on 16 March 2007
Reeves' latest is an hilarious pastiche of the "Boys' Own Adventure" school of writing. Young Art Mumby and his frightful sister Myrtle live in a strange house in space called "Larklight" in a wittily-observed steampunk world where Her Majesty's Glorious Empire rules the Aether. When their home is attacked by space-spiders, they begin an adventure that takes them across the solar system.
Every aspect of the book is spot on: the tale is told both by Art and (via her diaries) Myrtle, and they both "sound" like Victorian children; the line illustrations are evocative; even the "advertisements" decorating the inside covers look authentic, but have a sly humour.
As someone who is considerably older (to say the least!) than what would seem to be the target audience, I have a sneaking suspicion that a lot of the book's humour and in-jokes (including a laugh-out-loud steal from HG Wells) will go over the heads of many youngsters, but the book would still work as a rip-roaring read. I'd also suspect that children who are prepared to try somethin a bit different would be best suited to reading the novel, as the linguistic flourishes may deter less able readers.
My recommendation: buy a copy for your young 'un and then read it yourself!
on 14 November 2006
Set in a fantastical past which is so different from ours and using intensely stuffy last language I really didn't think this book would be for me. Then I read it...and read it...and read it! Hard to put down, hard not to like! It takes you on a roller coaster through amazing worlds with fantastic imagery and creatures. The drawings are excellent and a must for any imaginative child. The language is a little off-putting but you get used to it as the story grips you!
on 8 January 2009
I love this book, and return to it again and again, especially when I fancy a bit of reading that is light enough to read when laid up with a particularly nasty virus, yet funny enough to receive instant praise from any friends you lend/give it to.
I first read it as a copy I had got out from the local library (having read all the stocked titles by authors I knew, I went round randomly plucking interesting-looking books off the shelves) and I loved it so much I finished it in one day, went to the library to order in the next title and - when I had the money - bought it. It remains one of the most well-thumbed books I own.
Some people describe the pseudo-Victorian language as off-putting, but I found it entertaining and the perfect match for the story itself. Reeve shows wit and humour in many of the things young Art Mumby says, but the unfamiliar style is still simple enough for it not to confuse the story.
The great thing about this book is that it can be enjoyed by younger readers (I spent a couple of weeks reading, as a bedtime story, this book to my seven-year-old younger sister, and she thoroughly enjoyed it), who, although they probably won't get all the jokes will certainly enjoy the exciting plotline. Older readers (my parents have commandeered the book on several occasions) will also love it, plus have a full appreciation of Philip Reeve's amusing references to other texts/events.
The Victorian-esque space-world the author has created is almost the perfect fantasy universe; it is easy to imagine yourself herding hoverhogs in the zero-gravity corridors of Larklight, or fleeing in terror from a giant spider on Venus. That is one of the great things about Reeve's work, it mixes the fantasy and the reality, and what our experience can't draw on is splendidly illustrated by David Wyatt. 'Illustrated throughout' it certainly is, and the illustrations are excellent.
I've waffled on for long enough now. My advice? BUY IT! BUY IT NOW!
on 15 August 2007
What an amazing imagination Mr Reeves has.
Possitively oozing charm. This is the very first book of Reeves that i have read and i must say i am blown away.
A glorious story full of adventure, written so wonderfully i had to fight against my own arm to put it down.
A story that adults and children will absolutely love.
I`m off to the bookshop now to get the other titles ive missed.
on 18 October 2012
After some initial resistance, I have fallen quite under the spell of Reeve & Wyatt's enchanting Larklight trilogy. Quibbling brother-and-sister heroes are appealing and the story gets the job done (think 'Disney pirate film for kids'), but the crown jewel of these books is the rich, breathtakingly-inventive world-building: alchemical aether-engines, a cyclone of Mothras hurtling toward Earth at warp-speed, a god-like being carving his hall of fluted columns into the clouds of Jupiter...
David Wyatt's illustrations are plentiful and gorgeous; they amount to a visual catalog of every standard motif from the steampunk canon (always with an extra twist).
The story is stuffed with references only older readers are likely to notice: allusions to and slyly-buried quotations from H.G. Wells, Jules Verne, Sherlock Holmes, Frank Herbert's Dune books, Star Trek (including a grumbling Scottish ship's engineer), Star Wars (there is offhand mention of a 'Death Star'), Peter Pan and even E.R. Burroughs' 'John Carter of Mars' series (one character is literally referred to as The Warlord of Mars and another was once A Princess of Mars). Less obvious sources might include Perelandra,Treasure Planet and Doctor Who.
My one quibble with these stories is the climax of book one, which is copied almost point-for-point from Hollywood's only recent big-budget steampunk film, Wild Wild West (1999), released only 7 years earlier (spoilers):
* Villains use spider motif/villains are spiders.
* Villains rampage through Victorian town/city in a giant godzilla-sized steampunk mechanical spider, destroying buildings and killing people.
* Villains attempt to kill the President of the United States/the Queen of England with giant spider.
* Villains are defeated by a reckless, 'russet-skinned,' gun-slinging young man who is a member of the Secret Service (James West/Jack Havock), and his friends, including one character as prissy as the gun-slinger is uncouth (Artemus Gordon/Myrtle Mumby), which creates the main source of comedy relief throughout the story.
George Harrison once famously committed 'unconscious plagiarism,' copying He's So Fine as performed by the Chiffons almost note-for-note with his song My Sweet Lord. Reeves is so carefully original in these stories I would guess the same thing has happened here -- he saw 'Wild Wild West,' forgot about it, and then copied the ending almost exactly without remembering where that set of ideas came from. I wish someone from Reeve's life -- some friend or agent or publisher -- had noticed the connection in time for Reeves to tweak it into something more original before publication. These books are among my all-time favorite stories for kids (I am likely to buy copies for every neice and nephew), but the Wild Wild West ending mars the first book with a frustrating (if minor) blemish.
Despite my grousing, these stories are wonderful. Read them!
When eleven-year-old Art Mumby finds out that a visitor is arriving at his run-down home, Larklight, which floats in space beyond the moon, he hardly expects to be thrust into a frightening adventure of pirates, plates, and a millenium-long conflict upon which the fate of the solar system rests. He tells the story of this adventure in LARKLIGHT (occasionally giving his older sister, Myrtle, a chance to narrate via her diary), and the story is nothing if not fantastic.
Philip Reeve (author of the HUNGRY CITY CHRONICLES) has created another fascinating world in LARKLIGHT. Art lives in the Victorian society of the 1800's--or rather, what Victorian society would have looked like if they'd developed space travel, and astronomy worked according to early speculations about aether (an air-like substance in space that people can move and breathe in), and interplanetary beings (Venus, Mars, and the moons of Jupiter are all home to a variety of life forms). Reeve cuts no corners, painting the cities and citizens of the solar system in dazzling detail. The setting is a gorgeous mix of fantasy and science fiction, and fans of both genres will find much to enjoy.
If the world wasn't exciting enough on its own, the adventure is of the edge-of-your-seat variety. Art and Myrtle tumble from one tense situation to another with alarming frequency. Most chapters end on cliffhangers, so be prepared to have trouble finding a place to pause. Reeve throws in enough twists and turns to keep readers guessing right until the end, and both Art and Myrtle get the chance to play hero.
Art, as the main character, is not yet a teen himself, so teens may find his narration a little immature for their liking. If they're willing to give him a chance, though, they will discover that LARKLIGHT is a fast-paced, imaginative journey well worth taking.
Reviewed by: Lynn Crow
on 7 November 2011
It's a pointless exercise to review Larklight books individually. You need to read all three of them.
Seriously. You NEED to read them. Of the three, I think I liked Mothstorm best, but that's a moot point, given that they're all so... well... ROLLICKING!
Look up the word 'Rollicking' The Oxford English Dictionary, and it will say 'see the Larklight trilogy'. Or, at least, it should.
I thought Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines books were as good as sci-fi could get for younger readers, but I have to admit that I like the Larklight series more. Where Mortal Engines is dark and bleak and sinister, Larklight is unashamedly fun.
The science is nonsense - or, to be more exact, the science is based on 'natural philosophy' as it might have been understood in 1851. As it is, we have a situation whereby some well-meaning interference gave Isaac Newton the secret of space flight, and saw the British Empire stretch out to the farthest reaches of the Solar System by the middle of the 19th Century. Beat that for a steampunk premise!
Add to that a devil-may-care Boy's Own style of first-person storytelling, and you get the most delightful set of adventure stories I've read in absolute yonks.
on 5 April 2013
I have to admit, that this took me longer to read than most books because the first half was quite slow paced. It took me a while to get into the world of the story and to connect with any of the characters. My favourite thing about this book was definitely the characters and creatures created by Philip Reeve. I particularly liked Jack Havock, the young pirate, as I found that the reader got given the most back story on him and his past, and this really fleshed him out as a character and made the reader sympathise with him a lot more than with any of the others. On the other hand, Myrtle was really irritating throughout most of the book and was a bit contradictory in parts as she claimed to want to be a proper lady but then was very impolite and insensitive at some points. However, I felt that she really grew as the story progressed and I really liked that some of the chapters were from her point of view.
I have never read anything else by Philip Reeve, and although, like with a lot of children's fiction, he seemed to use too many exclamation marks, I found the descriptive writing style really suited the book.
This novel was mostly told from Art's point of view, but in the second half, his chapters are intertwined with chapters containing passages from Myrtle's diary. This allowed the reader to get to know each of the characters and the way that they were feeling and reacting to their situation from their own perspectives and I really enjoyed that.
I really enjoyed this book towards the end and although parts of it were a bit slow-paced, I found the action-packed ending really finished the story off well and all of the plot points were tied off perfectly. Knowing that this is the first book in a series, I was a bit dubious going into it whether or not it would finish in a way that meant you would have to read the sequels to get all of the relevant information to finish the story, but I feel that this would be great as a standalone novel.
I have to say that the illustrations in this book really make this a more fantastical read as they completely fit in with the text and enhance the story beyond just the words.
Overall, I would give Larklight by Philip Reeve 4 out of 5 stars and would definitely recommend it to younger children and YA readers that enjoy adventure, steampunk and science-fiction.
on 22 December 2009
Larklight is a wonderfully imaginative story. Set in space the characters are actually all supposed to be living in the Victorian era. However the Victorian industrailists stumbled across a way to make space-ships and as a result the British colonies go beyond earth and cover the surrounding planets.
Philip Reeve has thought up some wonderfully interesting aliens, plants and animals to populate such planets as Mars and the Moon. His characters are also very interesting, though the language can sometimes be stuffy and I think reading it as someone much older than thirteen, I do wonder if it might not put some kids off. However, for old and young kids alike, if you read beyond the first couple of pages you'll get used to the language. This tale is also so action-packed it really does become a page turner.
There are intriguing characters for the reader to get to know. The narrator is an eleven year old boy called Artand at some points the story is told through the use of his fifteen year old sister's diary. His sister Myrtle is quite the drama queen but this is only because she has been reading up on how a "young gentlewoman" should behave herself. This leads her to behave quite snobbishly towards people she thinks have no manners, but she does have a good heart so she's not all that much of a pain (though Art does think her to be a spoilsport).
The adventures begin when the children receive a letter stating that a Mr Webster will be visiting. Myrtle's excited about meeting a gentlemen and her father looks forward to speaking to an educated man about animal species... but Mr Webster turns out to be quite a surprise (note the name).
On their adventures they meet a pirate called Jack Havock and his crew. I loved the description of Jack and how he became a pirate, most of his crew have sad stories to tell. Ssillissa is probably my favourite of his crew mates she pretty much keeps his spaceship in the air.
If anyone reading this review has watched the Firefly episodes: I have to say that this book has made me realise that the concept of space and old fashioned manners really ticks all the boxes for me. Maybe it will for you too.
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.