Philip Reeve

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Philip Reeve
Philip Reeve's author photo in the first book of his Railhead trilogy
Born28 February 1966 (age 58)
Brighton, England
OccupationWriter, illustrator, author
LanguageEnglish language
ResidenceDartmoor, Devon, England
GenreScience fiction
Notable worksMortal Engines Quartet
Larklight trilogy
Notable awardsGuardian Prize
Carnegie Medal

Philip Reeve (born 28 February 1966) is a British author and illustrator of children's books, primarily known for the 2001 book Mortal Engines and its sequels (the 2001 to 2006 Mortal Engines Quartet). His 2007 novel, Here Lies Arthur, based on the legendary King Arthur, won the Carnegie Medal.


Born on 28 February 1966 in Brighton, Reeve studied illustration, first at Cambridgeshire College of Arts and Technology (CCAT – now Anglia Ruskin University), where he contributed a comic strip to the Student Union magazine, and later at Brighton Polytechnic (now the University of Brighton). Before becoming an illustrator he worked at a bookshop in Brighton for several years. During his student years and for a few years afterwards he wrote for and performed in comedy sketch shows with a variety of collaborators under various group names, among them The Charles Atlas Sisters. He lives on Dartmoor with his wife Sarah and their son Sam.

With Brian Mitchell, Reeve is the author of a 1998 dystopian comic musical, The Ministry of Biscuits.

"Stop! Think before you eat that biscuit! Is it in any way fancy? If so, then you are a criminal! In Post-War London, The Ministry of Biscuits casts its sinister shadow over every tea-time and elevenses in the land. Established to 'control biscuits, and to control the idea of biscuits', it prohibits decadent sweetmeats, such as the Gypsy Cream."[1]

This was performed at the Pavilion Theatre, Brighton, the Yvonne Arnaud Theatre, Guildford,[1] and the 1999 Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It underwent a revival in 2005 at the Sallis Benney, Brighton,[1] and began playing at Brighton's Lantern Theatre in November 2017.[2][3] It has also toured to various other locations throughout the United Kingdom.[4]

Reeve provided cartoons for books, including those in the Horrible Histories and Murderous Maths series. He wrote the Buster Bayliss series of books for young readers, which includes Night of the Living Veg, The Big Freeze, Day of the Hamster, and Custardfinger. He is the author and illustrator of a Dead Famous non-fiction book: Horatio Nelson and His Victory.

Reeve's first book for older readers was Mortal Engines, which won the Nestlé Smarties Book Prize in age category 9–11 years and made the Whitbread Book Award shortlist. Mortal Engines is the first book in a series sometimes called the Mortal Engines Quartet (2001–2006), which includes Predator's Gold, Infernal Devices and A Darkling Plain.[5] The books feature two young adventurers, Tom Natsworthy and Hester Shaw, living in a lawless post-apocalyptic world inhabited by moving cities. For the fourth volume, Reeve won the once-in-a-lifetime 2006 Guardian Children's Fiction Prize, judged by a panel of British children's writers.[6][7][8]

Reeve spent more than ten years on Mortal Engines, coming up with ideas in 1989 or 1990, leading to publication in 2001. He was working on it part-time between illustration jobs, but as he became sure he could complete such a project, he cut down his illustration work and devoted more time to writing.[9]

The 2007 novel Here Lies Arthur is an alternative version of the Arthurian legend. Reeve and Arthur won the annual Carnegie Medal from the British librarians, recognizing the year's best children's book published in the UK.[10]

The Larklight trilogy (2006–2008)[5] is steampunk set in outer space. The first book Larklight was being developed as a film by the Indian director Shekhar Kapur, but he is no longer involved. Reeve professes that when planning out a novel, "I see it as a film that I run in my head, and I just keep running alternative versions of it until I come up with a cut I like.[11] The future of the film is now in the hands of the Swedish director Tomas Alfredson.[12]

Reeve began a series of Mortal Engines prequels with Fever Crumb (Scholastic UK, 2009).[5] The first was one of eight finalists for the 2010 Carnegie Medal.[13] In March 2020 Reeve said he did not intend to finish or publish a fourth book in the Fever Crumb series, as too much time had passed, thereby forgoing the world of Mortal Engines.[14]

In 2013, Reeve had his first co-authored, highly illustrated book with British-American writer-illustrator Sarah McIntyre published by Oxford University Press: Oliver and the Seawigs. This went on to win the UKLA Award.[15] Their third book, Pugs of the Frozen North, won an Independent Bookshop Week children's book award.[16] The pair have a contract with the same publisher for a series of four more books, beginning with The Legend of Kevin.[17]

In 2018, Reeve praised the 2018 Mortal Engines film adaptation, saying the director, Christian Rivers, had "done a fantastic job – a huge, visually awesome action movie with perfect pace and a genuine emotional core.... There are many changes to the characters, world, and story, but it's still fundamentally the same thing."[18] In the Reevening in March 2020, he acknowledged the film's shortcomings, but thoughts of the filmmakers liking the books led him to welcome the US-New Zealand two-hour film co-production as the best "you could hope for [in your lifetime]". On November 18, 2020, upon asked whether Mortal Engines would be rebooted for the television screens, he responded that, while that would be nice, it seemed unlikely.[19][20]

Writing methods[edit]

Reeve claims not to be a methodical writer. He plans nothing at all, usually starting with an opening image, a closing image, and a few vague notions for the things that happen in between. This leads to thousands of words of rough draft material being abandoned – even entire novels, such as with Fever Crumb and Mortal Engines. However, he takes ideas from these abandoned drafts to build the final version. It usually takes him a year to move a novel from first idea to publication – six months actively writing it, the rest editing and thinking.[9][21]


Young adult novels[edit]

Mortal Engines Universe
  1. Mortal Engines Quartet,[5] called Hungry City Chronicles in the United States:
    1. Mortal Engines (2001)
    2. Predator's Gold (2003)
    3. Infernal Devices (2005)
    4. A Darkling Plain (2006)
    • Traction City (World Book Day, 2011), a novella, rewritten in "Traction City Blues" short story
    • The Traction Codex: An Historian's Guide to the Era of Predator Cities (2012), with Jeremy Levett, guide
    • Night Flights: A Mortal Engines Collection (2018), illustrated by Ian McQue, prequel, collection of 3 short stories:
      "Frozen Heart", "Traction City Blues", "Teeth of the Sea"
    • The Illustrated World of Mortal Engines (2018), with Jeremy Levett, guide
  2. Fever Crumb series, prequel:[5]
    1. Fever Crumb (2009)
    2. A Web of Air (2010)
    3. Scrivener's Moon (2011)
Larklight trilogy

(illustrated by David Wyatt)

  1. Larklight (2006)
  2. Starcross (2007)
  3. Mothstorm (2008)
Railhead series
  1. Railhead (2015)
  2. Black Light Express (2016)
  3. Station Zero (2018)
Utterly Dark series
  • Utterly Dark and the Face of the Deep (2021)
  • Utterly Dark and the Heart of the Wild (2022)
  • Utterly Dark and the Tides of Time (2023)

Short stories[edit]

  • "Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil" (2013),[22] No. 4 from Doctor Who 50th Anniversary E-Shorts series

Children's short stories[edit]

  • "The Exeter Riddles" (2013)

Children's books[edit]

Buster Bayliss series:

  1. Night of the Living Veg (2002)
  2. The Big Freeze (2002)
  3. Day of the Hamster (2002)
  4. Custardfinger! (2003)

Goblins series (page decorations by Dave Semple)

  1. Goblins (2012)
  2. Goblins vs Dwarves (2013)
  3. Goblin Quest (2014)

Reeve & McIntyre Production series, published in the US as A Not-So-Impossible Tale[23] (written together with, and illustrated by Sarah McIntyre):

  1. Oliver and the Seawigs (2013), published in the US as Oliver and the Sea Monkeys[24]
  2. Cakes in Space (2014)
  3. Pugs of the Frozen North (2015)
  4. Jinks & O'Hare Funfair Repair (2016), published in the US as Carnival in a Fix[25]
  • Pug-a-Doodle-Do! (2017), activity book

Roly-Poly Flying Pony series with co-author Sarah McIntyre:

  1. The Legend of Kevin (2018)
  2. Kevin's Great Escape (2019)
  3. Kevin and the Biscuit Bandit (2020)
  4. Kevin vs the Unicorns (2021)

Adventuremice series with co-author Sarah McIntyre:

  1. Adventuremice: Otter Chaos (2023)
  2. Adventuremice: Mermouse Mystery (2023)


  • The Angry Aztecs And The Incredible Incas: Two Books In One (2001), with Terry Deary, from Horrible Histories Collections series


  • Horatio Nelson and His Victory (2003), history, from Dead Famous series

As illustrator[edit]

  • Awful Art (1997), by Michael Cox
  • Henry Spaloosh! (1997), by Chris d'Lacey
  • Murderous Maths series (from 1997), by Kjartan Poskitt
  • Isaac Newton and His Apple (1999), by Kjartan Poskitt
  • The Incredible Incas (2000), by Terry Deary
  • Pantsacadabra! (2006), by Kjartan Poskitt
  • Urgum the Axeman (2006), by Kjartan Poskitt
  • Borgon the Axeboy series (from 2014), by Kjartan Poskitt
  • Gawain and the Green Knight (2016), Oxford Reading Tree series, by the Pearl Poet, retold by Philip Reeve



  1. ^ a b c UK Theatre web listing for The Ministry of Biscuits
  2. ^ Ministry of Biscuits listing on the Foundry Group website Archived 7 March 2017 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ "The Ministry of Biscuits (2017-12-22)". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  4. ^ "Tour Dates – 'The Ministry of Biscuits'::". Retrieved 13 December 2018.
  5. ^ a b c d e Philip Reeve at the Internet Speculative Fiction Database Edit this at Wikidata. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  6. ^ Guardian Children's Fiction Prize 2006 (top page). The Guardian. 8 August 2012.
  7. ^ "Guardian children's fiction prize relaunched: Entry details and list of past winners". The Guardian 12 March 2001. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  8. ^ "Start the Engines… | The Bookseller".
  9. ^ a b Reilly, Fiachra. "Questions and Answers with Philip Reeve". Archived from the original on 30 September 2010. Retrieved 28 September 2010.
  10. ^ (Carnegie Winner 2008) Archived 17 October 2012 at the Wayback Machine. Living Archive: Celebrating the Carnegie and Greenaway Winners. CILIP. Retrieved 8 August 2012.
  11. ^ Margolis, Rick (11 January 2006). "Brits in Space: In Philip Reeve's latest novel, the British empire stretches to Saturn and beyond". School Library Journal. Retrieved 28 October 2008.
  12. ^ White, James (6 October 2010). "Tomas Alfredson Catches The Larklight: Directing the adventure novel adaptation". Empire (film magazine). Retrieved 26 October 2010.
  13. ^ Press Desk Archived 2 October 2018 at the Wayback Machine (directory). CILIP. Retrieved 8 August 2012. Quote: "media releases relating to the CILIP Carnegie and Kate Greenaway Children's Book Awards in date order." (2002 to 2006 releases concern 2001 to 2005 awards.)
  14. ^ Philip Reeve (17 March 2020). "Philip Reeve's tweet in response to @SevrinY" (Tweet). Philip Reeve. Retrieved 24 March 2020.
  15. ^ Walker, Phoebe (10 July 2015). "UKLA book awards 2015: winners announced". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 July 2015.
  16. ^ Drabble, Emily (17 June 2016). "Pugs and cats steal the Indie Bookshop Week children's book awards 2016". The Guardian. Retrieved 17 June 2016.
  17. ^ "The Legend of Kevin set for OUP Children's". The Bookseller. 12 October 2017. Retrieved 12 October 2017.
  18. ^ Reeve, Philip [@philipreeve1] (29 November 2018). "I watched #MortalEngines twice this week, and it's brilliant. Christian Rivers has done a fantastic job – a huge, visually awesome action movie with perfect pace and a genuine emotional core. See it on the biggest screen you can. 1/1" (Tweet). Retrieved 6 December 2018 – via Twitter.
  19. ^ Bujak, Gabrielle (13 November 2020). "Why HBO Should Reboot Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines UnBoxed Life". UnBoxed Life. Archived from the original on 7 January 2021. Retrieved 17 January 2020.
  20. ^ Reeve, Philip (18 November 2020). "Philip Reeve on Twitter". Twitter. Retrieved 17 January 2020. I have no idea! It would be nice, but it seems unlikely.
  21. ^ Jones, Rhys (9 October 2010). "An Interview with Philip Reeve". Retrieved 30 October 2010.
  22. ^ "Doctor Who: The Roots of Evil". Puffin Books. 23 April 2013. Retrieved 18 July 2014.
  23. ^ "A Not-So-Impossible Tale". Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  24. ^ "Oliver and the Sea Monkeys by Philip Reeve: 9780385387897 | Books". Retrieved 10 February 2020.
  25. ^ "Carnival in a Fix by Philip Reeve: 9780385388009 | Books". Retrieved 10 February 2020.

External links[edit]