So should I read Mortal Engines? Our review says yes!

Sunday, December 11, 2016
mortal engines novel review

Review of Mortal Engines, the first novel in the Mortal Engines Quartet

I haven't read a 'Young Adult' novel in many a year, probably not since I discovered Stephen King and Wilbur Smith as a young teenager.

But when I learned that Peter Jackson and Christian Rivers were making a movie about the book Mortal Engines I was intrigued and when it turned out the book was set in a post apocalyptic earth where humans roamed the world in giant mechanical cities that ate each other, I was in.

After all, if Peter Jackson saw merit in it, it had to be a good read.


Let's be frank, I'm a 38 year old Star Wars nerd with high expectations. I don't like to waste my time, if I'm going to invest in something, I need the return.

So let's just say I'm off to find the sequel to this book because it's a great read.

When reading this novel, one has to remember that one is reading it for the story and not the literary skill of King or Smith. It's simply a tightly written tale pitched at young adults.

There's a bit of boy likes girl and girl eventually likes boy which is written just right for the age group but the real tale is the tale of the politics of war and power and greed destroying and displacing families.

Oh and a bit of character self discovery through unexpected moments of heroism.

Following the naive and young Tom Natsworthy, we are introduced to guilds, class determinism and giant mechanical traction cities (London is the main one in this novel) that can travel the land devouring other cities for this resources and human capital. Tom meets fellow young adult Hester Shaw and they strike an unlikely relationship. Her world weary approach to life hardly complements Tom's wild eyed greenness but between then they manage to jump from adventure to adventure wonderfully well.

It feels like some kind of vaguely organized Mad Max realm but instead of V8 Interceptors tearing up sanding roads it is a giant lumbering beast that runs down the sand.

There are many interesting characters and sub plots which help to fill in the plot. The assassin known as Shrike provides an interesting twist on the classic 'bad guy' sent to hunt down the good guys. As I read his parts, I could only imagine him as some kind of Star Trek like Borg soldier programmed to do only one thing. Shrike's tale is somewhat bittersweet and is a nice counter balance to the trauma that Hester Shaw has gone through.

Whereas as Katherine Valentine's plot to determine the true nature of her father Thaddeus Valentine's mission seems to offer little but to serve as an explanatory vehicle just to show how evil both he and the Mayor of London truly are.

We really enjoyed the concept of Municipal Darwinism where the traction cities serve only to catch and consume each other. It adds a touch of inevitability about where the story is headed...

It all ties together nicely, if somewhat predictably at the end. We understand that author Philip Reeve originally intended that his story was for more adult readers and that a lot of the 'politics' was removed and the story aimed at young adults. We can only imagine what could have been - some kind of Dune-esque epic saga?

Mortal Engines has plenty to offer the reader. Reeves has a clearly wonderful imagination and his concise writing style helps to conjure the world of Mortal Engines very easily. It's very easy to see how Peter Jackson thought a good movie could be made from its bones, we expect to add Jackson to add some meat to them and we hope he explores the world of Guilds and class hierarchy even more so than this novel

Our verdict?

Mortal Engines is a fine read for any capable teenage reader and for those more mature Star Wars nerds, there's plenty to like as well. Order it now from Amazon.

Anna Fang quotes from Mortal Engines

Monday, November 28, 2016
jihae as anti traction league anna fang

Anna Fang quotes from the Mortal Engines film

The plot of Anna Fang's character is revealed below....

The badass airship aviator and agent of the Anti-Traction League from the Mortal Engines, Anna Fang proved to quite an awesome character.

She was crucially pivotal in helping Tom and Hester get to where they needed to be in safety on her airship, the Jenny Hanniver.

jenny hanniver airship sketch
The Jenny Hanniver
In the Mortal Engines novel, Anna Fang is an Asian aviator that Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy meet shortly after their 'expulsion' from the city of London.

It quickly transpires she is pretty handy in a tight spot and effectively she saves Tom and Hester from the Shrike when they escape from Airhaven.

Anna Fang leads a successful attack on the pirate town 'Tunbridge Wheels' and sinks it. She then picks up Tom and Hester again and even though they now have learned that she is an Anti-Tractionist, they are still friends with her.

During an attack on the air fleet at the end of the novel she is killed by dastardly Thaddeus Valentine when he stabs her in the neck.

Anna Fang is also the feature character in the short story collection, Night Flights which tells the tale of Anna before she meets Tom and Hester.

Order Night Flights from Book Depository or Amazon.

Anna Fang's Mortal Engine movie quotes

  • "We have to stop London before it destroys us"
  • "Hester! Hurry! Get on!"
  • "Your mother told me she was afraid of Valentine. And if anything was to happen to her, I was to find you. And that you could stop him."
  • "Are you sure you want to do this? She says to Hester."
  • "You look at her and all you see are the jagged edges but she is something quite different. She is beautiful and strange, and very rare."
  • "Trust me, I'm not that subtle"
In Predator's Gold, it was revealed her body had been taken by the splinter group of the Anti-Traction League known as the Green Storm. Scientists were able to give her body a form of sentience, in the same manner as the Shrike, thus continuing the legacy of Ana Fang.

If just for one more show...

Anna Fang is played in the movie by South Korean singer-actress Jihae. You may have noticed her singing in the trailer...

↠ Where can I listen and buy the Mortal Engines' audiobook for free?

Wednesday, November 9, 2016
Cover to Mortal Engines novel

So you want to download the audiobook of Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines?

That's a fine reading choice that you can buy as an online 'ebook' or 'epub' from Amazon for your Kindle.

Maybe you just want to read it as a PDF?

Mortal Engines is a great young adult novel that is actually part of a quartet of books that feature the adventures of Tom Natsworthy and Hester Shaw.

Often referred to as the Predator Cities Quartet, all the books (and the prequel series Fever Crumb)  feature a bit of steampunk and a bit of Mad Max as they are set on an Earth that has suffered great destruction.

Precipitated by the 60 Minute War, the themes are the break down of society's traditional norms and the key concept that every city lives and dies by the notion of Municipal Darwinism.

Philip Reeve has announced to the world that actor Barnaby Edwards has redone the audio for Mortal Engines and that it's now available for download at Audible, Amazon's narrated book service!

You might know Barnday as a Dalek from Doctor Who?

The best news is that if you are a first time user of Audible you can download the novel for free!
Philip Reeve has created a wonderful universe for the reader or listener to explore and he should be rewarded for those efforts, but if you need to try before you buy, you can listen for free online to the first chapter of the book, called The Hunting Ground on Youtube.

At 388 pages, Mortal Engines should be no challenge for a confident young adult reader. But it's not just a 'kids' book'. It has same appeal for adults as they do for the Harry Potter series and so should not be lightly dismissed. We loved it and of course Peter Jackson is making a film of the book after all!

The listening length time time of Mortal Engines is about 8 and a half hours, you can of course read it as quickly or slow as you like.

Download the ebook of Mortal Engines for any device from Amazon today.

If you want to cheat Mr Reeves out of his fair royalties, you could search for it as a free PDF version. That's what Professor Pennyroyal would do...

Barnaby has also recorded the other three sequels and they will be released over time.


What is the Shrike in Mortal Engines?

Monday, November 7, 2016
The Shrike bounty hunter from Mortal Engines.

In the Mortal Engines quartet, 'Shrike' is a ruthless killing machine.

Originally a dead man by the name of Kit Solent, Shrike was re-animated and brought back to life.

You could hardly call it life, as he is more machine than man and programmed to follow his orders.

But does he?

A key part of of the Shrike's journey is discovering his true identity which was lost to him.

As his story progresses he hunts for one of the protagonists of the series (and crucially his adopted daughter), Hester Shaw which requires him to go on a murderous rampage to get to her.

Through a convoluted plot point, Shrike acts as a bounty hunter with a kind of self defense mechanism of not harming children. In the book of Mortal Engines, he is conflicted with his mission given him by Magnus Chrome, the Mayor of London.

The Shrike is ordered to kill Hester and in return, she will be re-animated like himself so they may live together. He however does not want Hester to die, and gives her every chance to live.

The Shrike was originally a man named Kit Solent. His story can be read about in Philip Reeve's prequel novel, Fever Crumb.

In the Mortal Engines movie, Shrike is being played by Steven Lang. Lang is most famous for his role as the General in James Cameron's Avatar. 

What Philip Reeve had to say about the Mortal Engines movie announcement

Sunday, November 6, 2016
mortal engines concept art london

Reeve, Stranger Things fan, said of the announcement on his blog:

“I’m thrilled that Christian, Fran, Philippa and Peter are bringing my book to the screen.”

“They’ve created some of the most memorable imaginary worlds in modern cinema, so I can’t wait to experience their vision of the world of ‘Mortal Engines.’"

We can't either!

A Darkling Plain movie quotes

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Darkling Plain movie quotes

A place holder post in case Christian Rivers actually makes it this far in the Mortal Engines series.

Fun fact, the name of the movie comes from a poem called the Dover Beach.

Infernal Devices movie quotes

Tuesday, November 1, 2016
Infernal Devices movie quotes

List of books written by Mortal Engine's author Philip Reeve

Friday, October 28, 2016

photo of philip reeve author of mortal engines
Philip Reeve, awesome author.

List of books written by Phillip Reeve

Here's a list of Philip Reeve's novels. A popular child's author, he is most noted for his Mortal Engines set of books which are being filmed by the Hobbit himself, Peter Jackson.

Reeve's originally began his career as an illustrator but obviously transitioned to story telling very well!

His stories usually focus on dystopian futures or post apocalyptic Earth scenarios. He also does alternative spins on well known tales such as those of King Arthur.

He has developed quite the extensive bibliography:

Mortal Engines Universe


Mortal Engines Quartet

  •     Mortal Engines (2001)
  •     Predator's Gold (2003)
  •     Infernal Devices (2005)
  •     A Darkling Plain (2006)
  •     Traction City (World Book Day, 2011), a novella

The Mortal Engines series is referred to the "Hungry City Chronicles" in the United States of America. It is also goes by the name, 'Predator Cities'.

Fever Crumb (prequel series)

    Fever Crumb (2009)
    A Web of Air (2010)
    Scrivener's Moon (2011)

Buster Bayliss series

    Night of the Living Veg (2002)
    The Big Freeze (2002)
    Day of the Hamster (2002)
    Custardfinger! (2003)

Larklight trilogy

    Larklight (2006)
    Starcross (2007)
    Mothstorm (2008)

Goblins series

    Goblins (2012)
    Goblins vs Dwarves (2013)
    Goblin Quest (2014)

The Railhead Series

    Railhead (2015)
    Black Light Express (2016)

Other novels

    Isaac Newton and His Apple (1999)
    Horatio Nelson and His Victory (2003)
    Here Lies Arthur (2007)
    No Such Thing As Dragons (2009)
    Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil (2013)

Wing Nut Films to produce Mortal Engines

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Peter Jackson's Wing Nut Films to product Mortal Engines

Kiwi film making legend Peter Jackson has announced that his latest film project is Mortal Engines. If you know that name that’s because it is an adaptation of Philip Reeve's sci-fi/fantasy novel Mortal Engines.

Jackson and his usual gang of Oscar winning writing partners Fran Walsh and Philippa Boyens have taken up the pen for scripting.

Jackson is taking a breaking from directing after the tortuous 3 film run that was The Hobbit so his protege Christian Rivers in the directing chair. Rivers was in line to direct a remake of the Dambusters but that project has been put on the go slow.

Jackson said of his project:

“Our involvement in Mortal Engines actually pre-dates Dambusters (which is still happening) - Christian actually worked on Mortal Engines previs way back in 2009. It’s very exciting to finally get it underway!”

The book series was first optioned to be made into movies by Jackson way back in 2001 and he will be looking to turn it into a massive film franchise.

So what is the Mortal Engines series of novels about?

Mortal Engines is set far off into the future. A post-apocalyptic Earth now features giant robotic or mechanical cities that roam the scorched Earth on huge wheels, devouring each other in a struggle forever diminishing resources. It's nothing like Star Wars its golden robots.

On one of these massive Traction Cities called London, the young Tom Natsworthy has an unexpected encounter with a mysterious girl from the Outlands and the story pans out from there.

The books are often referred to the ‘Predator Cities’ series and feature a steampunk world where merciless barons and mayors roam what is known as the Hunting Ground, preying on smaller towns and converting their raw materials into fuel for their own city-machines. This process is called Municipal Darwinism.

It will be a couple of years before you get to see Mortal Engines on the silver screen and given no release date has been publicly announced, you’ve got plenty of time to read the books.

What is 'London City' in Mortal Engines?

london side view mortal engines

What is 'London' traction city in Mortal Engines?

London is the principal 'Traction City' in the novel 'Mortal Engines'.

While the book is set many hundreds of years in the future, London has returned to a Victorian-era society. Many consider given this structure is mixed with an 'old' state of technology means that London has a 'steam punk' vibe.

London's society is squarely divided into four major and a number of minor guilds.

A healthy eco-system has been established between the guilds and collectively they serve the interests of London but in reality the Lord Mayor, Magnus Chrome sees and uses London as his own personal empire.

The four Guilds of London City

  • The Engineers are responsible for maintaining the machines necessary for the survival of London. 
  • The Historians are in charge of collecting and preserving prized, often dangerous artifacts.
  • The Navigators are responsible for steering and plotting the course of London. 
  • The Merchants are in charge of running London's economy. 


Social Structure

London is built on a series of tiers or levels. This encourages the system of social classes, with the wealthier nobles at the top of the city and the lower classes further down, closer to the noise and pollution of London city's massive engines. 

You could compare this class demarcation to it to the Titanic movie's portrayal of society where the rich folk got to enjoy champagne on the upper decks and the 'travelers' known as steerage class slummed it in the depths of the ship.

I see London

Mortal Engines's author Philip Reeve made many references to historical human things from this world and placed them in his books. In terms of London, at it's highest point rests the famous  St Paul's Cathedral: the only building known to have survived the infamous 'Sixty Minute War'.

London is destroyed at the end of Mortal Engines, along with it, the maniacal Lord Mayor of the City, Magnus Chrome.

Key characters that live on London City (in the books)

  • Tom Natsworthy. The hero of the piece. 
  • Thaddeus Valentine: described as a dashing and handsome Historian often idolised by younger Historians - though his less public image involves murder and thievery as an agent of London while he works for Magnus Chrome. He was killed in the destruction of London by the MEDUSA weapon. In a plot twist revealed in the book, Valentine is in fact Hester's biological father! Played by Australian actor, Hugo Weaving. 
  • Magnus Crome, the megalomaniacal mayor of London. 
  • Katherine Valentine, Thaddeus Valentine's daughter. After uncovering her father's dark secret as an agent that has been seeking out the Medusa, she attempts to stop him, with help through Bevis Pod and the sympathetic members of the Historians guild; however, he accidentally kills her with his sword. Oh the irony. Played in the film by Leila George
  • Bevis Pod, a young apprentice Engineer. He works with Katherine to uncover Valentine's plans and falls in love with her along the way. Played by Ronan Raftery
  • Moira Plym, a plucky member of the Historian's Guild who helps in the fight against the Engineers. 
  • Dr Arkengarth, the curator of ceramics in the Historian's Guild. 
  • Dr. Twix, a researcher in the Guild of Engineers who creates many Stalkers for Magnus Crome and one of the team who studied the rediscovered Shrike.
  • In the prequel novels, the titular character Fever Crumb also eventually resides on London.

Spoiler alert

Spoiler alert

London is destroyed at the end of the Mortal Engines novel. The MEDUSA weapon has been prepared to fire when after being accidentally killed by her father, Katherine Valentine falls onto the controls of the weapon. This causes the device to malfunction and it eventually explodes, killing everybody left on the city. The ending of Mortal Engines is actually pretty dark!

Here's a sketch of London by the author himself, Mr Philip Reeve:

sketch of london traction city by philip reeve

Here is some concept art of London from the movie production that was officially released by Producer Peter Jackson:

london city from mortal engines concept design

London travelling to Batmunkh Gompa!

hester shaw traction city

Mortal Engines Movie Review

This is a place holder review of the Mortal Engines movie. 

Making movies is a risky game. For the studios, it's a numbers game. The successful movies fund and offset the duds.

But no movie is going to get a green light if it's a dud. So at the face of it, a love story set against the back ground of a post apocalyptic Earth where the remaining humans live on giant traction cities that eat other for precious resources in some kind of zero sum game called Municipal Darwinism perhaps does seems like it has dud potential (in they eyes of a risk adverse studio exec anyway).

That is until Peter Jackson steps up to the plate along with his off sides, Fran Walsh and Pippa Boyens. Just a trio from New Zealand that have more Oscars between them than most major Hollywood production teams.

And so, with a bit of American cash and some Kiwi splash, Christian Rivers was unleashed to direct the adaption of Reeve's YA novel.

Nimrod Pennyroyal quotes from Predator's Gold

Nimrod Pennyroyal quotes from Mortal Engines's Predator's Gold

We first meet Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal in the second book of the Predator Cities Quartet. Presenting himself as an author who has traveled to all kinds of strange and far flung places and written of the adventures he had whilst he was there. A bit of an alcoholic, he's a coward and a liar.

But of course the people he meets such as Tom and Hester have no idea he's a fraud and quickly fall pray to his charms.


When the going gets tough, the sensible conceal themselves behind large items of furniture.

Magnus Crome quotes from Mortal Engines

magnus chrome quotes mortal engines

Magnus Crome quotes from the Mortal Engines movie

magnus chrome from mortal engines fan art
The Mayor of London, and a ruthless operator, Magnus Chrome is the face of evil in the novel and movie Mortal Engines

With a desire to conquer the people and resources beyond the Shield Wall, together with Thaddeus Valentine, he conjured a clever plan to build a rebuild a weapon that was used in the 60 Minute War, the Medusa

In carrying out this plan, Hester's mother and family were murdered which led to some pretty heavy repercussions as Hester sought her revenge. 

It was Magnus Chrome that sent The Shrike to assassinate Tom and Hester to ensure no one outside the city of London knew of his plan.

We suspect that the character is being played by actor Patrick Malahide. Malahide is probably most well known for his role in Game of Thrones.

Quotes by Magnus Chrome of Mortal Engines

"We should never have gone to Europe"

Thaddeus Valentine quotes from Mortal Engines

valentine from mortal engines

Thaddeus Valentine quotes from the Mortal Engines film

Thaddeus Valentine is a much-vaunted historian in the Traction City of London and an important character in the first book, Mortal Engines, of the Mortal Engines Quartet. In the movie, he is played by veteran Australian actor Hugo Weaving.

Weaving, of course, has a great working relationship with Peter Jackson having played the Lord of Rivendell Elrond in the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit productions.

Thanks to Weaving's fine portrayal of as Katherine Valentine's father, the character is quite quotable.

Valentine's quotes from the Mortal Engines movie

  • "Hester Shaw, she won't stop until I'm dead" - Valentine "Unless you kill her first - Dr Twix
  • "A man who controls this, controls the world" Valentine
  • "The world is changing"
  • "Nothing can stand in the face of this"
  • "WE are London!"
  • "What happens when you find Hester Shaw? Shrike replies "I will kill her"
  • "In the great game of survival, this is check mate!"
  • "They're playing with fire!"
Design concept of Valentine killing Anna Fang by Peter Yea. He's awesome.

valentine kills anna fang

The best quotes from the Mortal Engines movie

mortal engines cities chase

Quotes from Christian River's Mortal Engines movie

Mortal Engines started as a young adult novel published in the early 1990s. It gained an immediate following as it told its tale of a post apocalyptic Earth where giant metal cities roam wastelands consuming whatever resources they can.

At its heart is a story of lost boy who found love in the strangest of places.

A love that saw him kill people wittingly and unwittingly.

A love that saw him outsmart and outwit some of the most savage people that ever captained a roving city.

A love that made a boy a man.

This is starting to sound like that guy that does the voice overs for movie trailers right?

Well, enter director Christian Rivers and producer Peter Jackson because they turned this book about two star crossed lovers into an epic science fiction movie featuring grotesque undead assassins, sassy agents of the Anti Traction League, traitors and would be heroes on both sides.

Tom. Hester. Magnus. The Valentines. Shrike. Bevis. Fang. Some crazy old guy.

Naturally, spoilers below.

Mortal Engines movie quotes

  • "Hey, watch out!" - Tom Natsworthy's warning shout to Valentine as Hester's about to stab him.
  • "This is for my mother - Hester to Valentine as she stabs him in the gut.
  • "Ask him why he murdered my mother" - Hester to Tom
  • "I'm sorry you had to hear that" - Valentine as he kicks Tom off the platform
  • "60 minutes is all it took to to bring humanity to the very brink of extinction. Mankind mobilized, a new age arose. The age of the great predator cities. Survival of the fastest." - Professor Chudleigh Pomeroy
  • "What is that? - That, is London" - Hester Shaw
  • "Hester Shaw, she won't stop until I'm dead" - Valentine 
  • "Unless you kill her first" - Dr Twix in reply
  • "A man who controls this, controls the world" - Valentine
  • "We have to stop London before it destroys us!" - Anna Fang
  • "In the great game of survival, this is check mate!" - Valentine
  • "This weapon could wipe out the largest city in the blink of an eye!" Tom to Hester speaking of the Medusa.
  • "Run it down!" Magnus Chrome speaking of Salt Hook.
  • "You're a dinosaur.... and I'm a meteorite!" Valentine to Chrome as he murders him. 
  • "We should never have gone to Europe" Chrome
  • "You love him?!" Shrike to Hester"
  • "I release you from your promise" Shrike to Hester as he dies.

↠ Hester Shaw quotes from Mortal Engines

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

hera hilmar mortal engines quotes

Hester Shaw's quotes from the Mortal Engines movie

Hester Shaw is a key protagonist in the Mortal Engines series of novels as directed by Christian Rivers and produced by Peter Jackson.

Forging an unlikely friendship with young Tom Natsworthy, she faces her own mortal danger as her past literally comes back to haunt her. The mother of young daughter Wren, Hester is a fairly tragic character.

  • I was eight years old when my mother died. She loved to travel the world digging up the past
  • He used to visit all the time and then one day everything changed. She found something, something he wanted. He would have killed me if I hadn't escaped.
  • Shut up and run!
  • It's London
  • This is for my mother  (Hester stabs Valentine)
  • Ask him why he murdered my mother!
Young Hester

Older Hester is played by actress Hera Hilmar

Tom Natsworthy quotes from Mortal Engines

Tom Natsworthy quotes

Tom Natsworthy quotes from the Mortal Engines film

Tom Natsworthy is the main character, a fifteen-year-old orphan of the Mortal Engines book and film series. He is a third class apprentice in the Guild of Historians, which frankly means he's supposed to live a boring life.

He witnesses an attempted assassination of Thaddeus Valentine by Hester Shaw which leads to his being cast off from the city of London, where he meets forges a relationship with Hester, at which point his adventure really begins.

Writer Philip Reeve says the inspiration for Tom's name came from a map "I sort of collect interesting sounding words and save them up until I need a name for a character. ‘Natsworthy’ is a place on Dartmoor, just up the road from where I live".

In the Christian Rivers directed film, Tom Natsworthy is played by Rob Sheehan and his opposite Hester Shaw is played by Hera Hilmar.


"Hey, watch out!" Tom Natsworthy's warning shout to Valentine as Hester's about to stab him.

"This weapon could wipe out the largest city in the blink of an eye!"

"Tom Natsworthy: See, I said you'd come back for me.
Hester Shaw: Shut up and run."

"Tom Natsworthy: What are they hunting?
Hester Shaw: Us"
Tom Natsworthy quotes from Mortal Engines

Predator's Gold movie quotes

Friday, October 14, 2016

The best quotes from Predator's Gold, the sequel to Mortal Engines

Hester and Tom found themselves in even more peril and strife thanks to Professor Pennyroyal and the Green Faction!

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