4.5 stars out of 5
Sequels are never better than the originals, except this book. And The Empire Strikes Back. Predator’s Gold is like the boxcar of kids’ dreams: cobbled together from clever pieces of machinery, stuffed with a ragtag crew, clanking and whirring toward an epic adventure.
Predator’s Gold is so damned good that I want to read it again right now. Two years after the events of Mortal Engines, we rejoin Tom and Hester. A murderous faction of the Anti-Traction League mistake them as having stolen Ann Fang’s ship, the Jenny Haniver, instead of inheriting it. Ensuing chaos results in them being rescued by the traction city of Anchorage. Aboard the once-grand city is a mere skeleton crew, left behind after a plague killed most of the citizens. This ragtag crew welcomes, befriends, suspects, and even adores Tom and Hester. Their ruler, is a somewhat ditzy teen girl named Freya, with the best-ever madeup royal title: Margravine. She sets her romantic sights on Tom. While haplessly missing all Freya’s clues, Tom does discover one truth: there’s someone – or something – else aboard the city.
The detail makes this story come to life. Anchorage rolls off the page in vivid dilapidation, each character drawn with such detail you almost forget there are so few of them. The Hester-Tom-Freya triangle plays marvelously. Politics and war rage, giving the reader plenty to compare them to in the real work. Good intentions gone diabolically wrong turn Anna Fang from hero into horror. Steampunk gears grind on. But the very, very best part are the Lost Boys.
The Lost Boys are urchin orphans who pilot submarines that latch onto viable cities, to pillage everything they can. Their leader, Uncle, never leaves their underwater city of Grimsby but sees all, and controls all. He’s brilliantly written, the most indelible Fagin since Fagin himself.
The events of Predator’s Gold seem impossibly grand and exciting to fit in such a slim volume. That’s testament to Reeve’s writing – simple but stylish, not a word wasted. It’s whiz-bang storytelling; a perfect yarn. Our favorite characters carry on, new favorites are introduced, old favorites change, surprise, and even die. An excellent steampunk sci-fi story, told with equal skill. Read these books!