Wednesday, February 27, 2008

A swashbuckling historical space adventure

Yes, it's a space adventure, and it's historical - set in an alternate Victorian era, where space travel was discovered by Isaac Newton and works through alchemy. Our hero, Art Mumby, narrates the story, but there are also sections written from the point of view of Myrtle, his insufferable (to Art, anyway) older sister.

The story opens at Larklight, the Mumbys' strange, rambling, planet-like mansion that's orbiting Earth. Art and Myrtle live there with their father, a scientist who studies the strange creatures that come from other planets and solar systems. Instead of an expected guest arriving one day, they find themselves overrun with enormous, intelligent spiderlike creatures. Art watches in horror as they envelop his father in a thick webby wrapping and carry him off. His last words to Art are to get his sister and flee. Myrtle, typically, is not to be hurried - she must gather some belongings, including a hairbrush, her diary, and a locket with a picture of their dead mother in it. They narrowly escape the spiders, Myrtle complaining all the while, and blast off in a lifeboat. It is only once they are well away that Art realizes he hadn't thought to set off any emergency flares. No one would know where to find them!

Before too long, they find themselves heading toward a crash landing on the moon, and from there they embark on hair-raising adventures involving aliens, pirates, the British Royal Navy, more gigantic spiders, automata, and have many other strange, wonderful and terrifying encounters.

This is one of the best books I've read so far this year. I thoroughly enjoyed the odd juxtaposition of the Victorian time period with space travel, and the many bizarre, creative touches that lent the book a marvellous sense of wonder. Art is a typical young British boy, dreaming of action, adventure and daring deeds. Myrtle, who annoys Art to no end (and not without reason) hates living out in the middle of nowhere. Her dreams are of visiting England, buying fashionable dresses and going to all the wonderful places she's read about. Art finds out there's more to action and adventure than he thought, and Myrtle, shockingly to her, discovers that she can rise to the occasion when circumstances demand (even if she considers it most unladylike to do so).

I particularly enjoyed the humor in the book - there are hilarious references to Star Trek and H. G. Wells, which younger readers might not catch (the first time around, at any rate), but that had me laughing out loud. The novel's characters - from Art and Myrtle to the aliens we meet along the way - are memorable and engaging. I am so pleased that there is a sequel, not just so I can enjoy further adventures in the world of Larklight, but so I can spend more time with these wonderful characters. I highly recommend this novel!

Books in the Larklight Trilogy (to date):
Larklight: A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space by Philip Reeve; illustrations by David Wyatt (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2006)

Other blog reviews:
Blogging for a Good Book
Book Bits
Lissa Reads
Words by Annie


  1. Yay, love for Larklight!

    Also, the UK Amazon site has Mothstorm (the third book in the series) listed for release over there on 10/06, which means we will follow shortly after. :D

  2. Oh, that is exciting - I hadn't thought to check the UK site. I'll add Mothstorm to the series list. Thanks!

  3. Oh, wow. This sounds fabulous!

  4. A space adventure and the Victorian does sound like a very interesting mix indeed! This one's going to my wishlist.

  5. Nicola and Nymeth - Yes! It's really a lot of fun. I know you both will enjoy it. :-)

  6. That sounds like really fun reading. My husband might like it too for the Star Trek and Wells references.

  7. I think he'd probably get a kick out of it. It's one of those books that I wish had been around when I was a kid - I would have loved it (not that I don't now, but you know that feeling when you found a favorite book as a kid - you can't beat it!).

  8. Hi, I wandered in via Booklogged, hope it's okay to comment. I really love the sound of this book, your review was excellent. I've heard of Philip Reeve but not this book so I will definitely look for it in the library next time I'm there.

  9. Hi, Cath - thanks for visiting! I always love comments. I have not read anything else by Philip Reeve, but I did notice he has another series, I think for older readers, that I will certainly be checking out. I hope you enjoy this one when you read it!


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