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A Darkling Plain [Paperback]

Philip Reeve
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)

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Book Description

May 4 2009 Mortal Engines Quartet
This is an extraordinary fiction from a brilliant author...It's six months after the tumultuous events on Brighton, and Wren Natsworthy and her father Tom have taken to the skies in their airship, the Jenny Haniver. Wren is enjoying life as an aviatrix but Tom is troubled by matters of the heart - the last, shocking, encounter with Hester, and the old wound caused by Pennyroyal's bullet. Until a fluke encounter with a familiar face sets him thinking about the ruins of London and the possibility of going back...Meanwhile the fragile truce between the Green Storm and the Traction Cities slinters and hostility breaks out again. Events are set on a collision course as things end where they began, with London...In "A Darkling Plain", Philip Reeve brilliantly completes the breath-taking adventures that began with "Mortal Engines".

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From School Library Journal

Grade 7–10—The final installment in the series continues the clever premise and breakneck pace established by the first three volumes. This story begins six months after the action in Infernal Devices (HarperCollins, 2006). A tentative peace seems likely to end years of warfare between gigantic traction cities that grind across the landscape consuming everything in their paths and stationary communities that denounce their destruction of nature. Then dissenting members of both sides sabotage the truce, and Theo Ngoni, Wren Natsworthy, and Wren's parents are drawn into the resulting mayhem. To complicate matters further, the Stalker Fang, a terrifying amalgam of killer robot and human corpse, has survived her presumed destruction and is intent on eradicating all human life so that Earth can recover from human depredation. Separate, interweaving story lines follow the principal characters as they encounter dozens of others from the earlier books while traversing the former Europe and Asia at top speed by airship, sand ship, traction city, and predator suburb. While readers new to the series will enjoy the hairbreadth escapes, humor, and romance, they may get lost in the complicated politics of the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft, the Anti-Tractionist League, the Green Storm, townies, mossies, etc., making the book more satisfying for readers already familiar with the impressive future revealed in the previous books. With its popular appeal and increasingly relevant theme of global-environmental conflict, this is a worthy conclusion to a series that ranks among the best science fiction for young people in recent years.—Beth Wright, Fletcher Free Library, Burlington, VT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The fourth book in The Hungry City Chronicles, which began with Mortal Engines (2003), is a rousing wrap-up for the series. The Green Storm forces are struggling to establish new static settlements and reclaim farmland, but the voracious and now unified Traction Cities are determined to pursue Municipal Darwinism, with cities hunting towns and towns hunting villages. Meanwhile, the Stalker Fang, thought dead, but actually resurrected, has her own macabre plans to cleanse Earth of human beings. There is plenty of violence and intrigue involved in the exploits of the well-limned principal characters, building up to a humdinger of a finale that will rivet readers. Estes, Sally --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible Story Aug. 10 2011
By cullen
Format:Paperback
I read the first three, Mortal Engines, Infernal Devices, and Predator's Gold, and loved them, it was my new favourite series! Then I found out this book was no longer published and a little piece of me died... Then I saw it on here and bought it right away! It was amazing, it is the best ending to a series that i have ever read. The ending is PERFECT. If you've read the other books, you'll love this one the most!
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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  13 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A darkling inspiration. July 30 2006
By Robert Wright - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Have you ever noticed that it is only once in a while that an artist with incredible ingenuity, creativity, articulation, and vivid imagination will somehow cross your path and enrich the precious moments of your leisure time? I love it when this happens, whether it be fine art, music, film, or in this case, literature. Philip Reeve has yet again brought me with him in this latest, and last, book in the Hungry City Chronicles quadrilogy: aptly hailed A Darkling Plain. I will not bore you with an overview, as it would be grossly wrong of me to spoil any of the treasures this work has waiting for you, the expectant reader.

Living in Alberta, Canada, British author Philip Reeve is not as well known, and so it was quite by accident that I discovered the first 2 books in the series: Mortal Engines and Predator's Gold. These 2 volumes, which very much remind me of the quality and craftsmanship of creating Star Wars and then The Empire Strikes Back, harken back the ideas of fantastic new worlds, innocence and discovery, high adventure, romance, tragedy and character resolution which unfailingly culminates in this last Darkling volume.

If you are familiar with this brilliant series, I wonder if I am alone when I honestly say that I was heartbroken with the direction Mr. Reeve took in the third volume, Infernal Devices. I did not want Tom and Hester to instantly jump into my own mid-thirties age bracket and thus becoming secondary characters to the supposedly young readers these books are aimed at. Although we grow to fondly care about their daughter and her friends, I felt a huge stab of pain (not unlike Tom) and loss at the sense that our original heroes were relegated to the back of the bus. I also share your grief and dissappointment that our dear friends Freya and Caul were allowed such an early retirement--Shame on you, Mr. Reeve.

Despite the third and leading-up-to volume, I will say that our intrepid storyteller redeems himself and restores our faith in his genious by his deliverance of this beautifully crafted and intricately laid fouth "chapter" of our long journey. I can't tell you how sorry I am that it is over for me, having just ordered and read this last novel directly from Scholastc U.K. Believe me, friend, you're in luck. Treat yourself to this book and the whole series, because like one of those rare vacations where you actually relax and enjoy yourself, and you are just a little sad to return home, this endeavor will simulate just that.

As a sidenote, I should mention that I was shocked to originally learn that these books were targeted towards 9 to 14 year-olds. Although there is no profanity or overt sexual descriptions, the brutality, gore, and death count has occassionally brought to mind certain other writers such as Stephen King and Robert McCammon--if these were derrived films, they would not get away with "PG-13" in North America. Also, if anyone else cares to write a review and knows, could you please explain why our everlasting father stalker "Grike" in N.A. is written as "Shrike" in the U.K.?

Read and enjoy, I think you shall also be inspired.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Whatever Becomes of Us, We'll Be Together..." April 11 2010
By R. M. Fisher - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I first read and reviewed the first installment of "The Hungry City Chronicles" back in 2003 with Mortal Enginesand now I finally come to the end of the four-part story with "A Darkling Plain." There is still a prequel to enjoy, but for all intents and purposes, this is the last chapter of Tom Natsworthy and Hester Shaw's adventures in a world filled with airships, traction cities, predator suburbs, static communities and terrifying animated human corpses fitted with robotic parts called Stalkers. With the title derived from Matthew Arnold's "Dover Beach," (`and we are here as on a darkling plain, swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, where ignorant armies clash by night') a line which perfectly encompasses the tone and content of the story, "A Darkling Plain" begins with a reasonably tranquil scenario.

An uneasy peace has been formed between the Traction Cities and the Static Communities, ending years of conflict between the various factions of the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft (cities that adhere to the city-eat-city policies of Municipal Darwinism) and the Anti-Tractionist League (which includes the terrorist organization of the Green Storm). The truce has been secured mainly due to the efforts of Lady Oenone Naga, who disposed of the Green Storm's fanatical leader Anna Fang by programming the ancient Stalker Strike to destroy her. However, her actions have made her several enemies, and dissenting members of each side are determined to end the stalemate between townies and mossies through espionage, terrorism and assassination.

If you have yet to discover the steam-punk, sci-fi, post-apocalyptic world that Philip Reeve has created, then there's no use starting here. "A Darkling Plan" is the accumulation of the three previous books and their steady build-up of character and situation. Taking place six months after the explosive events of Infernal Devices Tom Natsworthy and his daughter Wren are living as aviators and traders when Tom recognizes a familiar face from his past: Clytie Potts who lived in his home city of London which was presumed to have been totally decimated years ago. Teaming up with a dashing but prejudiced young lord of a strange tunneling city, father and daughter cross the lines and sneak into enemy territory in order to investigate rumours of life in the destroyed remains of London.

Meanwhile, their estranged wife and mother Hester is traveling with Shrike as an assassin-for-hire, only to get caught up in events when she stumbles across the survivors of an attempt to sabotage the truce. With such a painful reminder of her duties to her family, Hester reluctantly throws herself into the ensuing battle.

Finally, the Stalker Anna Fang (not as dead as some might have hoped) makes a journey of her own along with Fishcake, one of the final Lost Boys who holds a grudge against Tom and Hester. Devoted to Anna, he follows her as she undertakes a secret mission into the mountains, carrying in her mind the coordinates of a satellite that orbits the planet and which has the capacity to destroy all life on earth. There are other plot-threads too, concerning familiar characters such as Theo Ngoni, Nimrod Pennyroyal, General Naga and Shrike (sadly Freya and Caul do not appear here and we learn nothing of them; although there are a couple of bittersweet moments that recall Katherine Valentine and Bevis Pod, way back from the first book).

Reeves weaves these storylines into a magnificent whole as the world veers dangerously close to a second apocalypse, and at twice the length of the first book, "A Darkling Plain" is certain a book to savour over several nights. As with the end of all long-term sagas, the ending came with a fair amount of satisfaction, bittersweetness and sadness that it was over; even though I know I can read it again, I'll never be able to read it again for the *first* time.

Possibly the most noteworthy aspect of Reeve's worldview is that there is no clear-cut good or evil in regards to the two opposing sides of the conflict. Rather, the Traction Cities and the Static Communities (or the "townies" and the "mossies" as they dismissively call each other) each have idealistic leaders, worthy opponents and dangerous fanatics. Just as the ideology of Municipal Darwinism is reminiscent of Western focus on materialism, consumerism and globalization, the otherwise peaceful Eastern Anti-Traction League have a discordant terrorist element in their midst that aren't above employing dubious tactics in order to destroy their enemies. There is no good or bad side to this war: only people with opposing world-views that refuse to compromise, in which bad situations are made worse by the greed and hatred of a powerful few.

It would be wrong to give too much away in terms of plot-lines and character development, as half the joy of this series is the element of discovery, as well as the unexpected twists that Reeves litters throughout (he is certainly not afraid of killing off major characters when the need arises). There are a few missed opportunities that I was disappointed that Reeves didn't take (there is no much-deserved reconciliation between mother and daughter), but I can say with a fair amount of confidence that once you read any book in this series, you will never forget it. It has the raw creativity and rich world-building that only the most consummate storytellers can create and sustain, and this series combines the very best of adventure, romance, suspense, character development, tragedy, pathos and sacrifice into an unforgettable reading experience.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fitting ending to a great series of books July 17 2007
By R. Adams - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A Darkling Plain is the fourth, and final, book in the wonderful "Hungry City Chronicles." Beginning with Mortal Engines, the world that Mr. Reeve has created is one of the best in the young adult science fiction that I have read. Period. The story takes place hundreds, perhaps thousands, of years after the 60 Minute War where humans unleashed every known weapon on themselves (biological, nuclear, space based energy rays). The books revolve around Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy and their adventures on mobile cities that try to "eat" each other. Hester, in my view, is one of the great characters in young adult literature: strong, ruthless, vulnerable, and determined to get her way. Tom, in contrast, believes in the basic goodness of people and it is, ironically, this belief that proves to save the day in this story. I won't reveal details other than to say that all four books are highly recommended. If you want action, although with a high body count, then these are for you. In fact, I have rarely had the emotional impact of a series of books stay with me as these have. The ending is absolutely draining, but perfect. Finally, I must disagree a bit with some of the other reviewers about the third book, Infernal Devices, where they wish that Hester and Tom had not gone from their teens in "Predators Gold" to their mid-thirties. One of the themes of A Darkling Plain is that life moves on: people grow up, fall in love, have children, and pass the world on to them. Thus, Tom and Hester have a child, Wren, and it is central to the book's ending that she is old enough to be out on her own and have her own life. I certainly hope that Mr. Reeve has other stories set in this marvelous world, but there is very little that I would change with Hester and Tom's.
5.0 out of 5 stars A finale worthy of the books that came ahead of it July 30 2014
By Hooksie - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This is the best of the Mortal Engines books, but don't read it out of sequence - it is the emotional attachment that you have built with all the characters that makes it so special. This final book in the series really does pull all the others together to a very exciting but also sensitive end. I read the series to my 8 and 9 year old boys and they loved it, as did I.
5.0 out of 5 stars Read, read, read Aug. 11 2013
By S. Strickler - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Good reading for any child, especially boys, in middle school. My grandson really enjoyed reading it and several other books I purchased through Amazon for a much more reasonable price than at the bookstores.
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