Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

434 pages

Genre: Young Adult

Published by Simon Pulse (2009)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Re-readability: I would re-read this one, providing I’ve finished the series.

Reviewed by Indiana

Leviathan is a steampunk enthusiast’s dream series. But it’s also a great adventure story. Westerfeld combines historical aspects of the political tensions in Europe before World War I with a rich cast of imaginative characters and inventions.

Prince Aleksandar, the illegitimate heir to the Austrian throne, must flee his country after his people turn on him. While he’s leaving country on a mechanical beast called Stormwalker, Deryn Sharp is trying to fool the military into thinking she’s a boy so she can join the British Air Service. Deryn’s father and brother were both in the airship men and she sees no reason why she can’t go off and do the same. She must pass the airman’s middy test and learn to fly airships which combine living animals with machines.

The two eventually meet and end up going on an adventure that will no doubt continue on into the next book.

As I’ve noted on other reviews, I’m a Scott Westerfeld fan. His writing is dramatic, but not overly ornate. His plots are never drawn out and I know I’m always in for an adventure when I pick up a Westerfeld book.

Leviathan was no different from his others.

He weaves historical stories that people might not be aware of into his own reimagining of the time period. At the end he reveals what was fact and what was fiction, but it’s also fun to look up the history as you’re reading it.

One aspect of Leviathan I thought was intriguing was the ideological battle between the Clankers and the British Darwinists. Alek is a Clanker who believes that machine-animal hybrids like the Leviathan (which is part airship, part whale) aren’t natural.  The British Darwinists believe that the Clankers are strangely behind the times and that completely mechanical ships aren’t natural. From the reader’s perspective, that battle is seen mostly through conversations between two main protagonists, Alek and Deryn.

A part of me tried to compare it to some of the ideologies of today (namely those who are for harnessing natural energy and those who are against it). However, the British Darwinists and the Clankers seem so removed from today that the comparison stops short, which was more gratifying. Sometimes a story should remain a story and not something to be contextualized into modern day life.

While Westerfeld’s descriptions don’t leave the reader wanting, the illustrations by Keith Thompson really complement the story and Westerfeld’s writing. Every few pages, Thompson makes one of Westerfeld’s scenes or creatures come alive with his elaborate black and white drawings.  

I’ve borrowed the second book and will be adding it to my TBR list for July!

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