Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Web of Air

A Web of Air

Philip Reeve
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic, 2011   ISBN: 978-0545222167

Two years ago, Fever Crumb was living in London, happily sharing her life with the Engineers who had raised her. Then quite suddenly everything changes, and Fever is forced to flee London and trade in her rational, logical, and organized life for something very different. She and the two children she has taken under her wing become members of Persimmon’s Electric Lyceum. In their new life they travel around in land-barges, stopping at towns all over Europa to present the plays that Ambrose Persimmon directs. Fever thinks that the plays are foolish, but she puts her knowledge of electricity to work, providing audiences with marvelous special effects that are powered by electricity.

Now the convey of land-barges, Bargetown, has come to Mayda-At-The-World’s-End, an island city that is built inside a crater that was created by an Ancient weapon. As usual, Fever’s contribution to the play is much appreciated by the audience. She is glad, in her own way, that her skills are being put to use, but she does not feel like joining the party that always follows a performance. Instead, she takes a walk around the busy city, taking in the sights and marveling at the funicular buildings that travel up and down the walls of the crater. Then, out of nowhere, a small kite made of paper and thin pieces of light wood flies out of the night and almost hits Fever in the head. When she examines the kite, Fever is able to see that someone who understands the principals of flight made it, and the Engineer in her wants to talk to the kite’s creator.

Fever learns that a young man called Arlo Thursday is the only person in Mayda who could have made such a kite, and she goes to see him. She soon finds out that Arlo is a very private person who does not want to show anyone his inventions, but she does see one of his “aeroplanes” and wants to support him in his effort to build a heavier-than-air flying machine.

Fever believes that such machines should be built because they will make the world a better place, and because she hopes flying machines will make the idea of traction cities – cities on wheels that move over the land – obsolete. The scientist in her wants to see Arlo succeed because being able to fly would be such a great achievement.

What she does not realize is that there are some who consider flying machines to be a threat. They want the secret of flight to stay hidden forever, and they will do anything to make sure that this is what happens.

In this second Fever Crumb book, readers are once again taken into a world that is alternatively fascinating and frightening. Philip Reeve not only gives us a story that is incredibly entertaining, he also gives us one that explores the idea that all people should be free to think, dream, and explore as they wish. He helps his readers to understand that intellectual freedom is a precious thing.