Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Prince Aleksander, ambulance would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, about it 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, decease 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.
Leviathan is book one in a trilogy by Scott Westerfeld. I really enjoyed this book. Westerfeld is definitely one of the more creative authors that I’ve come across. His ability to paint a picture of a world where machines and animals (Clankers and Darwinists) co-exist during wartime? I mean, WHO thinks of that?! Westerfeld, that’s who. And he’s brilliant at it.
Right off the bat, I can tell you that this is not meant to be a fast-paced story. It builds and is very detail-oriented. Westefeld and Keith Thompson, who illustrated the novel, had to work together to bring us visuals that depicted Scott’s mind child that is the Leviathan. I guarantee you, that without these illustrations, you wouldn’t have been able to picture these machines and the animal fabrications. The story was woven together beautifully with pictures and plot that showed how two very different characters come together. And how their lives overlap.
We are introduced to Alek, a teenage royal boy. His upbringing was very affluent, but he’s a victim of his circumstances. His family encounters a tragic end, forcing Alek to run. To avoid being killed-by the enemy and by his own people. His parents left him in quite the sticky situation, but luckily he is kept in check by two close family advisers, Klopp and Volger. Alek discovers a life-altering secret about himself that sends his life on a whirlwind. As the story progresses, we learn how important he really is to the war.
At first, I’m not too sure about Volger. He was quite upsetting to me, mainly because I didn’t understand his motives for why he treated Alek the way that he did. We, of course, later find out why and then it begins to make sense, but it still left a bitter taste in my mouth for a bit. Klopp was a pretty likable guy from the beginning, definitely an immediate ally of Alek, when I wasn’t sure about Volger.
Then there’s Deryn, a young British airman, whose biological makeup (she’s actually a girl) should actually prevent her from being able to join the military. She was born to fly and it’s been a lifelong passion of hers. So because of that passion, she decides to disguise herself as a boy (with the help of her brother, Jaspert). Her adventure in the military begins, but she MUST protect her secret at all costs.
I really like that Westefeld alternated between perspectives every couple of chapters. It gave a broader understanding of the plot, as well as to how the society functioned. While we are on both Alek’s and Deryn’s journeys as youngsters during wartime, there is also the subplot of two systems existing together, but not really working together (i.e. Clankers vs. Darwinists).
Deryn is a Darwinist, while Alek is a Clanker. Their understandings of how the world works are very different from each other, so when they first meet, there’s a bit of tension. Between being attacked by Germans (their common enemy), hunger, injury, etc., they learn how to work together and combine their knowledge and resources.
One of the supporting characters, Dr. Barlow, was introduced into the story through Deryn’s storyline and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of her. Only that she was an important diplomat that needed to be transported by the military. But by the end of the book, it becomes a bit clearer who Dr. Barlow is and what her role is in all of the chaos.
The book ends on a very satisfactory note that allows proper closure (at least for this book, not necessarily the whole story), but it also left me with tons of questions. Is Alek going to inherit the throne? Who is Dr. Barlow and why is she so important? Will Deryn secret stay a secret? Can Volger truly be trusted? Who knows? I have to read the rest of the trilogy.
Leviathan is a very detailed, very interesting book. It introduced me to a world that I NEVER could have dreamed up on my own. Not in a million years. This was my first steam punk novel and I think I like.
Book two is called Behemoth and it is out now! I already have it and I’m ready to read!
4 out of 5 stars