Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld

Leviathan Book Cover From Goodreads.com: Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, 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 World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

Why I Chose It: I’m a big Scott Westerfeld fan, but I’ve never read this series – something I’ve wanted to read for a long time. I finally got a chance to read the first book!

The Review:

I am so glad that I finally read this book – I can’t believe I waited so long! Also, I’m in serious love with this cover.

So one of the things that’s pretty cool are the differences between Aleksander’s lifestyle and Deryn’s. Aleksander has grown up around technologies – big clanking metal contraptions that are really creative. I love the descriptions of not only the different technologies, but also all of the oil and smoke and various things that are belched out of them. Because Alek is learning how to run them, I felt like I had an insider’s view to how they worked and what it was like to ride in of them.

Deryn’s lifestyle, on the other hand, comes from growing up in Britain, where they’ve taken Darwin’s theories to the next level. There, instead of machines, they have fabricated animals. These are aspects of different species that have been grafted together and grown into amazing and incredibly useful beasts. I was a little apprehensive of this idea, just because of the potential of misusing animals, but I found Westerfeld made it clear that Deryn in particular cared about the animals – they weren’t simply there for her to use as tools, but were companions, and they helped each other. Once I got used to the idea, the imagination behind some of these creatures is absolutely amazing, and I loved it. It was so neat watching Deryn and Aleksander and the differences between the two lifestyles to contrast each other.

With the story focusing on Deryn and Aleksander traveling towards each other, it wasn’t hard to predict that they would meet up. However, I was really impressed that this took much longer than I had originally thought – and yes, this is a good thing. Both Deryn and Aleksander’s story lines were really interesting, so I was glad they they were kept apart for most of the book. The chapters flipped back and forth between them, and I swear every single one ends in a cliff hanger! The book really pushes you to keep reading, because there are so many exciting thigs happening at once, and in order to read what happens to Deryn, you have to read a chapter of Alek, which then ends in a cliffhanger… I definitely tore through this book and enjoyed every minute of it.

Book Cover Close Up

The characters themselves were also really likeable. I thought it was interesting that I liked both characters for much different reasons (In dual character books I typically like one over the other) but I found they contrasted and complimented each other nicely. My only issue was they seemed younger than the book put them. I believe the book puts them at 15-16 years old, and I definitely kept picturing around 13 years old. The book is meant for young adults, but I actually do think the writing would allow younger than this, as the writing is not overly difficult, nor is there any questionable content. Still, I liked the characters. It was also a really nice touch that Deryn’s character was constantly sketching things around her, and there are a few drawings throughout the book. It definitely made me feel more in touch with her character, as if she were showing me her drawings.

Finally, the biggest part of Westerfeld’s writing that I love is the thoroughness and thoughtfulness that is apparent throughout. Leviathan is no different. There is a ton of historical research that obviously went into this book, and the amount of historical facts in the fictional story is remarkable. I love how closely this story followed events that really happened, but of course with the Darwinist / Clanker twists. Plus, there is an awesome section at the back of the book where Westerfeld explains different events in his book in context of what happened in our history – he definitely gets an extra high five for that.

In summary, this book is action packed, filled with incredible creatures- both metal and beast, of course – and has a large amount of real history in it. It’s definitely a really interesting look at World War I, and is a really imaginative story at the same time. I would definitely recommend checking this one out!

Rating: 5 / 5

Book Cover Close Up

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2 comments on “Leviathan – Scott Westerfeld

  1. Greg did a presentation on this book in our Victorian Afterlives class! I’ve been meaning to read it ever since but haven’t gotten around to it (despite checking it out from the library twice). Glad to see its as good as I’ve heard :)

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