Review: Night Flights

“The Jenny Haniver was surfing on the edge of night as it swept Westward across the Great Hunting Ground.” ~Philip Reeve, Night Flights

Night Flights by Philip Reeve
185 pages
Published by Scholastic, 2018
Genre: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Re-readability: This fast and fun short story trilogy fits neatly before the events of the Mortal Engines quartet—I will be rereading this one along with the rest of the series!
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed by Pete

Spoiler-free review

With the film adaptation of Mortal Engines due in December, Philip Reeve has released a short story collection focusing on Anna Fang, one of the original series’ most fascinating characters. The book is illustrated by Ian McQue, who is the artist behind the fantastic covers of the latest printing of the series.

I’m always wary of prequels. I can never shake the feeling that knowing where things are headed takes something out of the experience. In this case, however, Philip Reeve chose a great subject: a character who is both complex and likeable while also being largely unexplored in the original series.

Anna Fang, during the Mortal Engines books, is a notorious terrorist known for destroying “traction cities”—mobile cities that survive by eating smaller cities. She’s not a character I always aligned with morally, but she is wise and powerful and clearly has a lot of adventures behind her.

Night Flights confirmed that Reeve has always had Anna Fang’s history in his head. The stories cover events hinted at  in the original series and feature a handful of characters in their younger years—many of whom are easy to miss if you’re reading quickly.

“Frozen Heart” shows us a young and frightened Anna, enslaved by a predator city. She is befriended by Stilton Kael, better known as the legendary thief Uncle, and makes her escape from slavery the airship she helped Stilton construct. This is one of the few bits of Anna’s history that we already knew about, and it made for a great origin story.

“Traction City Blues” presents a young Anna experiencing the freedom of being an air trader. She follows a mysterious individual to London to recruit his help in attacking traction cities, but things complicate when she is captured by the city police.

In “Teeth of the Sea”, Anna learns about how complicated her decisions can become when working as an Anti-tractionist spy.

The stories are divided by interludes, which take place right around the events of Mortal Engines as Anna reflects on her past. This was a great way to add even more flavor to this vibrant book, and Reeve cleverly tied older Anna’s journey to the moment she meets the protagonists of Mortal Engines.  

Ian McQue’s grayscale illustrations fill the pages and evoke both impressive machines and memorable characters. If you want a taste of Mortal Engines before watching the film, this is a great collection for fans of the series.

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