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Two reviews

Two shortish book reviews today. The first is Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. This young adult book was a 'gold' winner in the Nestlé Book Prize, won the Blue Peter book of the year award, and was shortlisted for the Whitbread Children's Book of the Year.




Tom, an orphan, is an apprentice to the Guild of Historians in London. But this is no ordinary city of London. This is London centuries after the sixty minute war and this London, like many other cities and towns in the world, travels - on wheels or tracks. And it eats other, smaller towns in order to keep going. One momentous day Tom prevents the murder of his idol, Valentine, head of the Guild of Historians and famous archaeologist. The would-be murderer, a teenager like himself, is Hester Shaw, grossly disfigured in the face and out for vengeance. Instead of being lauded as a hero, circumstances intervene and Tom suddenly finds himself falling down a waste-chute. When he comes to, he is alone with Hester Shaw in the Out-country and London, his home, is disappearing into the distance. Disenchanted as he was with his life, this is not what he wanted. Who is this girl and what is her reason for wanting Valentine dead? And, more importantly, how can he possibly return home?

Quite easy to understand why this one won all its awards - it's a cracking tale! I think it's described as YA fantasy but, to my mind, its post-apocalyptic setting is more akin to sci fi not fantasy. Whatever its label, it's an excellent, pacey read. Very imaginative - who would have thought of moving cities? - with good characterisation and many twists and turns. And, like J.K. Rowling, Reeve doesn't hesitate to kill off his characters when necessary... quite shockingly in some instances. Be warned! I've just started the second book in the series, Predator's Gold, and there are two more after that.

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Next up, Dead Cold by Louise Penny, the second book in her CI Armand Gamache crime series. (The first was Still Life.)



The setting is, as with the first book, the village of Three Pines in Quebec, about an hour and half from Montreal. During a curling match, out on the frozen lake, with the whole village in attendance, CC de Poitiers is murdered - electrocuted to be exact. No one is terribly sorry, her husband, daughter and residents of village all hated her. So the list of suspects is as long as your arm - and who is this woman anyway? Why are there no records of her childhood anywhere? Gamache is pleased to be back in the village of Three Pines and, along with his assistant, Beauvoir, and various officers, one of whose loyalty could be questionable, sets about solving this most complicated of mysteries.

Hard to emphasize enough how much I enjoyed this book. It takes place around Christmas, with an extremely snowy setting, so I'm thinking that this atmosphere is probably what appealed to me most about it. It's wonderfully done to the point where you can almost feel the intense cold. That said, the plot is nothing to sniff at either. The twists and turns keep you turning the pages, wondering what will happen next. I changed my mind about whodunnit around six times and up to the end didn't really know for sure. There's also quite a nice background story going on with a conflict between the charismatic Gamache and one of his superiors; I'm assuming that will continue in the next book which is The Cruellest Month, set in Spring. The first two were Autumn and Winter, the fourth book, The Murder Stone, is just out and set in Summer. Great read for crime buffs... and even though I'm not one (although I am starting to rethink that), I absolutely loved it.

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Comments

A friend of mine absolutely raved about the Philip Reeve, so I bought it, started it -- and then set it aside and never went back to it. Not sure why not, as I was rather enjoying it, but it didn't quite grab me. I might give it another go.

I find the Louise Penny series odd. I didn't mind the first one, but the later ones have driven me demented -- mainly because I can't abide Gamache and the way she puts him on a pedestal and makes him this saintly, put-upon figure. And there are too many god-bothering comments in the book for me!
The thing I liked about Philip Reeve was the quality of the writing. No compromising because he's writing for kids. That and how imaginative the book is. The second one is going pretty well too.

Heh. *G* I did wonder if I should warn against the religious aspect in it for your sake. ;-) Funnily enough, I didn't really notice it until the end of this second book where it was, as you say, a bit 'in your face'. I tend to skate over those bits. I dunno, maybe I'm getting less crochety as I get older. That's not to say I'm calling you 'crochety' m'dear. Well, not much anyway... *EG*
Hee! I seem to get more crochety as I get older *g*. And I definitely get less and less tolerant of any hint of religious proselytising. The problem with this series is that she stops the action at times to sermonise. I've got the new one, but can't bring myself to read it at the moment!
I love Philip Reeve. The Hungry City Chronicles were a great find for me as well. His other series, which begins with Larklight is also very imaginative, though directed at younger readers - probably 8-12s. It reminds me of L. Frank Baum, but set in space.

I'm glad you liked the first book in the series. I had a friend who tried to read it and she thought it wasn't good at all. Since then I've been questioning my own tastes.
My daughter didn't care for Mortal Engines either, which surprised me as we generally agree on books. On the other hand her husband loved it. I think it must be one of those books you love or hate so I wouldn't worry about my tastes if I were you. I think it's an excellent series, am enjoying the second one, and plan to read them all.

After that I'll keep an eye out for the other series you mention. Thanks for the rec.