Book Review: “Black Light Express” by Philip Reeve

Last year we were captivated by Philip Reeve’s Railhead, and Zen and company are back with more adventures in the newly released sequel, Black Light Express.

When we last left our heroes, Zen and Nova had just passed through a brand-new K-gate, unsure of where they would end up. At the beginning of Black Light Express, they’ve just entered a totally unknown system of worlds connected by its own train network. They travel from world to world encountering new races of people and never-before-seen foods and technologies. The only troubles might be the Kraitt, a warlike race suspicious of Zen and Nova’s story that they are ambassadors from another galaxy, and the risk of everyone’s discovering that Nova is an android. Despite the danger, Nova is sure that the secret of who first made the K-gates is hidden in the Black Light Zone – an area of the galaxy where everyone is afraid to go.

Meanwhile, Threnody is having a difficult time adjusting to life as Empress of the Galaxy, and her position is far from secure. She’s only been in power for a few months when her palace is attacked and Threnody left for dead. Her streetwise lady-in-waiting, Chandni, is the only reason Threnody makes it out alive, and soon both of them are on the run. The two storylines converge when the mysterious Guardians make it their business that the Noon dynasty must end and no one can make it out of the new galaxy alive.

Like Railhead, Black Light Express is action packed from start to finish, never letting the throttle up even for a minute. The characters are thrown from one stressful situation into another in a wild ride that’s a lot of fun. I felt the first book sacrificed some character development for this speed, and while characterization is still pretty lean in the sequel, it was less distracting, probably because the story dealt primarily with characters we’d met before.

The best thing about the book is Reeve’s willingness to let readers in on the secrets of his universe. There’s some real payoff to the big mysteries that have been floating around the series – and there are few things more satisfying to read than finally being let in on a secret you’ve been chasing for a while!

Black Light Express is definitely a worthy follow-up to its predecessor. The series is set to be a trilogy, so we have at least one more adventure with this set of heroes to look forward to.

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for review.