ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Mortal Engines (and the Hungry City Chronicles) by Philip Reeve.

Updated on February 3, 2010
David Frankland's beautiful original cover art.
David Frankland's beautiful original cover art.

"It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea."

This was one book that had me from the opening sentence, and the series is an all-time favourite of mine. I'd have to say I disagree that these books should be resigned to "Young Adult" or childrens' sections - not that there's anything wrong with YA fiction, far from it - as an "Old Adult" I found more than enough here to keep me going.

Reeve's world is astonishingly well imagined, easily the best world-building I've read since Sun of Suns, a future founded on Municipal Darwinism that has thoroughly Steampunk sensibilities: It features huge belching cities, airships, Londoners, mechanical men, the freedom of the airways and the misery of slavery.

This is a world where cities chase and eat each other, the Resurrected dead stalk the earth, and lives are bought, sold, won and lost daily.

Listen to an extract from the book.

It's YA fiction Jim, but not as we know it...

OK. I understand why Mortal Engines is classified as Young Adult; the protagonists are teenage (and later make way for more teenagers), and the story is one of adventure, love and growing up. However, there's a major difference between this work and other YA fiction I both like (Skullduggery Pleasant?) and otherwise (Harry Potter?) - life is cheap in the Hunting Grounds. There are major characters that die - sometimes unexpectedly - in Mortal Engines, and I found this refreshing. These stories are dark, well constructed and have plots that twist like a snake fighting a mongoose - don't pass over them just because they're in the childrens' section!

The books follow the lives of Tom Natsworthy, an Apprentice Historian from London, and Hester Shaw, a scarred outcast. He's no hero, and she's not beautiful. Tom is a perfect everyman protagonist, and Hester is a lovable rogue - initially, at least. Reeve sends our heroes across land and air, under the sea, over the Arctic ice, to the mountains of the orient...

All four books (Mortal Engines, Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices, and A Darkling Plain) are incredibly tightly plotted; plans fail with gay abandon, old adversaries return, heroes fall and villains rise, with practically every chapter involving some kind of plot twist, revelation, or reversal of fate. The characters and locations are pretty solidly constructed, although there are a few too many "coincidences" in places for me to keep by disbelief suspended. However, they are a joy to read and will definitely be passed to my children when they're old enough.

The last word:


+ Steampunk, death, poverty and misery are all refreshing!

+ Tightly plotted, interesting characters


- Some dubious "miraculous escapes" in later books


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)