Predator’s Gold is the second book in Philip Reeve’s Hungry City Chronicles, following Mortal Engines where we were first introduced to a world in which great traction cities stalk the land, preying on smaller or weaker cities.
We catch up with Hester and Tom two years after the MEDUSA blast that destroyed Tom’s home city of London. Having taken the airship The Jenny Haniver as their own following the death of its badass previous owner, they’ve since eked out a life trading and travelling the skies. That is, until they come across the great ice city, Anchorage, out on the edges of the far north.
Finding it decimated by plague but still steadfastly trying to keep to its old traditions, their arrival alongside that of celebrity explorer Professor Pennyroyal is taken as a sign that it’s time for Anchorage to attempt a bold new future. Its teenage ruler, Freya, has read much of the Professor’s work and, with his fantastical tales ringing in her ears, steers the city towards the lost land of America in the hopes of a peaceful, predator-free life. But Anchorage is carrying a parasite in the form of a small band of Lost Boys, who are robbing its occupants and its fuel tanks blind, and Professor Pennyroyal’s tales have the whiff of bullshit about them. To make matters worse, Hester finds that Freya is a rival for Tom’s affections, with jealousy and betrayal soon rearing their ugly heads and threatening the lives of everyone aboard the city.
Building upon the world and relationships introduced in the first book, Predator’s Gold is more melancholic than its predecessor, as we find that high-minded ideals can often fall away in the face of bitter realities and that love can sometimes deliver far more pain than pleasure. I really bought into this part of the story, often finding myself reading with a lump in my throat as Hester struggled with the knowledge that she had been so easily supplanted in Tom’s affections. Back in the wider world, I enjoyed the new characters introduced – particularly our band of thieving Lost Boys – and the addition of The Green Storm, an extremist faction borne out of the Anti-Traction League whose mission to destroy the system of municipal Darwinism has upped the stakes in terms of where the story could go from here. It won’t be long before I’m back to find out.