Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Leviathan (Leviathan # 1)

by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson
(October 6th, 2009, Simon Pulse)

Book Description: The year is 1914, and the world is on the verge of war. On one side are the Clankers of Germany and Austro-Hungary, masters of mechanical weaponry, and on the other are the Darwinists of Britain, who fight with their genetically-modified beasts.

When his parents are murdered, teenaged Prince Aleksander of Austria must flee his home in the dead of night. He and his protectors escape to Switzerland where he meets fifteen-year-old Deryn Sharp, a midshipman for the British Air Service, abroad the vast air-beast Leviathan.  Soon, they’re faced with brutal common enemies. Deryn and Alek may be on opposite sides of this war, but they must work together if they’re to escape it alive…


Leviathan is a real pleasure to read. The alternate WWI setting is incredibly detailed, with the Clankers and the Darwinists replacing the Central Powers and the Allies respectively. The world feels genuinely three-dimensional: similar enough to be relatable, but sufficiently different to be interesting. 

The concepts of the weaponry that both sides use are fascinating – the Leviathan and the Herkules especially so – and are really bolstered by the superb illustrations. 

The writing style is evocative and stylish while remaining streamlined, and is able to succinctly convey backstory even as major events are taking place. The author also impeccably captures the voices and viewpoints of our protagonists in their alternating chapters. The plot, which contains two storylines that remain separate for about half the book, is engaging and contains some really spectacular action sequences. 

The two main characters are excellent. Deryn, with her wit, bravery and intelligence, is eminently likeable (and my favorite character). But Alek’s growth as a character is remarkable. He literally goes from being a boy playing with tin soldiers to an honorable young leader, able to face difficult challenges with a cool head. The secondary characters, though somewhat one-note, are quite likeable. 


There is some over-description in certain portions, and the plot does flag very briefly towards the middle, without much detriment to the book overall.

Verdict: A steampunk tale that’s epic in scope, this highly entertaining book will appeal to most fans of action and adventure.

Rating: (8/10)

Although this book is marketed to young adults, it may a good choice for younger readers as well (depending on reading level).

Get it on Book Depository

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