Railhead by Philip Reeve

Challenge #26 ~ “An adventure book.”


★ ★ ★ ★ ★

My opinion in three sentences:

I certainly headed into this book with great trepidation – Reeve’s ‘Here Lies Arthur‘ is one of my all-time favourite novels, but his ‘Fever Crumb‘ was the complete opposite, and both were Carnegie shortlisted. Railhead, too, made it to the Carnegie shortlist this year, and I am so glad it did, else I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. It was a true joy to read, full of great characters, an enticing, well-paced plot, and a fantastic blurring of moral boundaries.

(Without spoiling anything) the best bit:

As I alluded to with the last point above, you leave Railhead 100% questioning the dualism of good and bad. The protagonist is a thief. He commits crimes. He does things for a guy who, according to him, is doing what is right to bring down the authority, but according to others is threatening society. But at the same time, he is breaking from oppression, he is working to a moral code, and he is doing what he can to save lives and not hurt others. Is he good, or is he bad? It may not be the obvious plotline, but a considerable theme Reeve presents is centered around questioning the right/wrong dualism, and even by the end I can’t say clearly who is “good” and who is “bad”. We need more books that address issues like this.

A warning for the book:

The beginning is a necessity to set the scene and introduce the characters, as in any book. Before Zen meets Raven, things are considerably less enticing, action-packed and enthralling as they are for the rest of the book. As openings go, it’s not at all bad, but if comparing it to the rest of the novel, it’s certainly the weakest element.

Recommended for fans of:

  • Gemina by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff
  • Assassin? by Joe Craig
  • The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

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