Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Set in an alternate Europe at the outbreak of World War I, Leviathan is a mix of past and future technologies with Europe divided into two main groups: the Clankers, who favor machines and mechanics and the Darwinists, who have perfected the art of fabricating new animals for flight, travel and all kinds of work. Please take a moment to check out this wicked-cool map found on the front and back panels of the book delineating the two groups.

In the middle of the night, fifteen year old Prince Alek of Austria is awakened to find himself bustled off into one of his families' stormwalkers, basically a tank that walks on two legs, after learning that both his parents have been killed. Remember those history lessons about what started WWI? Archduke Ferdinand getting killed, right? Yep, that's Alek's dear old dad. Surrounded by a small group of men his father selected long ago, including his sneaky-smart fencing instructor Count Volger, Alek and his compatriots are running for their lives across the continent.

All her life Deryn has wanted to fly. Only problem is, in 1914, girls aren't allowed anywhere near the Royal Air Force of England but that isn't stopping Deryn. With the help of her brother, she becomes Dylan, a somewhat skinny, but tall youth, who impresses many with his daring and knowledge of aeronautics. As a boy, Deryn has some rocking good adventures, narrowly escaping a life of skirts and curtsies in favor of a life in the sky, riding on the massive airship, the Leviathan.

I can't stress how cool this book is. So many little details all rolled into one fantastically perfect book: the world building, the characters, the illustrations (oh gosh, the illustrations!), the rearranging of history - so perfectly clever. Told alternately by Alek and Deryn (2 chapters a piece), Leviathan firmly thrusts the reader into two opposite worlds, establishing a foundation of the politics and science of Europe as both race across the continent until their paths collide in the snowy alps of Switzerland. The adventure is non-stop as each new page brings Alek and Deryn closer together. Besides Deryn with her ability to simply DO ANYTHING, I'm totally in love with the clever-boots female scientist, Dr. Nora Barlow. With her bowler hat and mysterious cargo, she's got more than a few secrets up her sleeve and the backbone to get things done.

I've only read one other steampunk novel, Clockwork Heart, and was not super impressed, but Scott Westerfeld gets it with Leviathan. In his illuminating author's note, he said:
So Leviathan is as much about possible futures as alternate pasts. It looks ahead to when machines will look like living creatures, and living creatures can be fabricated like machines...That's the nature of steampunk, blending future and past.
Done and done. Mr. Westerfeld, I'm converted. Every since discovering Scott Westerfeld's Midnighter's Trilogy, I know I can always count on him to come up with an intriguing new premise and completely deliver on the execution. The only problem is, Leviathan is the first in a planned trilogy and I don't think I can wait possibly years to recover from that cliff-hanger ending.

I can't finish talking about this amazing novel without mentioning Keith Thompson's fabulous illustrations. 50 black and white uber-detailed illustrations complement this amazing book - effortlessly bringing each machine, beastie, and of course, each and every fabulous character to life.
Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
glossolalia review
Karin's Book Nook review
King of the Nerds!!! review
So Many Books, So Little Time review

book source: my local library


Mary Ann DeBorde said...

Mary D

Terrific review :) I bet I'd like Leviathan also so now it's going on my TBR list.

Michelle said...

Mary - It was such an amazing book that I find I keep telling everyone about it. I hope you enjoy it as well.

kay - Infinite Shelf said...

I'm so glad you enjoyed this! I kept this book for my weekend and I can't wait to get into it. The few pages I read were already excellent!

Michelle said...

Kay - Perfect weekend reading! You'll really want to block out a chunk of time because you won't want to put it down once you start!

Anonymous said...

Hello. And Bye.