Caroline Davis

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

In Books on May 3, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Summary: Aleksander Ferdinand (who likes to be called Alek) is the prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire – but when his parents are killed, his claim to the throne is threatened and he is forced to flee with a small band of faithful companions and a walking war-machine.  Deryn Sharp, raised in Scotland, just wants the chance to become a soldier, but as a girl she is ineligible to join the Air Service.  Can she fool everyone into believing that she is a boy named Dylan, so that she can have the chance to fly?  In this alternative history based on the start of World War I, the two sides are divided not only by existing alliances, but by the technology each side depends on.  The Austro-Hungarians and Germans are Clankers, relying on their advanced machinery for protection and defense.  The British are Darwinists, able to manipulate the life threads of creatures to produce living weapons and transportation – such as the Leviathan, an airship based on a whale that sustains a complete ecosystem.

Highlights: Scott Westerfeld, author of the popular young adult series The Uglies, takes on the alternate history genre in this steampunk novel for middle readers.  The two main characters are appealing, and even though we feel like we’ve heard their stories before (Alek’s plight reminds me of Prince Caspian, and there are scores of novels with young girls impersonating boys), we are drawn in and want to experience their adventure.  One of my favorite details were the subtle nods to the time period – for instance, one of the characters has a pet Tasmanian tiger, a species that went extinct in the 1930s.  The novel does a great job at contrasting the Clanker and Darwinist worldviews, and the open ending allows for sequels to continue the story of these two viewpoints (Westerfeld has announced that Leviathan is the first installment of a projected trilogy).  I know I’m excited to find out what happens next!

Extras:

Scott Westerfeld’s Blog

Book Trailer (Youtube)

Interview with Scott Westerfeld (Tor)

Other Reviews:

@ The Book Smugglers

@ the james review

@ Wondrous Reads

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