A Darkling Plain


I’ve loved what is now called the Mortal Engines quartet from the very first line of book one (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.

How can you not love that? The books have proved funny, inventive, thrilling and entertaining. I was a little less pleased with Infernal Machines, the last book, I didn’t think it was as good as it’s predecessors. A Darkling Plain returns the story to its previous heights though and is a stunning finale to the series.

It follows the separate groups of characters who were split apart at the end of the previous novel. Tom and Wren on the Bird Roads, Hester and Mr Shrike in the desert, Fishcake and the Stalker Fang as well as Oenone (now Lady Naga) and Theo Ngoni. The story is filled with actions, thrills, intrigue and double-crosses. Through it all our protagonists battle to keep their friends safe and stop all-out war between the anti-tractionists (those people who live in ‘normal’ static cities) and those aboard wheeled cities. Into the mess comes old characters and new, old locations and many new ones.

Great stores transcend their plots, they speak of the world around us. The benefits of fantasy and sci-fi mean you can put the world we live in under the microscope without directly attacking it and dividing your audience. They teach us something and give an understanding of human nature and society. I have read a number of books that have done this, but which are generally overlooked as they are not part of a ‘serious’ genre (as I’ve asked before, why are sci-fi and fantasy separated from normal fiction?). For me, A Darkling Plain was another of those books.

Needless to say, highly recommended.

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Reviewed: 22nd March 2008