Night Flights by Philip Reeve
Ill. by Ian McQue. The Hungry City Chronicles book 5.
Scholastic, 2018. ISBN 9781742997674
(Age: 12+) Highly recommended. Themes: Science fiction, Steampunk. Good versus evil. Slavery. In "Night Flights" Philip Reeve returns to the world of "Mortal Engines", to provide readers with three short stories about Anna Fang, aviatrix and spy, who is a secondary figure in the series. Anna Fang's story is fascinating. In "Frozen Heart", her beginnings are described, first as a happy child on board her parents' ship, then captured by the traction city "Arkangel", where she is held as a slave working to dismantle scrap metal from the ships that the city captures and eats up. Determined to be free again she catches the eye of the son of the owner and helps him build a plane and in a daring bid for freedom uses her wits and intelligence to escape. In "Traction City Blues" an adolescent Anna lands on London, another traction city and here faces a Stalker who she wants to recruit as a weapon against the slaver ship. Finally in "Teeth of the Sea" Anna goes to Pulau Pinang, where she uncovers a mystery about the disappearance of raft boats and in the final chapter meets the two children who will be the main characters in the Chronicles.
All three stories are compulsive reading and would serve as a fascinating introduction to the "Hungry City Chronicles", although she is a minor character in those books. Anna is determined and uses her fine mind to work out strategies for escape and on a practical level, uses her engineering skills to build an aircraft. She is faced with disappointment on a personal level and learns to be very careful of the people that she can trust.
The illustrations by Ian McQue are fabulous, and the reader gets a wonderful picture of the personality of Anna, as well as the destructive nature of the predator traction ship "Arkangel".
With "Mortal Engines" soon to be a major film directed by Peter Jackson of "Hobbit" fame, it won't be difficult to find new fans of this excellent, challenging and exciting series.