A Web of Air

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There are a few authors whose books I keep as a treat, because I know they’ll be good. Philip Reeve is one of those authors.

I’ve read all of the preceding works in the Mortal Engines universe, which have generally been quite large in scope, but this book is much narrower. While bigger interests are mentioned, indeed represented, the story is set in only two locations, and focuses on a small band of characters.

This doesn’t diminish the story, which shows a completely new dimension to the Mortal Engines’ universe to the ones we’ve seen so far, one where war and upheaval don’t stalk the land. Instead, we get to see how it normally operates.

Fever returns, still finding her way in the world. She’s used her skills to bring electric lighting and effects to a travelling theatre, one on wheels. Visiting a small port city, set in a crater left by an ancient super-weapon, she goes through her routine. Until she stumbles across the model of a glider.

Powered flight is a skill long since lost to the world, but one strange loner appears on the cusp of rediscovery. But others want to capture the technology, or destroy it. Can Fever help return mankind to the skies?

It’s a fast-paced story that kept me turning pages, and not a long book. The plot is fairly straight-forward, predictable even, and while still a good read, wasn’t quite on a par with the others in the series. This felt a bit like a standalone episode, whereas the others have been part of a larger story. Allusions to other events suggest this is a bridge to something bigger.

Not that I didn’t enjoy the book, which has great characters and is vividly drawn. There were flashes of Reeve’s wild inventiveness, but not as much as in other books. A solid instalment, but not an exceptional one.

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Reviewed: 18th October 2014