I did one Underrated Series post before (it was Septimus Heap) and this is essentially another of that kind. The Hungry City Chronicles, the Mortal Engines Quartet or the Predator Cities Quartet is a tetralogy, the four books being:
- Mortal Engines
- Predator’s Gold
- Infernal Devices
- A Darkling Plain
I heard about this series when I read that Peter Jackson was doing the first film. I jumped headlong into the first book then. I do that when I find out that a book is being made into a film. It was good. I mean, really, seriously good. I was intrigued and so I continued on and I wasn’t disappointed.
The books are set 1000 years in the future where after a devastating nuclear war called the Sixty Minute War the world has entered the age of “Tractionism”. Whole cities on wheels.
“It was natural that cities ate towns, just as the towns ate smaller towns, and smaller towns snapped up the miserable static settlements. That was Municipal Darwinism, and it was the way the world had worked for a thousand years, ever since the great engineer Nikolas Quirke had turned London into the first Traction City.”
There are Anti-tractionists, those who oppose such settlements, and live on the ground. The war between Tractionists and Anti-tractionists is the major plot line in all four books.
Fascinating, eh? It was unusual and odd, delightfully weird and also morbid. I’d been looking for a proper way to describe the tone of these books and yesterday while reading a review I came across the perfect description: “the series has one foot rooted firmly in middle-grade while other foot in YA”.
I literally couldn’t have said it better. This is one of the things about these books that baffled and took me by surprise EVERY damn time. One second it was all funny and silly and childish while at the other it was SLASH BOOM KILL. It fluctuates between the two themes so while you have your guard down and think that nothing is going to happen you get sucker punched with something absolutely VICIOUS. This series is dark and it constantly tricks you into thinking that it isn’t.
It’s steampunk. The technology is far less superior to our own and CDs and phones and cars are things of history long forgotten. The steampunk vibe of the books adds more to the uniqueness of the tone.
Hester Shaw and Tom Natsworthy are the two main protagonists of the books. The story stretches for a lengthy period of time, almost fifteen years so while new and young characters come into the fray, the old ones still stay and carry the story forward.
Tom used to be in the Traction city of London, he was an apprentice historian and he loved his job but one day after London eats a small mining town, a scavenger named Hester Shaw comes aboard and tries to kill the most important man in the city. They’re both thrown overboard. They have many adventures together and eventually fall in love. In the first two books they are fifteen, in the next two they are in their early thirties.
Now, I never warmed up to Tom. He was a nice enough person but he was extremely gullible and ignorant and kind of a weakling. My major reason for disliking him stems from a number of his actions regarding Hester. While Hester loved him too much, it seemed, he never loved her enough. Without spoiling anything, there’s one important thing about Hester that contributed to his behavior but I didn’t gave him a leash because of that, cause love is supposed to be beyond everything! You’ll understand better once you read the books.
Hester was ferocious, vicious and stern. There were certain times she was despicable but most of the times I loved her and wanted the best for her. She kicks ass and takes names.
The best thing about this series is that everything comes full circle eventually. Minor things that you ignored in the first book or the second book will pop up eventually and play a very surprising part in the overall plot. It’s neat, is what it is.
I’m not doing it justice with this pitiful essay but it’s something that simply has to be read. It’s a roller-coaster ride of Final Destination proportions. HIGHLY recommended!