Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book Review: Leviathan

Author: Scott Westerfeld
Release Date: October 6, 2009
Pages: 440
Read it in: 4 days

Summary: 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 their lives forever.

LC's Take: 

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.

The 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!

LC's Rating:
Leviathan was a smart, fast-paced Steampunk adventure that left me wanting more-- Scott Westerfeld is such an amazing writer, and I can't wait to read the other books in this series!


  1. I really liked this one. It was my first steampunk novel, and I wasn't sure how I would like it. I really need to check out the second the book. Great review!

  2. I'm glad you liked this one! I really liked it too. There's just something about historical girls-dressing-as-boys stories that I love.
    As These Pages Fly

  3. Mrs. Q~ This was also my first ever Steampunk novel and I thought it was great! I am going right now to put the other books in this series on my TBR list, and maybe the Uglies series too...

    Emily~ I agree! I love those unconventional, feisty characters who do what they love to do no matter what society says :) Deryn was awesome! Can't wait to read more of her and Alek's story :)

  4. Great review!! I have this one on my shelf at home but I haven't gotten to it yet. Love the premise (and the illustrations too!!)

  5. Lisa~ Yes,the illustrations actually really helped to give me a visual-- since a lot of Westerfeld's creations would otherwise be somewhat difficult to picture... I will be getting to Behemoth soon! :)

  6. Yaay...I'm really glad you loved this one...
    I was sucked into this book, thought it was GENIUS!
    The illustrations even made it better, they were very nice and helped you broaden your imagination.
    The story AKKKKKKHH! That was ARRRGHHHH! So genius. Darwinists and Clankers. That was flipping awesome! Scott Westerfeld, HOW did you come up with that? HOW!? It is just beyond amazing.

    I can't wait to read Behemoth and Goliath, I'm gonna be reading them around July-August.
    Will be having a Scott Westerfeld month, gonna read Pretties, Specials and Extras along with them :)

  7. Yay! I'm so thrilled to read a positive review for this book, since I recently picked up Leviathan and Behemoth at a great book sale but I was unsure whether I'd like it. I've read three books in Westerfeld's Uglies series, and loved the first two, but the third left me very disappointed so I was hesitant to pick up any more of his books. Now I'm glad I did:)

    Sarah Bibi Setar


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