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Literature / Larklight

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Larklight is Philip Reeve's other series, and waaay on the other end of the Sliding Scale of Idealism Versus Cynicism compared to Mortal Engines. A Steampunk Space Opera, it consists of three books, all told from the point of view of Art Mumby and his sister Myrtle:

Larklight is the series-naming first book, introducing us to the world, where the British Empire stretches out across the solar system, and its inhabitants, including Art and his family, the unpleasant First Ones, and Captain Jack Havock and his crew.

Starcross, the second book, involves Time Travel, a French radical, some goblins who want to knit a cover for an asteroid, and a race of hats. No, literally.

Mothstorm, book three: a mysterious discovery on the edge of the solar system brings Art and co. to Uranus Georgium Sidus, and a Chekhov's Gun loaded in the first book finally goes off.

Tropes include:

  • All Planets Are Earthlike: They all have atmospheres that humans can breathe, at least. Then again, apparently so does space as a whole, if not something they can breathe for a long time.
  • Amazon Brigade: The Snilth are very matriarchal. Imagine Victorian-era gender roles, only reversed.
  • And I Must Scream: The settlers on Venus came down with Tree Sickness and turned into trees, though it's implied that since the transformation affects the mind as well, it's actually rather peaceful.
  • Batman Can Breathe in Space: Subverted. Space has a breathable atmosphere, but most species can only survive a few hours in it.
  • Big Creepy-Crawlies: The giant Moths of the Snilth, who are even larger then ships and able to fly through space.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Myrtle, at least in Art's opinion.
  • Chekhov's Gun: A minor footnote on an amusing aspect of Threl mythology in the second book becomes the major plot of the third. Well, minus the bit about eating the World Cozy.
  • Dreadful Musician: Myrtle, to the cactus creatures, as she drives them away from her with her hymn recitations.
  • Dying Race: The First Ones, in this star system at least, as they are mentioned as colonizing other stars.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Though most of them are benevolent, it's shown that Shapers have the potential to become this.
  • Evil Counterpart: The Mothmaker to Amelia Mumby. Both are Shapers who elected to remain after forming a solar system. However while the Shaper of Earth's system preferred to observe and eventually raise a family, the Mothmaker tyrannically ruled her peoples as a Goddess.
  • Fainting: Myrtle faints after the Naked First Impression of Richard and the rest of the Martian men.
  • Genius Loci: Thunderhead, Jupiter's Great Red Spot, is a fully sapient storm. Smaller, also sapient storms make an appearance in Mothstorm.
  • The Hat Makes the Man: The Moobs like to take the form of hats (but they're really shapeshifting, mind-controlling, thought-eating alien beings).
  • Instrument of Murder: The Snilth use blowpipes shaped like bagpipes.
  • Interspecies Romance: Averted with Jack and Ssilissa; it was one-sided to begin with, and apart from Jack's clear interest in Myrtle the impracticality of this is one of the reasons Ssil gives up on the idea. Played straight with Sir Richard Burton and Ulla and with Art and Myrtle's parents, although apparently their mother's biological body is entirely human (at least until the Mothmaker destroys it). However, Captain Moonfield does get married to a Snilth at the end of book three, so there is that.
  • Non-Mammal Mammaries: Specifically averted - Ssilissa, a reptilian alien, doesn't have them.
  • Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions: Averted by Amelia Mumby the Shaper. When asked if the Shapers mean there are no Gods, she remarks "Who made the Shapers?" However the Mothmaker thinks of herself as a Goddess.
  • Proud Warrior Race: The Snilth. The Shaper who created them originally had multiple species of Proud Warrior Race, but she liked the Snilth the most (they're a very lovely shade of blue).
  • Rightful King Returns: It turns out Ssilissa is the last of the Hammertail clan, which was wiped out by the Mothmaker when a Queen rose against her, sending their eggs into space on a comet. Ssilissa by the end has become the Queen of the Snilth.
  • Secret Project Refugee Family: Jack, Nipper, Ssilissa, Squidley and Yarg all escaped from the Royal Xenological Institute.
  • Sssssnake Talk: Every one of the Snilth, who have names like Zssthss and Alsssor. Lampshaded when two characters agree that Zssthss sounds more like a gas leak than a name.
  • Space Is Cold: Referenced at the veeeery beginning of the first book.
  • Space Is an Ocean: The setting's version of space is a thin sea of ether home to fish of all kinds and ships that look like sailing vessels.
  • Space Sailing: The spaceships look like ships, powered by a mysterious chemical reaction called 'the chemical wedding'. There is air in space, though it's thinner than on any planet, and artificial gravity on most ships.
  • Time Abyss: Amelia Mumby and other Shapers, who are at least as old as solar systems.
  • Twin Telepathy: How the Tentacle Twins communicate with each other, since they can't talk.
  • They Would Cut You Up: It's rather understandable that Jack is a little hostile towards the Empire, all things considered, given that he caught wind of plans to kill and dissect him and the other subjects of the Xenological Institute.
  • Vertebrate with Extra Limbs: There is a mention of a six-armed waitress.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: In a somewhat meta example, Art and Mr. Wyatt, the illustrator, if the notes left in for him are anything to go by.