Interest Level: 11 to adult
This series has been generating buzz since its release, but has stayed on my reading back burner. I finally picked up the first one and was immediately enchanted. I like steampunk – a blend of Victorian era technology and science fiction, and often with an alternative history thread. This one follows the rules perfectly: it’s set in the summer of 1914, opening the night the archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophie are assassinated by Serbian nationals. Then the fiction begins. The world is divided into Clankers who use machinery and Darwinists who use DNA to create fabricated beasts to meet their technological needs. In this world, hydrogen-producing whales serve as airships and talking lizards carry messages. The Clankers have built tanks that walk on legs rather than treads. The protagonists are the orphaned Austrian prince Aleksandr, and Deryn (a.k.a. Dylan), a Scottish girl masquerading as a boy so she could join the British navy. Events conspire to bring these two teens together on an airship, the Leviathan, that crashes over neutral Switzerland. Westerfeld’s imaginative creations are beautifully rendered in pen and ink drawings by Thompson, with full-page illustrations interrupting the text and the reader who is obliged to stop and examine every detail. The plot is well paced and tension-filled, and the characters well developed and slowly revealed. Westerfeld provides a satisfying conclusion to this first book, while dropping enough teasing clues to tempt readers to run right back to the library for Book 2, Behemoth. Watch this space – it won’t be long.
More discussion and reviews of this novel: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/7826215-leviathan