Author: Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA fantasy, Steampunk
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
Source: Print copy from my personal library
First line: The Austrian horses glinted in the moonlight, their riders standing tall in the saddle, swords raised.
Leviathan was my first experience with steampunk, and if all the books in this genre are as inventive and engaging, I have a lot of wonderful reading ahead of me! Westerfeld has written a brilliant beginning to a series that gives an alternate history of World War I.
Alek is the teenage son of Archduke Ferdinand of Austria. When his parents are assassinated, his fencing master, Count Volger, and his Master of Mechanics, Otto Klopp, steal him away in the middle of the night to neutral Switzerland, hoping to hide out there until things blow over or until the Emperor dies and Alek can take his rightful place on the throne.
Deryn is a teenager intent on becoming a midshipmen in the British Air Service. Deryn has airmanship and knowledge of the Darwinist ecosystems the British empire uses for its flying feet – but she’s a girl. With the help of her older brother, Deryn poses as Dylan, and manages to find her way onto the Leviathan, the British Air Fleet’s pride and joy.
The two teenagers are caught in the middle of the bubbling strife between the Darwinists – who have used Darwin’s experiments with DNA to create new creatures that form their military might – and the Clankers – who have used their knowledge of all things mechanical to build an army of walking war machines. These two powers are headed for war, and Alek and Deryn would normally be on opposite sides – but instead will be thrown together and use their combined mechanical and biological knowledge to set out on a mission that may have a profound effect on the outcome of the war.
I loved this book – everything about it. First of all, it’s a physically beautiful book, with a gorgeous cover, and artwork that gave life to the wondrous creatures that Westerfeld’s mind created. (You can see sample artwork from Leviathan on Westerfeld’s site.) It has humor, action and adventure, interesting characters, and the most unusual creatures. My boys will adore this book – I can’t wait for them to read it. I’m passing it on to Dad first, though, because I know he’ll devour it in a day or two like I did.