Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld

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.

Genre: Fiction, Young Adult, Steampunk, Adventure
Publisher: Penguin
Year: 2009
Rating: 5/5

I was both interested and hesitant when I picked up Leviathan, as I was not sure it would be my cup of tea. It sounded like a "boy" book. I am normally not one to lump books into categories by gender, but this book contained war and fighting machines. Sure to appeal to a 15-year-old-boy, but maybe not a 20-something-year-old woman. I was wrong. I loved this book.

This novel follows both Alek and Deryn who come from different countries, different social classes and different genders. Yet they end up being thrown together, to fight alongside each other as allies.

Alek is a  prince. One night, his parents are murdered and he is whisked away by some loyal friends who wish to save his life.

Deryn longs to be in the British airforce, but she has one thing standing in her way: she is a girl. Instead of letting that stop her she disguises herself as a boy and soon finds herself accepted onto the airship, Leviathan. Too bad war is just about to break out!

The first half of this novel Alek and Deryn's stories are told in alternate chapters, until they meet and then their story becomes one.

The first half of this book was a little slow, Westerfeld spends a lot of time setting up characters and plot. I guess that's okay since this story is meant to be a trilogy. The second half is where the action kicks in and makes this book worth the read. 

One thing I love about Steampunk, is how an author will take a historical event, like WW2, and rewrite it with futuristic technology thrown in. Better than that, it is not futuristic from our point of view today, but how people back in the time it is set may have imagined things. 

In this case we have Darwinistic beasties and walking machines! The beasties were pretty crazy yet kind of awesome. Using DNA and methods founded by Charles Darwin, the British create these animals that are a blend of many different species, and equipped to carry passengers, fight in a war, fly in the sky and do all sorts of things! Imagine being in an airship that is a living, breathing organism?

The machines were interesting too.... being able to walk over terrain in an armed machine instead of drive would make a world of difference to combat... yet the beasties were still my favourite. 

The characters in this novel were likeable and interesting. I am keen to read the next novel to see what is going to happen next and where Alek and Deryn will end up. Will Alek find out that Deryn is really a girl? Will the airforce find out? Will Alek be incarcerated by the British because of his country's former alliances? Will the bad guys track him down? Will he ever get his throne back? What new beasties will Westerfeld think of next? Only one way to find out.... Stay tuned!

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