Books

Darkling Plain

Philip Reeve’s Infernal Engines kidult series comes to an end with what appears to be an attack of the Harry Potter’s. A thumping great volume three times the size of any of the previous installments. Fortunately the book isn’t any slower as a result but it does often feel like the pacing is off and while divided into four parts it feels like there are actually two books here.

Part of the problem is the number of characters and sub-plots that are now floating round. There are at least five rattling around and rather like Pirates of the Caribbean it feels like everyone has to have their fifteen minutes. It is a satisfying (and darkly morbid) conclusion to the two main characters’ storylines but given that this is something of a tragic tale the constant diversions into tying up everyone’s storylines is unnecessary. I guess having closure is part of the kidult nature of the books. I’m trying to think what I might have made of this as a kid and I suspect I would have been annoyed by dangling threads.

Still I suspect that there were really two books here and a lot of the material could of been dropped without much loss. Was there anything to gain by returning to London? Was the Stalker Fang stuff really necessary given that she had to be returned to life to end her story?

Overall the series is excellent in its genre and the final book has some fantastic set pieces such as the desert scenes and confrontation in Airhaven. The conception of a world of mobile cities also seemed more vivid in this installment than previously where they were just backdrops for the action.

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