Select one of the keywords
Mortal Engines: The Hungry City Chronicles    by Philip Reeve order for
Mortal Engines
by Philip Reeve
Order:  USA  Can
Eos, 2003 (2003)

Read an Excerpt

* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Philip Reeve takes us to a wonderfully weird post-apocalyptic future in Mortal Engines. After the terrible Sixy Minute War destroyed North America, cities mobilized, literally. 'Traction Cities' were rebuilt on tiered platforms and moved around continents on huge caterpillar tracks, hunting their prey. 'Municipal Darwinism' came into effect, a process by which larger cities ate smaller ones.

The story opens in London, where we meet fifteen-year-old Tom Natsworthy, an orphan and a lowly member of the Historian's Guild. During the excitement that follows the city's clamping its huge jaws on a small mining town, Tom foils an assassination attempt against Thaddeus Valentine, an Indiana Jones type whom he hero worships. The assassin is Hester Shaw, a one-eyed, horribly scarred young woman, who jumps down a waste chute to escape. After Valentine pushes Tom after her, this city boy has his first encounter with 'MUD!' and doesn't like it at all.

A series of adventures (by land, air and sea) ensues, in which Tom and Hester try to get back to London, with different motivations. They are captured by slavers and pirates, helped by Anti-Tractionist spy Anna Fang, and tracked relentlessly by Grike, a Stalker (a kind of Terminator sloppily built from corpses and 'Old Tech'), who previously helped Hester and is oddly attached to her, despite planning to kill her. Tom gets to know two Hesters, 'one a grim avenger who thought only of killing Valentine, the other a quick, clever, likeable girl whom he sometimes sensed peeking out at him from behind that scarred mask.'

Back in London, Valentine has been sent by the Lord Mayor on a mysterious mission to Shan Guo, the nation which leads the Anti-Traction League that controls most of what used to be India and China - prime new hunting grounds for the Traction Cities, if they could only breach the 'Shield Wall'. Valentine's daughter Katherine tries to find out about the strange girl who tried to kill her father, and about the mysterious 'MEDUSA', a technology of the ancients that her father acquired for London. In the process, she suffers a series of disillusionments, and befriends a young Engineer, Apprentice Pod, who helps her.

Of course it all builds to a thrilling conclusion. Both sets of young people attempt to foil the evil plans of London's Lord Mayor, and the author doesn't pull any punches against his own creations. Mortal Engines is an impressive feat of imagination and humor, about greed, vengeance, and a clash of civilizations. I look forward to more Hungry City Chronicles and their 'town-eat-town world'.

Note: Opinions expressed in reviews and articles on this site are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of BookLoons.

Find more Teens books on our Shelves or in our book Reviews