A Darkling Plain: The Hungry City Chronicles (YA)
by Philip Reeve
Review by Colleen Cahill
Eos Hardcover ISBN/ITEM#: 006089055X
Date: 01 June, 2007 List Price $18.99 Amazon US / Amazon UK / Show Official Info /
The end of a series can be disappointing, especially if the last book does not live up to the adventure and exciting story of the previous volumes. This is not an issue with Philip Reeve's A Darkling Plain. The conclusion to The Hungry City Chronicles is just as lively, surprising, and dramatic as the other three books, continuing to explore a future where cities are mobile, the past is mythic and dangerous hidden technology could bring an end to everyone.
A Darkling Plain picks up a few months after the disaster at Cloud Nine which concluded Infernal Devices, the third book in this series. The main characters are now scattered throughout the Great Hunting Ground and beyond. Theo Ngoni has returned to his home after leaving the Green Storm army; he accidentally stumbles into a plot to kill Lady Oenone Naga, wife of the current leader of the Green Storm. After preventing her assassination, Theo accompanies Lady Naga on her trip home where a second assassination attempt leaves both near death.
Tom Natsworthy and his daughter Wren are now air traders, traveling between various traction cities. Their lives change when Tom recognizes Clytie Potts, another citizen of the shattered city of London. Clytie is buying up ancient technology, but no one knows where it is going: this drives Tom to seek out the ruins of his former home.
On the darker side, we learn that Stalker Fang was not destroyed at Cloud Nine and that Fishcake is attempting to repair the megalomaniac robot. Fang seems to have a split personality between the merciless leader of the Green Storm and the gentle Anna Fang. As the Stalker gains strength, these two identities begin to show signs of conflict, with the Stalker trying to destroy what remains of Anna.
We also learn that Hester Shaw and the Stalker Grike also survived the demise of Cloud Nine and are wandering in the Sahara. When they stumble across Theo in the wreckage of his airship, Hester learns that Lady Naga is being held in slavery. For complex reasons, Hester decides to rescue Lady Naga and take her back to her husband.
This merely scrapes the surface of this book. A Darkling Plain is a complex climax to The Hungry City Chronicles, focusing on the conflict between the Green Storm and the Traktionstadtsgesellschaft, an alliance of the traction cities. In the midst of all this, Tom and Wren, assisted by a young German soldier Wolf Kobold, cross over a dangerous no-man's land to the wreak of London. Here they discover the city is rebuilding and has a plan, one that will make London a whole new kind of city. Unbeknownst to all these forces, Stalker Fang has discovered the ultimate weapon and she plans to use it to carry out her ultimate goal; to rid the planet of all humanity.
You need to read the books of this series in order, not only for your understanding of the story, but also to gain all the richness of this work. Reeve has incorporated many fascinating themes throughout and while marketed as a young adult work, The Hungry City Chronicles is also a series adults will find fascinating. The post-apocalyptic world is full of intriguing ideas, such as Municipal Darwinism and air borne cities, but this is also a work about people and the love or hate that drives their actions. Between the compelling world, the gripping plot, and the finely drawn characters, this series is well-worth investigating. If you have read the earlier books, I am sure you will be enthralled by this final volume, as A Darkling Plain is a truly a worthy capstone to a wonderful saga.