There must come a point in a sequence of books when the author hits the wall. When you add to that the problems caused by writing prequels (in which the outcome is known if you have already read the original books), a degree of sagginess is bound to set in. That is the case with this, Reeve’s second prequel to his Mortal Engines books.
Having said that, it is still an inventive book. The ideas are there. The setting, the working out of the ideas… but the characters feel flat and the developing relationship between Fever Crumb and Arlo feels contrived. We are given no motivation for what happens between them (or perhaps I just missed it). And the same is true for the ending of the book, which felt like being served a slice of yesterday’s stale cheesecake after having eaten a slice of cold pizza.
Reeve starts from a high level, so this is not a disaster of a book. Mayda is certainly an intriguing, if wasted, setting; and we can but hope we return and explore the city in greater depth. Let’s just hope, if he does, the cardboard cut-out stand-ins are replaced with real characters.
Read it. Enjoy it (once it gets going). But don’t expect too much of it.