As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

March 18, 2011

LEVIATHAN by Scott Westerfeld, 2009

LeviathanIt 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. The Leviathan is a living airship, the most formidable airbeast in the skies of Europe. 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 both their lives forever.

Review by Jessica Day George, Middle Grade and Young Adult Author, and Bookshop Talk Host

Oh, wow.  I’m not a total steampunk junky.  I don’t belong to the Jules Verne Society, or anything that extreme.  But boy HOWDY is this book cool. 

Imagine if the forces of World War I were divided into Darwinists and Clankers, depending on if your army made use of mutated animals or steam-powered machinery.  No tanks or zeppelins are to be found here, but instead giant iron walking machines, and whales that float through the sky, filled with hydrogen. 

I loved the illustrations in this book, showing us what the walkers and airships looked like.  Westerfeld paid for the illustrations himself, because he wanted the book to really look like it had been written in the early 1900’s, when the illustrators of novels were often better known than the authors. 

It’s a beautifully written, beautifully illustrated book that gives us a wondrous look at a World War I that never was . . . but is so cool that you’ll wish it had been.  (If we must have a world war, at the very least we could have giant lion wolf hybrids pulling our carts!) Nor did Westerfeld stint on characterization or plot, relying on the illustrations to make up for any lack.  On the contrary, the characters are well done, and the plot is airtight.

I can’t wait to read the sequel, BEHEMOTH!

MARKET: Young Adult
LANGUAGE: mild/none

Book formats:

To learn more about the author, visit: Scott Westerfeld

To learn more about the reviewer and her fantasy novels, visit: Jessica Day George


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this great review, Jessica! I'm totally intrigued by this book. I've read Westerfeld's "Uglies" series, but not LEVIATHAN. I got it from the library a few months ago, but didn't get around to reading it (I feel like I say that in every comment, and it's always true!). Now I'm kicking myself. But the sun is shining today and I can sense a walk to the library with my girls in the very near future! I hope LEVIATHAN is available!

Amy Finnegan {} said...

This really is a great book! It's good for both children and adults, and feels SO unique. And this alternate universe is just totally cool :)

ShalottLady said...

I really like the book and adore the Leviathan itself. I want one for a pet. Along with several of those talking lizards.

The Art of Kim Kincaid said...

I love this series and can't wait for "Goliath". So original. I also enjoyed Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines and Ken Oppel's Airborn series which are similar in their steam-punkishness. Good review.