The second Hungry Cities book is the same sort of fun as the first, albeit with those dark moments of violence and horror (like horrible deaths, or people being unpleasant). It still follows Hester and Tom, but they’ve grown up a bit, and they have a place in the world as aviators. That is, until Pennyroyal comes aboard and spoils everything.
Realistic, and sad, is the portrayal of Hester being so afraid to lose Tom. She doesn’t believe anyone else will see past her scarred face to who she really is, and indeed, she’s not even that sure that who she really is is a person worthy of love. It does lead to some fairly horrible behaviour on her part, which though it makes sense with her characterisation, makes her difficult to sympathise with. After all, the appeal of Tom is that he believes that life should be fair, and Hester… really doesn’t hold with that.
Freya as a character is… I can understand her, but I don’t like her. The way she behaves for most of the book is just awful, and you can completely understand why Hester doesn’t like her — and you can’t really understand why anyone else does.
Overall, it’s a fun book and it expands the world, opening up obvious lines for future plots and filling in things round the edges. It’s just… slightly less fun because instead of moving toward a lighter characterisation for Hester, as Mortal Engines does, it kind of goes the other way and makes her less likeable again.