Tuesday, 29 June 2010
A Web of Air by Philip Reeve
A Web of Air is the latest outing by Brighton born author Philip Reeve. The book is the sequel to Fever Crumb and as such is a prequel to the Mortal Engines quartet.
As I have mentioned in an earlier post, I was fairly disappointed with Fever Crumb. Not because it was a bad book, in fact it was a highly enjoyable one, but simply because it did not live up to the truly superb Mortal Engines quartet. Compared to the first four books it was limited in characters, lacking in depth and had nowhere near the scope of the others. So, needless to say I was apprehensive about this one, but optimistic at the same time...
A Web of Air starts well, you are introduced to a number of new and interesting characters, and we meet a more developed lead character than previously. Fever Crumb has taken on the role of guardian for two children from the first novel and because of this has had to evolve, if only slightly, into a more rounded human being. We are then taken to a new city, Mayda, where buildings rise and fall on runners and Angels fly through the sky (at least birds called angels do), where we meet even more new, and often shady, characters. It has scope. It has depth. It has most of the things that Fever Crumb lacked. Plus Reeve stays true to the dark, sinister and treacherous plot lines that make his stories stand out from the crowd. And yet it still does not live up to the quartet, but I can't quite put my finger on why. Maybe the characters aren't as believable, nor likeable. Maybe it's due to the lack of the big, dirty, exciting traction cities. It is hard to say, but something is lacking.
Another point that needs to be made is the similarities to Airman by Eoin Colfer. Although I would never suggest that Reeve would steal ideas, he really does not seem the type and has plenty of his own ideas - in fact, judging by his blog, he has probably never heard of Eoin Colfer – but the similarities are there. Mainly it is the plot centring around flight that does it, along with the lead male character that has gone through a great deal of hardship that has left him with an obsession with flight, and then the finale with the protagonists flighting for their lives defending a keep that holds their flying machine whilst the baddies try to break their way in with superior force. Even so, there plenty of original ideas within A Web of Air that more than make up for this slight tarring.
A Web of Air is a good book, a really good book. As a stand alone book, or even as a sequel to Fever Crumb, it's great. As a prequel to Mortal Engines it remains a mild disappointment. Reeve has suggested that the next outing will be on a broader scope, with more in common with the originals – let's hope so!
Highly Recommended – but read the Mortal Engines Quartet first!