This is a book that has lurked on the edges of my “I should add this to my TBR pile” mental list but somehow never made it on. I saw the trailer for the upcoming film version of it and knew it was something that my kid and I would both like, so I took the plunge.
In terms of world building, it’s a unique one in the vast landscape of dystopian, steampunk, young adult fare. Hundreds of years in the future, we have somehow ruined our planet in a cataclysmic war, and now cities are mobile and will travel. Imagine an entire metropolitan city shoved into a hotel on wheels. Larger cities consume smaller cities or suburbs in an increasingly competitive and desperate grab for dwindling resources. One of the more successful cities practicing this “Municipal Darwinism” is London. Led by a mayor and broken up into ruling guilds with specializations in things like engineering and history, the city chases down its prey, gobbling up other cities’ resources and enslaving or killing the inhabitants.
London is turned upside down when a young woman, Hester Shaw, attempts to kill a beloved and revered Historian, Valentine. This assassination attempt throws Hester together with a historian apprentice, Tom, in an unlikely partnership that reveals to Tom that his city and the “heroes” that inhabit it are anything but heroic. Katherine, Valentine’s daughter, comes to similar conclusions while digging into her Father’s past. It’s a cautionary tale about the dangers of ignoring the value of history and a chilling look at unhinged and misguided leadership.
My only criticism is that Reeve really leans heavily into this world without a lot of proper explanation. There are so many unique naming conventions and social and cultural practices dropped rapidly into the story that there is little time for the reader to really ease into it. It wasn’t intellectually challenging, but the volume of it bogged me down a bit and I found that I would have to go back and re read paragraphs. All of the nuances of the world are thrown at the reader lightening fast, driven by a plot that is constantly moving from crisis to crisis. I generally find that the vast majority of books could use more editing to pare them down, but in this case, it might have been better to take time to fully explain things. This is the first book in a series and I’m not sure if I will continue with it but it will be interesting if, now that I have experience with Reeve’s world, it will be a little easier to sink into the next book.