Another year, another Mortal Engines prequel. The previous two, Fever Crumb and A Web of Air were OK. They were really quite good when compared to most books out there for teens. The problem was that they just couldn't live up to the pure brilliance, and I say that with conviction, of the original Mortal Engines quartet.
Scrivener's Moon is, without doubt, the strongest prequel yet. It is brilliant. Grander, darker, with more scope, it brings the series back to its roots of long voyages, big showdowns and, of course, hulking great traction cities. The gritty, dirty, noisey cities trapesing across dusty wastelands, heroic battles, and journeys to far off lands, these are the things that made the original books something special, it's what made them great, and it's what makes this new book almost equal to them. Almost.
That's not to say that there weren't flaws, but in truth they were fairly minimal. A few silly jokes made me grimace - mainly place names like Hamster's Heath and Hamsterdam, which felt overly childish - but there were a couple, mostly aimed at older readers, that did make me smile, Mott & Hoople Orphanage being one of note. There was also a little teen angst that I hadn't noticed in the other books, such as Fever, our heroin, getting a little confused with her sexuality and resigning herself to admiring from afar. It didn't bother me much though, and I'm starting to think I'm just nit-picking for the sake of it.
There are some great new editions character wise. Cluny, a headstrong warrior princess afflicted by visions of a terrible future, is likeable and realistic, whilst the strange, seemingly heartless Charley is a great villain - one that you can never quite understand, yet in a weird way feel sorry for. There is also a new race of people, the cave-dwelling Nightwights. These strange, terrifying creatures may hold a key to Fever's own past.
All in all Scrivener's Moon is the Mortal Engines series back on form. It was great to learn more about the history of their world and I thoroughly look forward to returning in the near future.
Thank you, Philip Reeve.