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A Darkling Plain, by Philip Reeve: Review

Updated: Jul 11, 2020

London has been a ruin for decades, but when Tom and Wren Natsworthy discover rumours of stirrings in the wreckage, they can't resist an investigation into Tom's long-abandoned home. What they discover in the ruins may be the hope for London's future, and when a powerful weapon is turned upon the entire human race, it may be the hope for the world's future as well.

Living divided adventures, Hester and Tom are once again caught in the throes of the ongoing Traction war, but only when an enemy arises more powerful than either side do they recognize how little time may remain in the world as they know it.

This finale of the Predator Cities quartet has been an electrifying ride. From the array of colourful and endearing characters (both new and delightful surprises from the good old days) to the celeritous pace, often strangling tension, and whiplash plot twists, it seized my full attention to the last page . . . which was beautiful and uplifting despite a long list of casualties. Reeve and his quirky Dickensian voice paint a stunning narrative and a satisfying conclusion.

Content Notes: polytheism continues to be completely useless, but gives the characters names to shout in perilous situations. Violence is fairly prevalent, but seldom gory. Language amounts to several "d*mn"s, one "b*tch," and one use of Christ's name as an exclamation. Happily, Oenone Zero continues to pursue her newfound faith in God, and represents His goodness admirably, if with a limited understanding of His power.

To briefly summarize the merits of the series, Mortal Engines and its counterparts are brilliantly written and buoyed with undercurrents of redemption, selflessness, and love. Relationships are forged, broken, and reforged; the irredeemable find redemption; and thanks to Oenone Zero, God is ultimately represented as the only true power in a world of impotent idols. It may not be biblical fiction, but it is a vivid adventure story with many bright qualities to balance the dark, and a truly thrilling conclusion.

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