With accompanying illustrations by Keith Thompson, Leviathan is a young adult’s Steampunk mechanics vs. Biopunk Darwinists tale set within an alternate history of the initiation of World War I. And at the end of it I was thinking, “that’s it? That’s where you leave me?” only to be pleasantly surprised to discover that Leviathan is only the first in a series of novels (how I wasn’t aware of this before, I’m not sure) that I definitely plan on continuing with when I am able to.
The story begins with two separate focuses: Alek, the prince of the Autro-Hungarian Empire, on the run from the country that has turned on him with a small group of loyal men after his parents are assassinated, and Deryn, a young woman who disguises herself as a male in order to join the British Air Service. For the first half of the novel we see these two young people’s lives being swept into adventure and danger as the beginning of the war in Europe unfolds, and I kept wondering how their two paths would ultimately cross, where they eventually did. But the Austrians are what are known as “Clankers” and invested in creating mechanical war machines, while the English are “Darwinists” who biologically engineer animals and creatures for their usage: does this mean that these two young people will be enemies based on their national backgrounds, or unlikely allies due to the secrets that both of them hold?
The descriptions of Leviathan are vivid, making you feel as though you can really see and hear the strange contraptions and creatures presented, though Keith Thompson’s illustrations scattered throughout help to understand Scott Westerfeld’s vision of this world he has created. The illustrations are detailed and wonderful to see, and the story itself moves along at a quick pace, though I often found myself drawn far more to Deryn’s story than that of Alek’s, despite the fact that I sometimes found Deryn’s use of slang terms of her time/class to be a little over-used or unnecessary. Perhaps my preference from Deryn came from loving the feisty attitude she held, while Alek often seemed a bit too irritating and pompous for my tastes, though that definitely is an important aspect to the character.
Overall, however, and keeping in mind the fact that Leviathan was written to appeal to young adults, I definitely found myself enjoying it and wondering how exactly the reimagining of historical events would turn out. I guess the simplest way to describe this book would be to say that it was just a fun and easy read, with some interesting and creative visions thrown in there. Hopefully I can find and read the next in the series, Behemoth, soon!
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