Sci-Fi, Young Adult

Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve | Review | Booksmagick

What’s it about?

In a future where cities and towns have started to mobilise themselves and race across former Europe, now known as the Hunting Ground, to devour one another for spare parts and work forces, Hester Shaw is keen on avenging her parents’ murder. But Valentine is but a small threat, for the city of London has been building a weapon big enough to destroy mega-cities.

What I think about it

Click to get to publisher!

When the book first arrived at the shop I was drawn to it for its amazing cover by Ian McQue. But it sounded really weird because I couldn’t really picture cities moving. Then I saw the trailer for the upcoming movie and I was intrigued. Well, technically, I was intrigued by Anna Fang, a badass sword-wielding aviatrix in a red coat. And so I delved into the world of traction cities and airships. And I’m really pissed that I forgot to take book two home with me yesterday because now I have to wait till tomorrow to read on … Booklover’s problems.

The story is told from various points of view with the protagonists being Hester Shaw and Tom. I really like Hester. She is tough, badass and sees things through but has weak and tender moments as well. She likes to put on a brave face but as the story progresses we see different layers to her character. Tom I didn’t like as much but he got good character development as well. Staring out as an apprentice to the Guild of Historians in London he ends up thwarting an assassination attempt on Valentine and is cast out of London onto the barren surface of the Hunting Ground with Hester. And so their adventure begins. Oh, and they are being hunted down by a cyborg. Wouldn’t be as fun otherwise, would it?

Must-have for Mortal Engines fans! Click to get to publisher!

I very much enjoyed how the author puts his characters into a black-and-white molds in the beginning. Valentine is the big bad evil and Hester the broken assassin who wants to avenger her family. But as the story progresses the reader realises that there is not such thing as a stark contrast between black and white, good and evil. It’s grey areas with every character having reasons and motives for pursuing their goal. Doing good things and bad things. In the end it’s just about survival. Really liked this approach and it can be seen everywhere in the story.

Tom is shocked that there are still people who live in static settlements because he has been taught that if you stop moving you die.

This dystopian world is set in a far future when humanity has already blown itself to pieces in a big war that lasted no longer than 61 minutes. Afterwards the world was ready to start again. Technology still exists but it’s more steampunky and computers are but remnants of a lost age. Loved how Tom once found a seedy (say it out loud and you know what it is). Sometimes there are mentions of Old Tech from this day and age which I love.

Anna Fang. My heroine! Badass aviatrix in a red coat and sunglasses. I nearly hyperventilated when I found out she has her own spin-off novel: Night Flights. Already ordered it even before I finished the first book. She barely has any page time but she still is my absolute favourite character, closely followed by Hester, and Kate, Valentine’s daughter.

New cover design for the prequel series to the Mortal Engines quartet. It follows the story of Fever Crumb, who witnesses the first of the traction cities being born.

Click here to find out more about Philip Reeve Books!

While I will be forever pissed at Reeve for killing some characters I adored I found it interesting how he described their deaths. The reader would never know what hit them because there was no premonition, no foreboding. One sentence the character was there and the next they were dead. No elaborate descriptions, no leading up to their deaths. It just happened.

The book itself is fast and leaves no time to breathe, to think, the style fits the fast and ever moving world perfectly. It stands proof that a book doesn’t have to amount to 600+ pages to be good. The world is set up nicely, the reader understands how stuff works, the characters get their development, there is action, tiny bit of snark and a theme around which the story revolves.


Fast-paced and full of action. Loved the world-build as well as the characters who were multi-layered and got good development over the course of the book. I really appreciate that the book was quite short (there are 3 more parts in this quartet but they’re all rather slim) as it fit the fast world it described.

But I am still pissed at Reeve for killing off characters I liked.


  • Author: Philip Reeve
  • Pages: 320
  • For Ages: 14 and up
  • Publisher: Scholastic
  • Release Date: 2001
  • ISBN: 978-1-407189-14-7

If Mortal engines piqued your interest, then what are you waiting for? Get the rest of the quartet! And the prequel!

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