Predator’s Gold, by Philip Reeve, is the second instalment in the author’s quartet of novels focusing on a futuristic, steampunk version of our world. Aimed at young adults, the story is set in a post apocalyptic Earth, ravaged by a Sixty-Minute War which caused massive geological upheaval. I review the first in the series, Mortal Engines, here.
Two years after their escape from the Medusa disaster, Tom and Hester are travelling the Bird Roads in their airship, the Jenny Haniver, ferrying cargo between remote cities. Whilst on a stop at an airborne trading post they are offered a substantial fee for transporting a passenger, a task they would not normally undertake. The journey turns troubling when they are pursued by a recently formed band of radical Anti-Tractionists, the Green Storm, who wish to reclaim the Jenny Haniver. It had belonged to one of their most revered members who is now dead.
The subsequent dogfight damages the airship forcing our trio to put down on Anchorage, a peaceful traction city that has been ravaged by plague. Its ruling Magravine, a teenager named Freya, is still finding her way as leader following the deaths of her parents. Bound by tradition she is reluctant to mix with the visiting ‘tramp avaiators’, but when she discovers that their passenger is the renowned author and historian, Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal, she grants them an audience.
Freya is immediately drawn to the handsome Tom. When he mentions that he trained as an historian on his home city of London she offers him a job at her personal museum. Tom is tempted, and Hester is incensed. Her disfigurment has sapped her self-confidence, but she will not give up her beloved without attempting to reclaim his affections.
Unbeknownst to all aboard, Anchorage is playing host to other visitors. Hidden within the bowels of the city are a team of Lost Boys, and their spy cameras enable them to watch everyone.
In the world of Municiple Darwinism, where resources are uncreasingly scarce, loyalty is a luxury few possess. Anchorage is at risk from bigger cities who covet its innovative propulsion system. The Green Storm are intent on acquiring the Jenny Haniver. And for reasons few comprehend, a price has been put on Hester and Tom’s heads. When Hester’s jealousy mars her judgement, and the truth about Pennyroyal is revealed, personal interests clash leading to powerful forces being unleashed.
This is an action adventure story set in a wondrously imaginative world. The author pokes fun at contempoary elements and our attitude to history whilst offering battles reminiscent of Robot Wars but on a huge scale. Characters are believably fallible with their ingrained prejudices and blinkered fight for self-preservation. The damage and death count may be high, but this remains a rollicking read.
This book is the first sequel to Mortal Engines, a marvellous book released a couple of years ago. It starts a few years later, with Tom and Hester in their late teens in the middle of a future where civilisation has destroyed itself and been rebuilt in the form of Municipal Darwinism - Traction Towns able to move, which devour each other when they get the chance.
In the last book Tom and Hester desperately tried to prevent people using one of the weapons that destroyed 'The Ancients' the first time around. The second book focuses on their involvement with a town and its people.
After a run in with the Green Storm - a splinter group of the anti-traction league - Tom, Hester and their passenger Prof Pennyroyal land on Anchorage, a town accustomed to roaming the frozen north, and recently hit by a catastrophic plague. The Margravine (mayoress) has decided to take her town to the supposedly dead continent of America, believing rumours that there may well be a chance of survival there.
Needless to say there are plenty of adventures in this book, including the 'Predator's Gold' of the title. This is actually a bounty paid by the city of Arkangel for the co-ordinates of smaller towns and cities for it to eat. There's also a nicely inventive subplot which starts with things mysteriously disappearing.
This is a great book. The plot doesn't quite match Mortal Engines for tension, and the supporting characters don't seize the imagination in the same way that Valentine et al did the first time round, but this is still a book full of marvellous ideas. It could stand alone, but the reader would lose some of the depth.
This book is a worthy sequel to the wonderful Mortal Engines and I would recommend any young reader who has not read Mr Reeve's previous novel, to do so first; a familiarity with the characters will deepen your enjoyment of this story. As before, the imaginary futuristic world created for us is incredible, impossible, yet strangely believable. However, I feel the most fascinating aspect of the book is its characters. What I really like about practically all the characters is that they are never stereotypically good or bad. Like real people, they are multi-faceted - never "picture perfect" or "beautiful people". Seemingly good guys may have shocking flaws in their character and show lapses of judgement; apparently bad individuals may surprise us with redeeming features or perhaps when we learn their true motives or past history, we no longer view them in the same light. This insightful portrayal of characters is a valuable and thought-provoking idea for the younger reader to ponder. In real life, first impressions are frequently wrong. Good people aren't always entirely good; bad people aren't always thoroughly bad. The plot grips to the very end. A thoroughly enjoyable read! However, I miss Valentine, the evil yet charming villain from the first book. His feeble replacement lacks his charisma!
I read Mortal engines a good two years ago and loved it to pieces the ideas were original and all on a stunningly epic scale. To be picky the characters suffered a little, dwarfed by the imensity of their surroundings they often felt like little gears; just there to push the plot onwards. Predators Gold is a marvelous sequel but it to doesn't pay quite enough attention to characterisation, true Hester (one of the major characters) does exspress some true insight but Tom our lead man suffers from a frustrating degree of shalowness. In comparrison Predator's Gold is a far better book: the characters are more realised but the main attraction to Reeve's creation has and always will be the grand ideas not the little people in the background.
After resding and enjoying Philip Reeves' debut novel, the brilliant Mortal Engines, I was over the moon when I found that there was a sequel, but was slightly weary about being disappointed as it had so much to live up to. Thankfully Predators Gold is just as good and possibly even better, it's fantastical, clever and superbly written. Philip Reeves' narration and storytelling are wonderful and sometimes even quite moving. The story starts with the two heroes from Mortal Engines, the brave and well mannered Lodon boy Tom Natsworthy and his fierce and hideously deformed friend Hester Shaw. Trouble starts when they pick up a tricky passenger by the name of Professor Pennyroyal, a respectable author who claims to have founded America. Things go from bad to worse as the ship (The Jenny Haniver) is shot at and is severely damaged. The crew, Hester, Tom and Pennyroyal escape on to a ruination of a city covered in ice and there they met the beautiful queen Frea. I won't tel you anymore because I don't want to spoil it! I will tell you that it includes betrayal, old enemies, kidnap, rescue, menacing machines, crooked gangs and some startling revelations. Predators Gold is a great book!
Having escaped London shortly before it exploded, Hester and Tom have been excelling in the freedom of normality. They spend their days flying the bird routes, carrying passengers and cargo between cities and falling ever more in love. They are approached by the eminent `historian' Professor Penneyroyal to carry him to Brighton but when the Jenny Haniver is attacked by a group calling themselves the Green Storm, they are soon drawn into another adventure, one that will put both their courage and their relationship to the ultimate test.
Forced to make an emergency landing on the last American City of Anchorage as she ploughs her way across the Ice Wastes of Greenland they find themselves aboard a once grand city ravaged by plague and led by Freya, a sixteen year old girl who doesn't even know how to dress herself. There are less than fifty people left, but the arrival of Professor Penneyroyal seems the answer to Freya's prayers - as author of the bestselling book America the Beautiful there can be no better man to navigate them back to what was once America, the Dead Continent and the green planes that await them there. But as they navigate a course across the thinning ice there are questions which no-one seems to be able to answer: did Penneyroyal really do all the things he claims in his books? With Tom happily back aboard a Traction City and Freya developing a fancy for him, can Hester and Tom withstand the pressures being placed upon their relationship? Can Anchorage survive the journey to America without being eaten by the vast hulk of Archangel who will pay handsomely to anyone willing to take Predator's Gold in exchange for information on the location of smaller cities it can eat? And with the Green Storm gaining strength and influence within the Anti-Traction League is it only a matter of time before they declare all out war on the very existence of the Traction Cities.
Predator's Gold is the rip-roaringly exciting second title in Philip Reeve's award winning Mortal Engines quartet. With its rapidly unfolding plot and superb characterisation it carries the reader on a fast-paced and varied journey into the heart of the Traction City world, where no-one is ever quite who they seem to be. Hester and Tom are fabulous characters and here they are joined by a vast array of great creations such as the hapless Freya and Caul, a Lost Boy who spends his time robbing bigger cities in service of a man known only as Uncle.
If anything, Predator's Gold is even better than Mortal Engines. Its plot is faster, the background even more developed and in Hester and Tom the world of children's literature has found two really wonderful characters. As they visit new cities their world grows deeper and ever more complex and the unexpected usually lurks just around the next corner. Philip Reeve has created a terrific world which will carry you along with the story just as if you were aboard a Traction City yourself.
Fans of the wonderous Mortal Engines will not feel let down by this stunning sequel. OK - I bought it for my 12 year old son, but I have fiendishly hogged it, not letting him know that it was even in the house until I had finished it. It's exciting, pacey, engrossing - just like its predecessor. An instant children's classic.
Set 6 months after MORTAL ENGINES, Tom and Hester have set up an air trading business on the Jenny Hanniver. On a visit to the Traction City of Arkangel, they pick up the historian Professor Pennyroyal and agree to take him to Brighton but are attacked en route by the Green Storm, a group of ultra-extremist Anti-Tractionists dedicated to the total destruction of the Traction Cities. With their airship severely damaged, they land in Anchorage, a once-great city that's been wracked by plague and is ruled by the spoilt but beautiful teenage Margravine Freya Rasmussen.
The residents of Anchorage tell stories of ghosts in the underbelly of the city and things are going missing from the houses and the palace and Freya takes the decision to move the city to the lost continent of America, where Pennyroyal has written of green areas surviving the Sixty Minute War. As an increasingly insecure Hester watches Tom and Freya draw closer together, Anchorage is sought by both the Green Storm and the city of Arkangel and Hester is driven to a desperate act that threatens everyone.
Reeves goes deeper into the emotional complexity of Hester in this book and in particular, her love for Tom, which is all consuming, not least because she believes it offers her a chance of redemption and her reaction to the threat posed by the selfish and naive Freya is a human one. Tom, by contrast, retains his naivety and if his attraction to Freya is dealt with a little too cursorily and his sudden irritation with Hester heart breaking, the desperation that drives his actions through the second half of the novel is all too believable.
The bitter Saytha returns, having resurrected Anna Fang into the Stalker Fang who she believes can lead all the Anti-Tractionists to victory against the cities. New characters are also introduced, notably the Lost Boys, burglars from the watery city of Grimsby who attach themselves to cities and use their spider cams to find things to steal. However Reeves loses none of his ruthlessness and his death count remains high, particularly towards the end when Hester's desperation brings bloody consequences.
The pace remains incredibly fast and the action unrelenting. It's a thoroughly enjoyable read from start to finish and I can't wait to read the next in this series.