Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
If I got to write a letter to the author of Leviathan, I’d say, “Scott Westerfeld, don’t be that guy- that guy who has a great idea for a story and then ruins it by dumbing it down for his readers”. I read the first two books in his Uglies series, and it was a struggle just to make it that far. Westerfeld creates these amazing worlds which feel so familiar and yet very exciting. He has strong willed main characters with something to fight for. But then there’s the lingo that he insists on hitting you over the head with, which for me, really made me cringe during his steampunk alternate history, Leviathan.
The story takes place on the brink of World War I, and follows two very different characters: Aleksandar Ferdinand, the prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and Deryn Sharp, a girl masquerading as a boy in the British Air Service. Austria-Hungary is on the side of the Axis (called Clankers in the book, for their machine warfare), while Britain is on the side of the Allies (called Darwinists for the use of their “fabricated” beasts). While the two are on opposite sides of the war, they are facing many of the same problems. Both have lost parents, have had to be on their own, and have egos that need serious humbling. The world of Leviathan is refreshingly unique and awe-inspiring. Whales as zeppelins, lizards as messengers, enormous machines like robots that you can sit inside and walk around in…I really wish this world were real.
Despite how cool the world is though, I can’t say that I loved this book. The lingo drives me absolutely bonkers. Every few pages, I was cringing over words like “clart” (excrement), “barking” (f***ing), “boffins” (well educated adults)… I get it. The point of the lingo is to make the story seem otherworldly, but mainly I was just annoyed. I got so wrapped up in decoding what everyone was saying that I wasn’t really paying attention to the story. I felt cheated with this story because I was expecting it to be so much more; I really thought Westerfeld would raise the bar and write something that was difficult and deep, but I got more of Uglies: a cool world with no substance.
I will say that the art of the book is fantastic. The illustrations throughout are beautifully done and really add to the story. The cover art drew me in from the beginning, covered in cogs and wheels like the inside of a mad clock. My favorite part was definitely the map of the Great War on the inside front and back covers, with each country represented by an animal or some machine. While I didn’t much care for the story of Leviathan, I loved the world of Darwinists and Clankers, and can’t wait to find out more about how each side builds their weaponry in Behemoth, the sequel due out this October.
Publication date: 2009
Teaser Quote: “Maybe this was how you stayed sane in wartime: a handful of noble deeds amid the chaos. “