By Scott Westerfeld
Genre: YA Steam Punk
#1 in the Leviathan Series
Choose your Weapon: Beastie or Clanker
"Alek is a prince without a throne. On the run from his own people, he has only a fighting machine and a small band of men.
"Deryn is a girl disguised as a guy in the British Air Service. She must fight for her cause-and protect her secret-at all costs.
"Alek and Deryn are thrown together aboard the mighty airship Leviathan. Though fighting side by side, their worlds are far apart. British fabricated beasts versus German steam-powered war machines. They are enemies with everything to lose, yet somehow destined to be together."
This book was nothing like I've ever read before. In a good way, don't worry. First of all, it's steam punk. I've never read anything in that genre before, nor ever desired to, so I have nothing to compare this to, but it blew me away. The way that Westerfeld used facts from World War I and brought in highly imaginative creatures was so creative. I enjoyed the blurring of the lines of past and future, so that this novel truly could have taken place at any time. He always kept me on my toes, and I never knew what to expect.
The way Westerfeld used science and Darwinism was fascinating. I mean, animals that are made up of lots of other animals and can fly? So cool! Also, this book is laced with beautiful drawings that bring the reader into this unique world and help explain the machines and creatures Westerfeld invented for this tale. Without the drawings I might have been more frustrated and confused about what the creatures specifically looked like or how they worked, but since there were drawings, I could easily imagine these strange inventions in my head and didn't feel left out of the world.
This book was as different from the other novels I've read by Westerfeld, Uglies, Pretties, Specials, as a zebra is from a squirrel. I think that shows great talent on his part. But like in those books, I like how he creates new words for his characters to use, and I might have used one of them out loud at one point... And the characters! They're so funny, especially Deryn. I love her snarky humor and 'no-nonsense' attitude; she just pulls you right along with her and keeps everything fresh and funny.
The only thing I didn't particularly like about this novel was that the boy, Alek, seemed a bit 'weak' at the end. For being a Prince and a male character, I expected to pull more of his weight toward the end of the novel, especially when Deryn's soaring down ropes and threatening people. It was kind-of like Inheritance by Christopher Paolini all over again. But there's still hope! There's two more books in the series: Behemoth and Goliath. I do want to finish the series, but I'm not necessarily dying to.
I give Leviathan a 3.5 for all of the above and recommend it for 12 year olds and up.
What I learned: Oftentimes you have to take risks to grow, to change. Difficulties shape us into who we are.