The Mortal Engines is the first book in a quartet by Philip Reeve set in a town-eat-town world in a dystopian society where towns float around the sky to avoid natural disasters on the Earth. These flying towns are formed in a tiered-cake structure, with the upper classes at the top tiers, and the poor at the bottom, closer to the engines. The towns can only keep running if they strip other towns of their engines etc, and we pay particular attention to London, one of the bigger towns in the sky.
In London, technology has reverted to the levels of sophistication we saw in the Victorian age, though it is renowned for being the only town with any pre-war architecture left (St Paul’s Cathedral marks the top of the town). In London there are four Guilds which keep society running: the guild of engineers, the guild of historians, the guild of navigators and the guild of merchants.
Our story starts with an apprentice historian named Tom who witnesses an attempted assassination on his hero, Head Historian of the town, Thaddeus Valentine. He chases the assassin through the city until she gets to a chute out into the Out Country. He is pushed down the chute after her and finds himself in a foreign land in a situation where he has to befriend the assassin in order to secure his survival. The assassin’s name is Hester, who stands out for a disfiguring scar across her face.
Whilst Tom is attempting survival in the Out Country, Valentine’s daughter Katherine makes friends with an apprentice engineer named Beavis, in an attempt to find out why her father was the target of Hester’s attack. Eventually they discover that Thaddeus Valentine and London’s Mayor are part of a top secret plot to find pre-war technology that will allow them to create a weapon of total mass destruction!
How will these four characters manage to come together to save their city and ensure the safety of the world? Will Tom ever make it out of the Out Country? Is the Out Country as dangerous as they’re told it is in the Towns? And how did Hester get her scar on her face? These are all questions you are sure to find out when you read this exciting, steampunk, science fiction, adventure of a book. And once you’ve devoured this one, there’s another three to keep you occupied afterwards! Fantastic reading!