Hello, I’m Geraldine and I’m addicted to Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ve always been a voracious reader and I’m constantly on the look out for interesting new books and authors to try. I value personal recommendations more than formal reviews and I’m grateful to keen readers who share their discoveries (good and bad). I think it’s time for me to give something back, so I plan to write about one book that I’ve enjoyed every week. Sometimes this may be a book originally published for children. Sometimes it will be adult fiction or even a classic from ancient or medieval times. For me, it’s the story that counts.

I’m going to start with a funny book by a favourite author – `Larklight’  by Philip Reeve (first published by Bloomsbury in 2006).  Like most people, I read for a variety of reasons and different moods require different books. When I’m feeling low, I need a comfort book.  My comfort books come in two kinds. The first is the wallow in gloom and gore  `things could be worse’  kind.  You close such books  (examples include Karen Miller’s `Empress’ or any of George R.R.Martin’s `Game of Thrones’ sequence) thinking `Well, at least I don’t have to live in that world!’  The second is the heart-lifting, hope-raising, `perhaps the universe isn’t so bad after all’  kind. `Larklight’ is very much a book of the second kind. It made me smile again when I was feeling very sad after the sudden death of one of my cats.

If you are still in a patriotic mood after the Jubilee Celebrations, `Larklight’ – `A Rousing Tale of Dauntless Pluck in the Farthest Reaches of Space’ – is the novel for you. This is a Steampunk story set in a version of the past in which Sir Isaac Newton’s great discoveries in Alchemy  have made the Conquest  of Space possible and Queen Victoria rules over an Empire in Space. The book is  narrated by young Art Mumby, with occasional interruptions from his annoying elder sister, Myrtle. Anyone who likes E.Nesbit’s classic `Treasure Seekers’ stories will enjoy the jolly  way Art describes his`Almost Unbearably Exciting Adventures’, though his determination to avoid soppy bits is thwarted by Myrtle.  Art and Myrtle live in an extraordinary old house called Larklight, which orbits the Moon. Their mother has been lost  in a space accident and their absent-minded father is soon overwhelmed by giant white spiders, leaving the children free to have adventures.  Art and Myrtle almost perish horribly on the Moon but are rescued by dashing young pirate Jack Havoc and his multi-species crew.  Art soon has to cope with giant storms, Wind-Whales and Space-Squids while a kidnapped Myrtle teams up with Secret Agent Richard Burton and his feisty Martian bride.  The children make two astonishing discoveries – their mother is still alive and very far from being the ordinary wife and mother they thought she was – and the white spiders have an ancient grudge and a dastardly plan that threatens the universe (I knew there was a reason I hated spiders).

The story rips along at a tremendous pace and is full of funny and charming details (I wish I had Hoverhogs to clean my house) but it also makes some sharp points about the misuse of knowledge and power. Patriotic Art is shocked to find himself on the side of the pirates when he learns about the unethical  deeds and inherent racism of some pillars of the Victorian establishment. `Larklight’ celebrates the British character not the British Empire and the pirate ship Sophronia is a wonderful example of cultural diversity.  The  book is brilliantly illustrated by David Wyatt.  He even manages to draw the evil spiders in a way that amused rather than terrified an arachnophobe like me. You can see some of Mr Wyatt’s  delightful pastiches of Victorian adverts (and get more information on this novel) on http://www.larklight.com. The good news is that `Larklight’ is the first in a trilogy so there are homicidal hats and cosmic moth-storms to come.  If anyone out there has more suggestions for `comfort reading’, do let me know. Till next week…


About me – I’m an Egyptologist/author/plot-doctor who lives in Gloucestershire with a mathematician, five cats, seven thousand books and three Ereaders. If you want to find out about my own books (or cats) go to http://www.chalcedon.demon.co.uk