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.


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