Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep by Philip Reeve

Philip Reeve is a master builder of worlds. If you’ve read Mortal Engines (and if you haven’t please do), then you have already witnessed how he creates a fantastic narrative landscape for complex characters to interact within, and Utterly Dark is no exception.

Unlike Mortal Engines, a true sci-fi masterpiece, the roots of this tale are of an older time. A simpler time, a forgotten time, yet still filled with mystery and adventure.

Utterly Dark is an orphan – found on the shore by the watcher of Wildsea. A watcher who has one purpose and that is to observe the waves and ensure that when the enchanted isles appear and danger returns that the folk of Wildsea are prepared. A watcher who one day is found dead, succumbed to the very sea he is charged to observe and this is when Utterly’s life begins to unravel.

The way Philip Reeve develops characters is wonderful. Each of them – the returning uncle who is dismissive and worn down by expectation is a favourite – is flawed like true humans. And like the aforementioned Mortal Engines, a strong female lead is a sheer delight to read.

Now for the teacher bit. The descriptive langauage used throughout the story is perfect for sharing with a class. SPOILER ALERT: when the godzilla-like creature born of the ocean appears, the tension is such that as a reader you can’t help but feel the impact of the well-crafted words. Children often find building tension when writing difficult, so why not show them how it is done.

A must read – it is that simple.

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