Release Date: October 6, 2009
Read it in: 4 days
I am really surprised by how much I loved this book. When I first read the summary, I wasn't terribly enthralled-- WWI has never interested me in the slightest and to be honest, it just sounded too much like a "boy's book." But I thought, well, I will give this a shot, and see if it surprises me. In any case, I like challenging myself to read something completely different from what I am used to. In this case, I am really glad I did because this book was totally badass.
Leviathan was an action-packed adventure from the first chapter-- I'm talking guns, battles, machines, escapes-- the whole bit. Scott Westerfeld is such an awesome writer that I was able to get completely caught up in the story. WWI tactics and diplomacy were mixed in with Steampunk machinery and an awesome range of memorable characters. I loved Alek, the 15-year old heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He was in that awkward phase between being a boy and a man, but his courage and heart shone through. And Deryn? OMG she was THE BEST! Finally, here is a strong female heroine where the author shows you her strength, bravery, humor and charisma. Incorrigible and independent, Deryn disguises herself as a boy to enter the British Air Service. She has a spirit and style all her own, and this has made her one of my new favorite characters! Dr. Barlow, the female Darwin scientist who is the crux of the Leviathan's mission was also a great character-- smart though somewhat annoying and bossy, she is another example of amazing characterization.
world-building in Leviathan was incredible. Whether it was being on board the giant living Darwinist airship made out of a huge living whale and other "beasties," floating thousands of feet in the air, or inside the "Clanker" Stormwalker made of iron-- Westerfeld paints his Steampunk inventions and creations with words. And as an added bonus, this book had illustrations! How cool is that? These were amazing, and they added that much more to the story being told. (The one to the right is a pic of the Leviathan airship!)
Because Leviathan is a Steampunk novel, it is also an alternate history, telling a story based on historical fact but changing things around by asking the question "What if so-and-so had happened?" What if Darwin had discovered DNA and science was advanced enough to fabricate new creatures? What if technology was far enough along to build walking machines? As Scott says in his Afterword, "That is the nature of Steampunk-- blending future and past." I for one, loved it.
If you are looking for a good action-adventure with incredible world-building, unforgettable characters and humor sprinkled throughout, I would totally recommend you read this book! Don't let the synopsis scare you away-- even if it doesn't sound like a plot you would normally be interested in, I would give it a chance anyways-- I am so happy that I did!