Book report: Predator’s Gold (Philip Reeve)

The second of the Mortal Engines Quartet, Predator’s Gold is a good continuation of Tom and Hester’s adventures, and is as much of a romping good read as the first one (Mortal Engines).

Set in a time where familiar cities have mobilised on huge platforms and chase one another down to enslave citizens and steal the resources of other cities, this is a perfectly realised, steampunk future epic aimed at the tens-and-teens. The Kindle edition, released in June this year, is error-free, presumably because the physical books are fairly large print (I know nothing of Amazon’s OCR process, can you tell?).

Reeve’s books are short, high-octane, and massively enjoyable. His characters are as accessible as Pratchett’s – in fact you could step a Reeve character straight into a Pratchett novel – or vice versa – without noticing the join. There are frequent elements of caricature (and a star turn from Fagin), but his books contain a darkness more akin to Pullman than Pratchett: he isn’t shy about addressing cruelty or human frailty, and he isn’t afraid to kill central characters off, which I find refreshing.

I make comparisons because they are there to be made, but one thing I should say is that aside from those traits, Reeve is a beautiful writer. He comes out with sentences and descriptions which are so perfectly executed, they made me put the book down and take a moment, quite a few times.

Some of his female characters in this book suffer from being a bit too sweet or evil, and one dimensional. This is redeemed in part by the fact that several of his lead characters are female (Hester, of course), but while central male characters bond with female characters and with one another, in Predator’s Gold, Reeve slides back to our cultural norm by having isolated female characters who interact negatively with other female characters. Pull yer socks up, Reeve! You did so well in Mortal Engines.

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