Predator’s Gold: a novel by Philip Reeve
Sequel to Mortal Engines. Warning: this review may contain spoilers to the first volume.
Having survived the destruction of London, Tom and Hester have been travelling around the world in their airship, the Jenny Haniver. In the floating trading post of Airhaven they pick up a paying passenger, one Professor Nimrod Pennyroyal, traveller, “historian” and novelist, who Hester distrusts but who Tom worships, being a former apprentice historian himself (of course, for all that Nimrod used to mean “mighty hunter” the 21st-century reader knows better than to expect anything good from a man who has that for a first name). Pennyroyal is obviously on the run from something, but Tom and Hester soon find that they are being hunted themselves: agents of the Green Storm, a fanatical, fascistic offshoot of the Anti-Traction League are after them for what they think they did during the encounter between London and the League in the first book. After a thrilling airship chase that will look wonderful when Miyazaki gets around to adapting this, our heroes land on the city of Anchorage, cruising around on the northern ice. Anchorage was devastated by a plague not long ago, and has only a fraction of the personnel it really needs, and Tom and Pennyroyal are both welcomed, Pennyroyal because he is a celebrity, and Tom because the city’s ruler is immediately infatuated with him. This, of course, causes great stress in Tom and Hester’s relationship, and the problem is only made worse by the fact that the city seems to be haunted. The plot then takes a number of twists, the discussion of which would really spoil things.
The title comes from the reward offered by agents of the big “traction cities”, hunting the smaller ones and offering rewards to those who lead them to prey.
The Beggar Queen by Lloyd Alexander
Alexander concludes the Westmark Trilogy with this story. Under young Queen Augusta, the country is thriving. Her liberal reforms, though they are costing her the chance to marry her love, Theo, are popular with the people, even though not with the nobles. And unfortunately, the nobles of the neighbouring country, Regia, have for some time been harbouring Cabbarus, feared minister under Westmark’s old king and would-be tyrant. With the help of mercenaries and traitors both without and within Westmark, Cabbarus is soon in charge of the country, but his grasp is not secure as long as Theo and Augusta, the beggar queen of the title, once again using her favoured name of Mickle, are at large. Theo intends to see his love restored to the throne but Mickle, while not intending to allow Cabbarus to remain in charge of her country, has plans of her own . . .
Alexander continues to amaze. He doesn’t hit a single false note and actually takes the step, strangely rare in modern writing, of considering whether a monarchy is actually a good idea for a government or not.