Wednesday, 2 December 2009

YOUNG ADULT REVIEW: Larklight Series - Philip Reeve


Utterly unique and devilishly witty, Larklight is a page-turningly brilliant (Victorian) space adventure, and truly original modern classic, told through the eyes of plucky Arthur Mumby.

Arthur (Art) Mumby and his irritating sister Myrtle live with their father in the huge and rambling house, Larklight, travelling through space on a remote orbit far beyond the Moon. One ordinary sort of morning they receive a correspondence informing them that a gentleman is on his way to visit, a Mr Webster. Visitors to Larklight are rare if not unique, and a frenzy of preparation ensues. But it is entirely the wrong sort of preparation, as they discover when their guest arrives, and a Dreadful and Terrifying (and Marvellous) adventure begins. It takes them to the furthest reaches of Known Space, where they must battle the evil First Ones in a desperate attempt to save each other – and the Universe.

Recounted through the eyes of Art himself, Larklight is sumptuously designed and illustrated throughout.


In much the same way that authors such as Alan Moore brought Victoriana to the adult audience, Philip Reeve does much the same for the younger reader bringing the now popular steampunk setting to the younger audience in this, the first novel in an epic new series. Having not read this author before I was wondering what type of story I was letting myself in for but it was a book that passed by in a blur as I couldn’t put it down.

The setting is fascinating, the authors prose just as gripping with a story arc that doesn’t so much eek as drag the reader screaming into light speed . Its fun, its witty and above all it’s a story that will leave an impression long after the final page is turned. If getting your young adult reader to pick up a book is like asking them to climb Everest make this series one that you just happen to drop nonchalantly in a easily accessable place. It will be read and enjoyed in a short space of time and there will be demands for the other two novels in the series. A great Christmas option.


Sinister mind-controlling hats are taking over the Solar System and it’s up to Art, Myrtle and Jack to stop them in this hilarious and utterly unique adventure from the tour de force of literary fantasy

Art and his family are invited on a fantastic free holiday to the exotic Asteroid Belt, in a remote part of space near Mars. Taking the train, they arrive to discover that nothing is quite as it seems – the hotel slips curiously back and forth through time, and the guests behave rather strangely too. What is behind these bizarre goings-on? It’s up to Jack Havock, Art and his sister Myrtle (against her will) to get to the bottom of things. But the giant sand clams and man-eating starfish which roam freely nearby are nothing compared to the True Enemy, which is cunning, sinister, and almost unstoppable and may resemble a hat.


In this, the second novel in the series of Larklight by Philip Reeve the heroes of the original return in an adventure of bewilderment, adventure and mystery as secrets uncovered from the first outing return to cause not only problems but require solutions. As with the original its quintessentially British in its offering with typical humour, the stiff upper lip attitude and above all the message that no problem is insurmountable. A great second offering from the author and one that really has made me a firm fan. I really can’t wait for the third part.


When an evil demigod and its army of moth-riding blue lizards threatens civilization (i.e. Queen Victoria), Art, Myrtle and Jack must step into the breach in this singularly brilliant, hilarious fantasy

When the festive season arrives at Larklight, so does some unsettling news. A sinister-looking cloud is fast approaching the outskirts of the Known Universe. The closest planet, Georgium Sidus, has but two human inhabitants: the missionary Revd Cruet and his daughter Charity. Their most recent communication read: ‘Great danger . . . imperative that –’

And so, aboard a naval gunship, Art, Myrtle and family bravely go where only one man and his daughter have gone before, to determine the nature of the menacing cloud and rescue the Cruets.

But the evil which awaits them is far beyond their imagining, and it looks as though Mother may have finally Met Her Match. Lucky, then, that Jack Havock is hot on their heels to help in the battle to save the Universe (again) from an evil demigod and its army of blue lizards, who are intent on deposing none other than Queen Victoria to gain control of the Universe.


By now, you’ve probably got the clue on how much I’ve loved the series to date, but with the third instalment out you end up wondering if its going to be as original and as innovative as the first outing. With Philip you really don’t have any worries as the tale embarks on a totally new arc as their all powerful mother faces a foe the like of which she hasn’t before. It’s gripping and it’s a tale that you just can’t put down. As you’ve come to expect the characters are fascinating, they each continue to grow adding new dimensions and each adventure has carved its own lines into the characters psyches. A sign of a true master.

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