'The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines' brings Philip Reeve’s futuristic steampunk universe to life [Book Review]

'The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines' brings Philip Reeve’s futuristic steampunk universe to life [Book Review]

The movie adaptation of Mortal Engines may have been a flop, but these illustration do justice to the Traction Cities described in the books

Content Creator
John Millen used to teach English and French in a secondary school in the UK. He believes telling others about a good book is a brilliant thing to do.

The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines
By Philip Reeve & Jeremy Levett
Published by Scholastic
ISBN 978 1 407186 78 8

Some fictional worlds are just too large to be contained within the pages of a novel. Even if authors like Philip Pullman, J. K. Rowling and Philip Reeve are expert at building their imaginary worlds in words, readers will always want to know more about the places and characters.

Sometimes the cinema steps in to expand the details, but this can bring disastrous results (The Golden Compass, Pullman fans are talking to you). And despite involvement from Lord of the Rings’ Peter Jackson, last year’s Mortal Engines was a flop.

Luckily there’s help at hand.

The film adaptation of YA novel Mortal Engines is as visually-stunning as Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings; but the plot leaves you wanting more [Movie Review]

There aren’t opening sentences as arresting as that in the book on which the film was based. Philip Reeve starts his first chapter: “It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the old dried-out bed of the North Sea”. Readers are transported slap-bang into Reeve’s brilliantly imagined Traction Era, where mobile cities fight for survival in a steampunk, post-apocalyptic future. Giant motorised cities roam the globe seeking out weaker cities to devour.

But how did our world end up like this? What terrible events led to the downfall of civilisation, and the rise of the all-powerful Traction City?

The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines is the definitive guide to the critically acclaimed world that Reeve has created across 15 years and eight books. The Traction Era is up there with Rowling’s Wizarding World, Tolkien’s Middle Earth and Lewis’ Narnia as a vast alternative world that knows no imaginative boundaries. The book takes us deep into one of the most intriguing fictional scenarios ever created.

Kate Saunders' The Land of Neverendings is a moving story about the healing power of imagination [Book Review]

And it is a book not only for existing Reeve fans eager for more information about the books’ setting, but also serves as a lavishly illustrated introduction for novices to all things Mortal Engines.

Now, for the first time, we learn the untold future and history of Traction. How and why did it happen? We can devour incredible tales of fearsome Zagwan warriors riding war-zebras into battle, daring air-traders flying the Bird-Roads in search of adventure, and the mysterious plague-ridden wasteland of the Dead Continent that was formerly known as “North America”. (Yes, meditate on that one for a little while.)

The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines contains detailed maps, fascinating character profiles, and stunning colour illustrations from incredible artists that perfectly capture Reeve’s steampunk world.

It is a stunning companion piece to one of the most imaginative worlds ever created for YA readers – and a welcome addition to bookshelves after the disappointment of the movie adaptation.

John Millen can be contacted on millenbookshelf@gmail.com

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