspect Reeve's is too a nice a guy to let that happen.

The book has the usual trials and tribulations that we would come to expect. The many twists and turns are well signaled and it was great to see choices made in Infernal Devices play out so well in this novel.

If you're a Mortal Engines fan, you've probably already read this book so I'm sure you'll agree that it's fine end to the series and I really, really hope that Reeves never even thinks of drafting a sequel as there are not many book endings that I will remember like that of this novel.

I've mentioned the last paragraph ending three times now. It's that good. A literary twist up there with the Fight Clubs and Life of Pi (s) of this world.

If you've read the first three in the series, this novel is the book that finishes what was started in Infernal Devices and we recommend you grab it from Amazon today.

Else, you really should start with the first novel, Mortal Engines. You'll fall in love with it from the first line...

2 comments:

  1. I didn't think Hester's actions were out of hate, but of love - she realised that she did still love Tom and couldn't bear to be without him. IIRC when Shrike finds her he sees that she is still holding Tom's hand and changes his mind about turning her into a Stalker because he sees this.

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