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Leviathan (The Leviathan Trilogy)

(Book #1 in the Leviathan Series)

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This description may be from another edition of this product. Summary:It is the cusp of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ genetically...

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

yet another excellent offering from Westerfeld

Leviathan is the beginning of a new steampunk YA series by Scott Westerfeld, author of other well-known (and highly recommended) YA series such as Uglies and Midnighters, along with one of my favorite non-YA science fiction works of recent memory, The Risen Empire (even more highly recommended). As is usual with good YA, don't let the label turn you away; Westerfeld knows how to write for a younger audience without dumbing things down and without excluding older readers. Leviathan is set in a mostly familiar historical world just on the cusp of World War I. Familiar as in the geography, populations, etc. are all pretty much the same--you've got your Austro-Hungarians, Germans, British Empire, etc and your Arch-Duke Ferdinand, who does go and get himself assassinated. In this version, however, he has a son, Alek, who manages to escape with the help of some loyal staffers. Oh yeah, another small difference is that the Austro-Hungarians and Germans (and allies) employ powerful steam-driven machinery (Alek, for example, escapes in a Walker--a steam-powered version, though even cooler, of the walkers in Star Wars) and are known as Clankers for their marvelous mechanical devices. The English and their allies, on the other hand, went in a wholly different direction, following the path of Charles Darwin, who in this history learned how to manipulate DNA. They now bioengineer what they need, such as the eponymous Leviathan, a huge airship which is really an entire eco-system, centered on a whale but also including creatures such as hydrogen-sniffers to find leaks, floating jellyfish as personal balloons, messenger lizards that speak, and bats that, well, why ruin the fun with that one. Logically enough, the English and friends are known as Darwinists and so rather than Allies-Axis, one has a war between Clankers and Darwinists, with an heir to an empire running around trying to avoid capture. Alex's story takes up one narrative strand from the start, beginning with the news of his father's death and Alek's subsequent escape. A twinned narrative is set in England and follows a young girl, Deryn, who disguises herself as a boy in order to join the British Air Service, as her now-dead father once did. As one would expect, the two strands eventually come together and Alek and Deryn meet, eventually ending up together as they move toward book two. The world-building in terms of Clankers and Darwinists is wonderful, with lots of vibrant, original imagery; it's clear Westerfeld had a good time coming up with the various mechanicals and "beasties," and his enthusiastic creativity and fanciful prose descriptions are nicely complemented by Keith Thompson's black-and-white illustrations throughout. The plot is well-paced throughout (no bloat in this book) and suspense comes in a variety of ways--from small stealth-stalk scenes to full-pitched aerial battles, but also from moments of personal decision--whom to trust, how to act on that trust, what secrets to k

A Fantastic Adventure!

"Leviathan" is not the kind of thing I usually read. I love young adult literature, but I tend to prefer fantasy to sci-fi and steampunk. However, I'd heard good things about Scott Westerfield's works, and the story sounded good. And I am so glad I tried something different. First of all, the story is interesting. 15 year old Alek has just been orphaned. This would be hard enough for any teenager, but Alek's father was the archduke of Austria. He was assassinated as part of a German plot to start a war, and a succession struggle means that his enemies are after Alek, too. Alek and a few of his most trusted men flee the country in a stormwalker (a war machine that moves on two legs), the Germans in pursuit. Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp, also 15, masquerades as a boy to joined the British Air Service. After a nearly disasterous incident lands her on the Leviathan, she enters into service on the airship. Her life there is exciting, but danger looms as England prepares to enter the Great War. Eventually, Alek and Deryn's paths cross, and their meeting might change the course of the whole war. I liked this story because it's simple but original. It draws from history, (and I learned some interesting things from it), and the twists come from what might have been. This means that the alternate history bits make sense. The author's notes in the back make sure readers aren't confused about what really happened. There's a lot of action woven into the story, and it's fast-paced and exciting. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and that means a lot coming from me. I'm the type who usually wants to hurry through the action sequences and get back to the story, but Westerfield's scenes are so original and detailed. They really put you right in the middle of the action. The world of the book is completely believable. The science-fiction elements of advanced mechanics and bioengineering have been done before, but they're completely reimagined here. The Austrians and the Germans use super powered machines, while England uses fabricated animals. They look down on each others' technologies, which seems realistic. The Darwinist powers' (England's) technology was especially interesting, and especially the Leviathan. What made it so great was the detail and imagination that went into it. The Leviathan's main body is a hydrogen inflated whale, but it takes a complete eco-system to run, with some animals providing hydrogen, and some used to attack enemies. Fantastic as it was, it really sounded like it might work. The characters were fleshed out and likable. Alek is a bit angsty, but it's completely understandable considering his position. He behaves just how you would expect for someone in his position. He's somewhat arrogant at first, but he does learn some humility along the way. He starts off as a scared boy, but he quickly steps up and becomes a leader. I also loved his retainers, especially Volger, a count who's hard on Alek for his own good. Deryn is cheerful and feisty, a

Let's hear it for Steampunk

Steampunk is on the rise, or shall we say, gathering steam? This recent novel by Westerfeld is a perfect example of the kind of possibilities open to this new fantasy genre, and I, for one, am very excited at the prospects before us. Personally, I'm growing a bit tired of wizards, dragons, fairies/elves and vampires, as it seems that almost all of the recent fantasy novels fall into one of those four categories, the only exception being the novels written by Garth Nix, Kate Constable, Elizabeth Knox, or Kristen Cashore. Steampunk, and its sister Madcap (which is more like Victorian fantasy/sci-fi in the same way that Steampunk is Industrial and Scientific Revolution fantasy/sci fi) are widespread enough at this point, as a fantasy genre that there are several people picking up their brushes, instruments, tools, and pens to create Steampunk art in their own artistic field. For the young adult literature discipline, Leviathan is likely to be an early industry standard for others to follow much like Lord of the Rings is for elf/dwarf fantasy, Interview with the Vampire is for vampire mythology (not including of course Dracula), and Pern is for dragons--yes, it's that good. What makes Westerfeld such a talented writer in the fantasy genre is that he's not solely reliant on the fast-paced action and fantasy tropes that so many in this genre have a tendency to fall into. He integrates all of the elements that make up a good story--social commentary regarding politics, nationalism, gender equality, and the general social unrest caused by scientific advancement, specifically as it pertains to biogenetics and cloning, as well as three-dimensional characters and an overall depth to the story because of the many layers of internal and external conflict encountered by the characters. Even as an alternate version of the history, many of the same elements that caused World War I are explored throughout the text. My only criticism is that I wish it were a self-contained one off rather than a series, but I suppose I may change my tune when I see the second book. I recommend this to all readers 12+. -Lindsey Miller, www.lindseyslibrary.com

Do You Oil Your War Machines? Or Do You Feed Them?

There were three things that made me excited for Leviathan, the concepts of: alternate history World War I, mechanical weapons vs genetically engineered living ones, and the classic idea of a girl dressing as a boy to enter a profession otherwise barred to her. What I ended up getting was a book I can easily say is one of my favourite releases of 2009. Where do I start? I guess with the characters. Our two viewpoint characters, Alek and Dylan, are two brave and intelligent young people who do their best to keep their heads on their shoulders even when everything is going to hell in a hand-basket around them. They are not perfect, but they are strong-willed and determined, and their developing bickering-laced friendship is a delight to read. The secondary characters are also a joy to read. Alek's tutors/guardians are fun to read, but the character that shone for me is Dr Barlow. Fiercely intelligent and incredibly perceptive (as well as very British), she is very much the scientist, but also has a heart, allowing her to act as confidant to our two leads. Any scene where she shows up was a blast, especially when it comes to reactions to her traveling companion - a thylacine. Characters aside, I loved the world of Leviathan. Westerfeld does an amazing job at setting the scene and showing us the differences between our world and the world of Leviathan without bogging us down in copious backstory and information. There is incredible imagination here, and logic amongst the fantasy - with the creations (or rather, fabrications, to use the in-universe term) are amazing to read and think about, and to wonder what else exists in this universe thanks to the Darwinists. Plus there is enough information concerning the background of the war that younger readers unfamiliar with the origins of World War I should be able to grasp the backstory without having to wander off to Wikipedia. The last thing that really makes Leviathan, though, is the artwork. Keith Thompson's renderings of characters, machines and fabrications are absolutely stunning and make for a wonderful addition to the book. There's not much else I can say except "Holy cow, look at the space whale!" I just have one complaint: I have to wait until October 2010 for Behemoth, the sequel?

Fantastic Youth Steampunk

In an alternate history, Europe is headed towards a Word War. The Germanic Clankers, with their advanced machinery, face off against the British Darwinists, with their crossbred animals. The Darwinists have a new weapon, the Leviathan, a flying whale ship. Deryn Sharp is new to the service and is on the Leviathan for her first assignment. But only males are allowed to be in the service, so she must hide her identity from everyone, and disguise herself as a boy. Meanwhile, Prince Aleksandar Ferdinand is woken in the middle of the night and forced to flee his home. With only a small group of men, Aleksandar faces foes at every turn. When the Leviathan lands near Aleksandar, he meets young Deryn, and their fates intertwine. In this latest young adult novel from Scott Westerfeld, he has created an alternate history in a steampunk version of World War I. It's a fantastic world of elaborate machines and bizarre, unnatural animals. In addition to the unique world and fascinating story, the characters are just as absorbing and are the driving force behind the story. Aleksandar is spoiled, but very bright and capable. And Deryn is brave, talented, and humble. The two are from different worlds and seems as if the reader is viewing to drastically different stories, until the two worlds collide. There is no lack of suspense and action in this steampunk adventure. As a growing niche in the science fiction genre, this novel is sure to be popular amidst youth and adults alike. With events culminating in a climactic ending, there is room left open for a sequel, which I certainly am hoping for. It's a fun, fresh and decidedly unique tale. Don't miss this one.
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