Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mortal Engines

Mortal Engines

Philip Reeve
Fiction  Series
For ages 12 and up
Scholastic Press, 2012   ISBN: 978-0545222112

Tom believes that he knows his place in the world, and that his beliefs are the rights ones. For example, he thinks that cities are meant to trundle across the earth, the larger and stronger cities ‘devouring’ the smaller. The smaller and weaker settlements get ripped apart so that their resources can be used by the larger. This is a harsh world that was practically destroyed by "the Ancients" centuries ago when they had a dreadful war that left the earth devastated. So now people in their "traction" cities must scavenge, steal, plunder, and loot. This is Tom’s world and he accepts it.

Then a girl erupts into Tom’s life and everything that he believes is brought into question. Hetty and Tom fall off London, Tom’s home traction city, and are left behind on the wasteland that covers much of Europe. Both of the young people are determined to get back to London as soon as they can. Dreadfully disfigured and full of anger and bitterness, Hetty has a vengeful mission that she must carry out. Tom simply wants to go home. As the two follow in the wake of London they have a series of extraordinary, often terrifying adventures, and they see dreadful and sobering sights. Tom learns a great deal about his world. He discovers that his hero, Thaddeus Valentine, is a murderer, a thief, and a liar. He starts to see his beloved city of London with its many tiers, its caste system, and its voracious appetite for "prey" in a new light. He sees that slavery is common and realises that he lives in a time when the weak can expect to loose the battle for survival. Most important of all perhaps, Tom and Hetty discover that London also has a mission, a mission so dreadful that the city and those who guide it cannot be allowed to reach their goal.

Philip Reeve has created a fictional time in human history that is ruthless and cruel. It can be very medieval in many ways, and it also gives us a sobering look at what life would be like if we truly stopped thinking others and only thought of our own survival in a hostile world. He also gives us a thrilling story, one which leaves the reader breathless, thoughtful, and hungry for more.