A Darkling Plain, Philip Reeve – Book Review

Hello humans! Welcome to the final (for now) instalment of my reviews of The Hungry City Chronicles by Philip Reeve. It’s been quite the journey. I must give a shout out to the library service for having these on their eBooks service so I could read them for free! Does your library have a similar service? Anyway, I had a great time reading these books but it’s nice to be done, to have them ticked off my TBR. So how did I find the end of this series?

A Darkling Plain Philip Reeve

Goodreads Summary:

London is a radioactive ruin. But Tom and Wren discover that the old predator city hides an awesome secret that could bring an end to the war. But as they risk their lives in its dark underbelly, time is running out. Alone and far away, Hester faces a fanatical enemy who possesses the weapons and the will to destroy the entire human race.

Find A Darkling Plain on Goodreads

This book brings together all the threads of this series, with familiar settings, characters and more. As with all the books, there is a time jump between this and the previous book (though not as extreme as between three and four). In this case, I think the time jump is necessary, to have spent the time on the setting building in the book itself would have been a little tiresome, and I just wanted to get on with the story.

As ever, Hester is a wonderful pain in my butt. She’s contrary and ambitious but she matures through this novel, it’s fascinating to think of the first encounters with Hester in Mortal Engines all the way to the end of this book. She is simultaneously my favourite and least favourite character in this story which is something I never thought possible! It is great to see the relationship between Tom and Wren being explored as that was something I felt was missing (because of the plot) in Infernal Devices. I think it gave more insight into Tom as a character and it allowed Wren to show her full capabilities. So often teenage rebellion stories never go beyond the tearful reconciliation so it was pleasant to see a relationship repaired in a later book.

But onto the most important part, the ending. It is always going to be hard to pull together an ending to a series, particularly one which spans not only four books but, within those books, a hefty period of time. It’s a similar feeling to when I came to the end of The Inheritance Cycle (though that had dragons so I loved it so much more) in that this ending could never have been perfect. I personally don’t see a way this could have ended that would have made people happy. I feel like this ending was semi-foreshadowed from the opening of Mortal Engines and that, while it isn’t the most satisfying way to close a series, it at least made sense and wasn’t dreadful.

With these books, I do think that the worldbuilding is a bit stagnant. In part this could be deliberate, this is a world divided between the tractionists and anti-tractionists and nobody really seems to be making any changes. You could compare it to The Edge Chronicles which also makes big time-jumps between trilogies, but in that case technology changes, the world develops and you can see that across the page (though those illustrations help). So if I could have one wish it would have been to see more development in the worldbuilding across the entire series.

I know there are prequels to these books and I want to read them, but I think I’m ready to take a break from this world for a bit, there are more worlds to explore. But, to draw this all to a close – should you read this series? If you want to read them before the film comes out (as I did) then it won’t take you too long and they are entertaining. I suspect the film will differ a lot from the books, we’ll have to wait until December to find out. If you don’t care about book to film adaptations, you just want to read something steampunk, I would start with Mortal Engines and if that appeals then go for it and read the rest. I still think the first book is the strongest, but it is satisfying to see these characters come full circle.

My rating: 4/5 stars

All opinions are my own.

What say you? Is this a series you have read or want to read? Let me know in the comments below!


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