Mortal Engines -Who Would Have Thought of Municipal Darwinism?

Book Review : Mortal Engines
The Hungry City Chronicles
By Philip Reeve

Spoiler Alert!



“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.”

The great traction city London has been skulking in the hills to avoid the bigger, faster, hungrier cities loose in the Great Hunting Ground. But now, the sinister plans of Lord Mayor Mangus Crome can finally unfold.

Thaddeus Valentine, London’s Head Historian and adored famous archaeologist, and his lovely daughter, Katherine, are down in The Gut when the young assassin with the black scarf strikes toward his heart, saved by the quick intervention of Tom, a lowly third-class apprentice. Racing after the fleeing girl, Tom suddenly glimpses her hideous face: scarred from forehead to jaw, nose a smashed stump, a single eye glaring back at him. “Look at what your Valentine did to me!” she screams. “Ask him! Ask him what he did to Hester Shaw!” And with that she jumps down the waste chute to her death. Minutes later Tom finds himself tumbling down the same chute and stranded in the Out-Country, a sea of mud scored by the huge caterpillar tracks of cities like the one now steaming off over the horizon.

In a stunning literary debut, Philip Reeve has created a painful dangerous unforgettable adventure story of surprises, set in a dark and utterly original world fueled by Municipal Darwinism — and betrayal. (Courtesy of

Adult Point of View

Definitely suspend your disbelief prior to reading this one. Many cities are on wheels and run around the land trying to devour other cities, after all it is a town eat town world.

Reeve makes a few unconventional choices. One of the romantic leads is horribly disfigured from nearly being murdered. It’s hard to keep the picture of her in my mind for this reason, though occasionally we are reminded of Hester’s scars. I thought this was a good choice to open dialogue over our prejudices of those not like us. The tone was also an interesting choice. At times I felt like the writing was light and fun because of the cheeky humor, but it is actually quite dark considering the deaths (some fairly main characters) and how Hester is maimed. The tone changed my perspective on the potential audience to needing to be a little older. I thought the dichotomy in tone was a poor choice and I would have preferred it to stay lighter. Though the setting is in the future much of the clothing and mannerisms would be Victorian. Ahh, steampunk where anything goes.

One of the funniest moments was when the museum had an exhibit of a large plastic Mickey Mouse and Pluto, which were gods of the 20th Century.

I didn’t love it, I didn’t hate it. I like clever books and it was clever, but even I had a hard time swallowing cities eating cities. Larklight was also by Philip Reeve and is much lighter.

3 out of 5 stars
3 star

  • the Mother

If you liked this one you might like Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans if you want something for a junior high audience. For an older audience I always recommend Brandon Sanderson, one of his lightest is The Rithmatist.

About Tales Untangled

I am a mother of four children and have a passion for reading. I love sharing my treasury of books with my kids. I also do experiments in cooking which includes such things as Indian Tandoori Chicken slow-cooked in a tagine. I write stories and illustrate in ink.
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