Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

(Cover picture courtesy of And the plot thickens…)

Alek is a prince without a throne.  On the run from his own people he has only a fighting machine and a small band of men.

Deryn is a girl disguised as a guy in the British Air Service.  She must fight for her cause—and protect her secret—at all costs.

Alek and Deryn are thrown together aboard the mighty airship Leviathan.  Though fighting side by side, their worlds are far apart.  British fabricated beasts versus German steam-powered war machines.  They are enemies with everything to lose, yet somehow destined to be together.

Although it’s surprising considering how much I read, this was my first-ever encounter with steampunk.  I like alternate history and I like speculative fiction (which is what steampunk is generally a combination of), but I’m not really sure I like steampunk.  Perhaps it’s simply because I didn’t pick up the right book, but at the time I’m writing this, my feelings about the sub-genre are mixed.

As with all of his novels, Scott Westerfeld has wonderful world-building.  The strange animal-machines of the Darwinists offer a very stark contrast to the iron and steel of the Clankers.  He also took time to develop slang for the world, which is confusing at first but adds a lot more realism to this alternate 1914 Europe once you get used to it.  Of course the wonderful illustrations by Keith Thompson deserve a lot of credit for bringing Scott Westerfeld’s bizarre world to life.

The plot speeds along, taking readers on a whirlwind journey.  It’s rather disorienting at first, but readers are able to quickly get up to speed.  This is the kind of book you can’t stop once you start, no matter how hard you try.

The only thing that fell flat for me was the characters.  Some like Deryn, a natural tomboy pretending to be an actual boy, should have caught my attention, but she didn’t.  Much like Alek, she is a decent enough character, but is not particularly memorable for me.  This should not be possible because both main characters are three dimensional and have fascinating backstories, but for whatever reason, they just didn’t click for me.  I would still recommend Leviathan, however, because this lack of connection is probably just me.

I give this book 3.5/5 stars.

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  1. Caleb Flanagan

    Try “The Affinity Bridge” by George Mann as your next steampunk foray. I’m about halfway through it and it’s pretty good so far. It’s a Sherlock Holmes type of tale in a steampunk setting.

    • Carrie Slager

      I actually wrote this review a while ago and since then I’ve warmed up to steampunk. The second book, Behemoth, is so much better. “The Affinity Bridge” sounds pretty interesting.

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