The first line of this book is just… how can you not want to read it? “It was a dark, blustery afternoon in spring, and the city of London was chasing a small mining town across the dried-out bed of the old North Sea.”
I tried not to concentrate too much on how this city-eat-city world would actually work — to what degree the cities were alive or just mechanised, the actual practicalities of Municipal Darwinism, etc. It’s a fun idea, and it’s more fun to just roll with it and enjoy the adventure. It is aimed at younger readers, but there’s a surprising amount of emotional impact here — not to mention some actual gore. People don’t survive, it’s messy, and there are shades of grey — Valentine’s done something despicable, but he loves his daughter, and is inspired by her to maybe change his mind… Hester’s driven by revenge, unpleasant to everyone, but she slowly develops.
I enjoyed it a lot, perhaps especially because it didn’t treat kids like idiots who can’t handle death and destruction. We know they can and do; just turn on the international news, if you’re in doubt. The end is not exactly a happy one, though it is one with hope for a future, and things aren’t neatly tied up. Disasters aren’t averted entirely. It’s also a fun world, and the pacing means it just races past.