Philip Reeve,
Predator's Gold
(HarperCollins, 2003)

Philip Reeve didn't have to do much to make Predator's Gold a fantastic read. His sequel to Mortal Engines shares the world of The Hungry City Chronicles, where ice covers much of the globe, air travel has become routine and cities are the living, moving, devouring apex predators of their own urban ecosystem. Here, the cities are predators, prey and even parasites. The sheer excitement of moving through this strange new land would be enough to distract most readers from any number of plot holes and cast shadows of depth from even the thinnest characters.

But this darkly brilliant world is only a setting for an adventure that puts summer blockbusters to shame, and characters more solid than many people walking the street of the current world. Hester Shaw, a disfigured teenage pilot, swings adroitly between choices that would send most mythical heroines into a faint. Her boyfriend Tom moves though the same dark world without either embracing Hester's darkness or descending into shallow naivete. City-ruling Frey Rasmussen and the Dickensian orphan thief Caul occupy the farthest edges of their world's social spectrum, and begin their journeys with the most stereotypical behaviors that could be expected of them. But with graceful, almost invisible changes, Reeve manages to transform them both to the point that their eventual alliance feels perfectly natural. Together, the four of them must save the small city of Anchorage from pirates, predator cities and the dangers of the ice as it makes its way towards the mythical green lands of the lost continent, America.

Predator's Gold may be a sequel, but like the city of Anchorage, it stands proud on its own. Here there be monsters, and pirates, and heroes, and military coups, and ominous new stories waiting to be born. But for all the story's complexity, Predator's Gold dispenses with its necessary history with only an occasional paragraph of exposition. The history given is enough to support the story, and no more. Full of wonder but never crowded, the land of the hungry city is an inviting destination for any adventurous spirit.

by Sarah Meador
11 March 2006

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