Leviathan is written by Scott Westerfeld and published in 2009 by Simon Pulse. It is the first in a trilogy. Westerfeld is also known for his book series, Uglies. His website/blog can be found here.
Genre: Steampunk, Middle Grade(ish)
“It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl 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 the Great War brewing, Alek’s and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.”
“The creature looked like a sleek tan dog with a long snout, and tiger stripes on its rump. Straining against the leash, it stretched out to sniff Deryn’s offered hand. As she stroked its head, the beastie leaned back on its strong hind legs and hopped once in place.
Did the animal have a squick of kangaroo in its life thread?
“Tazza seems to like you,” Dr. Barlow said. “Odd. He’s usually shy.”
“He’s very…enthusiastic,” Deryn said. “But what in blazes is he for?”
“For?” Dr. Barlow frowned. “Whatever do you mean, Mr. Sharp?”
“Well, he doesn’t look like a hydrogen sniffer. Is he some sort of tigeresque guard dog?”
“Oh, heavens!” The woman laughed. “Tazza isn’t fabricated, and he isn’t for anything. Except that I hate traveling without him.”
Deryn pulled her hand away and took a step back. “You mean, that beastie’s natural?”
Recommended Age Range: 12+
What I Liked:
Westerfeld has created a fantastic steampunk setting. Alek and Deryn/Dylan, the two main characters, are well-written. Deryn’s slang vocabulary is hilarious at times. The plot, while clearly a set-up for the other two books, is full of action, on ground and in the air. The illustrations are a great reference and the map of Westerfeld’s alternate World War I world is beautiful. The Darwinist “beasties” and the Clanker’s machines are well-thought out, intricate, and lovely for the imagination.
What I Didn’t Like:
There isn’t much that I didn’t like. The girl-disguised-as-a-boy is a bit over-used, in my own opinion; however, it is done well here. The plot didn’t contain much, but like I said earlier, it’s clearly a set-up for the other two books in the trilogy.
This book is a great addition to a steampunk library. The plot is simple, but contains enough meat to suck you in and to lure you to the next book, Behemoth. The world is magnificently built; Westerfeld has made a fabulous setting and history.
Coming up Next: Want to go Private? by Sarah Darer Littman