So today I will be reviewing Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve. (Am I the only one who thinks it should be The Mortal Engines instead of Mortal Engines? Yes? Okay then.)
Mortal Engines by Phillip Reeve:
London, one of the last great Traction Cities (which are cities on wheels that roam around “eating” each other in a system called Municipal Darwinism), is branching out of it’s usual hunting grounds. Tom Natsworthy, a young apprentice Historian, has finally gotten the chance to meet his hero, Thaddeus Valentine, when an assassin attempts to murder Valentine. This sets off a chain of events in which Tom falls out of London, stands on bare ground (GASP!) befriends the girl who tried to kill his hero, is stalked by what I can only describe as a mechanical reanimated zombie toeing the line between humanity and machinery, and meets some people who think Municipal Darwinism is wrong (DOUBLE GASP!!). Meanwhile, back in London, Valentine’s daughter Katherine finds out some SHOCKING TRUTHS about the city that have been hidden from the general population, including maybe DEATH WEAPONS!?? Will Tom and Hester (the assassin girl) be able to find their way back to London? Will Katherine find out the truth about her father? WHO KNOWS. (Well, I know, but I’m really trying not to include spoilers, so…)
The main characters in this book were Tom Natsworthy, a sweet, nice teenage boy (which I’m not sure exists in real life) and Hester Shaw, an emotionally scarred and also physically scarred teenage girl who is just trying to plot her revenge in peace. Both of them were characters I liked but didn’t love. Tom was a character who was always trying to do the right thing that didn’t hurt anyone, UNLIKE ALMOST EVERY OTHER CHARACTER IN THE BOOK. But, I felt like he had no character arc. Basically everything he did (except for some of the choices he made at the end) was driven by outside forces. At times I sympathized with Hester- she had gone through a lot of hard things, like losing her parents and she felt unlovable because of how scarred her face was. Hester had convinced herself she was a monster. But she had a total lack of empathy for anyone but Tom, which was frustrating for me because I like cinnamon roll characters who are nice people at heart, but I guess it’s a matter of personal preference. I really liked Katherine though, she was smart, proactive, and cared deeply about other people. She could also be naive and do things that didn’t make sense but everyone makes mistakes sometimes.
What I didn’t like about this book, was that at least for Tom and Hester, it took a long time for the plot to get to the point. After they fall out of London, they spend most of the book trying to get back there, unsuccessfully. Also there was too much violence and people dying for my taste. What I found much more interesting was Katherine’s half of the story: seeing her unravel the secrets of London and what exactly her father was involved in was much more interesting than Tom and Hester getting sidetracked and almost getting killed by someone for the 53rd time. The only thing I didn’t like about Katherine’s side of the story was the part where someone drowns in LITERAL POOP. Is that supposed to be… funny or something? BECAUSE IT’S NOT. I’m just grossed out now.
I didn’t really enjoy this book, but I think it would appeal to people 13+ who like: well thought-out fictional societies; steampunk; novels set after the apocalypse has happened and society has had time to partially rebuild itself; airships; metaphors on the unsustainability of capitalism; and adventure.