Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

Mortal Engines by Philip ReeveI read this book only because my library hasn’t got many steampunk books. In fact, very, very few. This book from 2001 I picked up from the 12+ section. That fact alone pointed towards young adult, and while I don’t mind young adult books, I would prefer to read fewer of them, not more.

But still, I borrowed it, so I had something to read for the Steampunk Challenge, and mentioned the book in my Monday post. Rikki suggested that the book was for 7-10 year olds. I was worried.

Upon reading it, I found that it was definitely a 14- book. Something like 11-14. No more, definitely not for older kids. I mean, they can read it, but it’s not written for them, I think.

Mortal Engines: What it’s about

This story is the first of a series, I believe a six-part. We are introduced to a world about 3,000 years from now. It’s still Earth, but not as we know it, of course. In this world, cities have been placed on wheels and they move around.

After the “Sixty-Minute War”, a nuclear war that caused lots of geological activity, cities found it safer to be able to move away from unstable areas. A principle called “municipal Darwinism” states that to survive, cities have to move around conquering other cities and live off them.

Tom (15) is a history apprentice in London. He is present when the head of the History Guild, Valentine, whom Tom really looks up to, chases a girl with a deformed face and she falls through a chute onto the bare earth (where most people have never been and will avoid ever going). When Tom wants to tell professor Valentine about her, the professor pushes Tom so he also falls through the chute.

The rest of the story is about Tom and the girl, Hester, trying to get back to London. They travel some of the time on the ground, but manage to get some lifts in airships. Meanwhile, they find out things about Valentine and how he may not be the hero that Tom thinks he is.

London is approaching an Asian conglomeration of cities and will aggressively try to destroy them. Tom and Hester need to get back to London to stop this.

Mortal Engines: What I thought

I like post-apocalyptic stories, especially dystopia, which this book probably not quite is, but this book was definitely too simple for me.

It was simple in writing: clearly directed to the younger reader. But it was also simple in story line. Nothing much really happened and there were no sub-plots (although there was a second story line about two teenagers in London who also start to discover the real character of Valentine).

Also, the reason I like dystopian fiction, is that the author often makes up an entire world full of interesting elements. In this book, that was rather limited. There were the steampunk-ish elements, such as moving cities and airships with balloons, but otherwise, things were not very much different from how we know it.

So yes, I was disappointed with this book. Other than this book I have only read Soulless and I haven’t really got enough exposure to steampunk to know whether I will like other books in this genre. I won’t know unless I buy them, which I’m not likely to do because I don’t know that I will like them. A catch-22, that is.

Rating: 3/5

I got this book: from the library as I wanted to read it for the Steampunk challenge

I read this in: Dutch, the original language is English.


About Leeswammes
I'm owner and editor at In my free time, I read and review books on my two blogs, Leeswammes' Blog and De Boekblogger.

6 Responses to Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve

  1. Alex says:

    I’ve also decided to join the Steampunk challenge (actually I found out about it through you!). Have you read Leviathan and Behemot? YA and good fun. I’ll post my review hopefully still today.

    • leeswammes says:

      How nice you also joined the steampunk challenge, Alex. No, I don’t know Leviathan/Behemot. I can’t get them from the library and I don’t think I want to buy them, but I’m trying via bookmooch.

  2. Tes says:

    This sounds like an interesting story. I like futuristic books 🙂

  3. Iris says:

    I think I actually saw a steampunk book being offered on Netgalley the other day. I did not request it, but I did think of the challenge. Kind of stupid that I did not note the title down, isn’t it?

    • leeswammes says:

      Well, you can’t remember all books that might be interesting to other people. Actually, I haven’t used Netgalley yet because I don’t have an e-reader. I read e-books on my iPod but only when I’m out and about so it doesn’t go very fast.

      But I could put it in my iPod library and read it when I do get around to it. If you do happen to come across it, do let me know.

      For now, I’m hoping I’m going to come across some steampunk on bookmooch. I’ve got several on my wishlist.

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