Why I Read It: I've been plowing through this series for the past couple of weeks, so of course I had to read this lates Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: I've been plowing through this series for the past couple of weeks, so of course I had to read this latest installment. Spoiler-free review ahead.
This series is so addicting and so so fun. It features a strong heroine and a rollicking adventure -- common elements threading this series together -- but it's different enough from its predecessors to stand on its own and it's a formula that works really well (though I hesitate to word it quite like that because 'formulaic' entails some negative connotations that I wouldn't attribute to this book, or series as a whole.)
This book features Andan Cly, who was initially introduced in Boneshaker, as a main character as well as his lost love, Josephine Early. I liked Cly since he was first introduced, so I was excited that he got a whole novel dedicated to him and his air-pirate shenanigans (well, he's trying to give up that life, but his adventure in this book is kind of like his last hurrah.) Josephine was an equally compelling heroine, even though she hadn't had any page-time in previous books. She's like Briar Wilkes in a lot of ways -- she's strong-willed, stubborn, independent and tough as old leather -- but she's still very much her own person and I would never confuse the two. Josephine was almost all the traits I just mentioned, but amplified because of her situation (being a coloured and independent woman.)
There is a bit of romance in the novel, but it's really downplayed and is between Andan and Briar, not Andan and Josephine, despite having had a relationship about a decade before. The relationship between Andan and Josephine was really well executed. They never get back together and there's never any question if they will or won't, which I appreciated; these characters are grown adults and they act like it, and while meeting again after so long is initially awkward for them, they behave maturely and like people their age.
The adventure itself, navigating the Ganymede (which is a submarine), was a lot of fun and takes up a good chunk of the final third of the novel. I really enjoyed reading it, and while I had no doubt that the characters would make it through, that didn't lessen the excitement. Save for this book, I've yet to read a novel set in a submarine, so that was a fun change of pace.
As for the alternative history elements, I'm not at all familiar with the Civil War (I know I should be, but eh, I'm Canadian), let alone the nitty gritty details, so even when things deviated a lot from the truth, I could never tell. Priest does provide an awesome afterword though that details aspects of the story that were based on history and how they deviated from history. It also provided some insight into Ruthie's character (which I won't go into detail here because of spoilers, but I initially found a revelation about her character to be shoe-horned into the plot, despite the good intentions; the afterword assuaged my reservations about it though.)
Final Verdict: This was another fun installment in the Clockwork Century series. It features a similar blend of Strong Heroine and Rollicking Adventure that I've come to associate these books with, but it always uses these elements in different enough ways that it never feels repetitive. I liked seeing Andan Cly get his own book, and his relationship with Josephine was well executed; they have awesome banter and clearly still respect one another, but it never treads romantic territory, which I liked. The adventure in the submarine Ganymede was a ton of fun to read as well. I can't wait for The Inexplicables to come out this November....more
Why I Read It: Loved Boneshaker, so I jumped right into the sequel as soon as I could.
This is going to be a relatively s Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: Loved Boneshaker, so I jumped right into the sequel as soon as I could.
This is going to be a relatively short review because I actually read this quite awhile ago, but suffice it to say that I really enjoyed this installment of the Clockword Century series.
One thing I'm growing to love about this series is that Priest features strong female characters, but they're strong in different ways. Briar is more of a "run in with guns blazing" kind of strong, while Mercy has a more quiet inner strength. She's obviously affected by the recent death of her husband, and while she doesn't bottle up her pain, she certainly deals with it head-on in an admirable manner. There's also the fact that she goes through hell and back to get across the country to her dying father, but she deals with every problem with aplomb, and a fierce kind of grace. She's a super cool lady and I loved her.
I love that the alternative civil war world Priest introduced to us in Boneshaker is further expanded and developed in this installment. We get to actually see a bit of the East and see some of the war first-hand. The steam-punk elements continue to be pleasantly subtly instead of glaringly in your face, and compliment and build upon the world instead of feeling tacked on. Actually, there were hardly any steampunk elements in this installment at all, minus the Dreadnought train and the few Walkers (mechs basically) used by both sides in the war efforts.
The plot is actually kind of slow moving when you think of it; it has a lot of Mercy being bored while riding the train, but it's only slow-moving in a way that's realstic. When you're stuck on a train for weeks on end, you're going to be doing a whole lot of nothing. Thankfully though, there's plenty of action (train heists!) to keep things rollicking and interesting. There's also a bit of a mystery going on, but if you've read Boneshaker, you'll know what's going on immediately. This isn't a BAD thing though; Priest doesn't present this element like a mystery for the reader, only for the characters, and watching them put the pieces together and come to answers in their own way was well written and executed. I also know there was some crossover with Clementine, but I have yet to read that, so I didn't spot them.
Final Verdict: All in all, it was a good time and I'm excited to get my hands on a copy of Clementine and Ganymede. This world is so much fun and I love Priest's strong female characters. The steampunk elements continue to be minimal, but perfectly complement her growing Civil War America. I strongly recommend this to fans of alternative history and steampunk (though the two usually go hand-in-hand anyway). ...more
Why I Read It: Next (and last) in a series. There are possible spoilers for the first two books here, as well as some sp Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: Next (and last) in a series. There are possible spoilers for the first two books here, as well as some spoilers for this final installment. If you're paranoid, just skip to my "Final Verdict" and you'll be fine.
So I knew for sure that two things would happen in this book: 1) Alek would find out that Derryn is actually a girl. 2) Alek and Derryn would finally get together and live happily ever after.
But I was curious how Westerfeld was going to handle it.
For the first point, I thought it was handled really well. I was a little surprised at how EARLY Alek finds out about Derryn, but it really did make sense. How else would his feelings evolve into feelings or luurrvvee if he didn't know Dylan was in fact his preferred gender? So because he found out so soon, there was a lot anger and resentment and broken trust and hurt feelings, but just like Derryn predicted in Behemoth, Alek gets over it and their friendship is forged anew. I loved reading about Alek's conflicted feelings because on the one hand, despite Derryn being a girl, he still finds himself missing his friend, and he's not particularly mad that she's a girl per se (though he does make some fairly sexist comments), but he's mad that she would keep any secrets between the two of them.
And then the romance! Derryn really puts herself out there and doesn't hold anything back from Alek now. I loved how mature they were about it all too. They both know that they can't be together if Alek decides to take the throne, but they don't angst about it -- not more than can be expected of fifteen year olds anyway -- and leave things unsaid until they actually have time to address them. The conclusion is predictable, but incredibly satisfying (though I have read reviews where people feel like Alek fell in love with Derryn a little too quickly. I'm inclined to agree, but I love these two together so much that I just didn't find myself caring.)
With all this talk of our two main leads I've failed to mention anything about the plot. This time around the story revolves the famous Nikola Tesla and his giant Tesla cannon that's been dubbed the Goliath. After doing some research in Siberian forest that has been decimated, Tesla has deduced that the destruction was in fact produced by the Goliath. If that's true, than that means he can coerce the Germans into peace with the threat of the Goliath behind him. What I found interesting about this main thread was something Westerfeld had said in his afterword of Behemoth, mainly that the real historical Tesla had made a device which he claimed could shoot down like 10,000 planes or something ridiculous like that. Of course it wasn't true though. So I wondered the true nature of the Goliath the entire time I was reading, like the characters: Did the Goliath actually work? Would Westerfeld stick with what he had said previously, or was he going to make the device actually work (this IS *alternate*-history after all)? Because I never knew, the stakes DID feel high and I was DYING to know.
I liked that Westerfeld expanded on his alternate WWI era world even further by having our leads travel through Asia and then continue on to the United States. We get to see more incarnations of Clanker and Darwinist technology, and places where both technologies are integral to the culture (like Japan and the U.S., though the U.S. itself was divided between Clanker and Darwinist technology because of the Civil War -- brilliant! -- whereas in Japan the two were much more integrated).
I have to say though, that even after having read all the books I'm STILL left wondering how the lorises were supposed to make the Ottoman Empire take Britain's side. It's clear that the critters are super smart and unlike other beasties (mainly in that they learn, as opposed to being engineered for a single purpose like the messenger lizards), but I'm not sure how they were to supposed to shift an entire war. This question is brought up by other characters in the text, and most just theorize that Dr. Barlow wanted time in Istanbul, but other than that, we're never really told much else. So it's not a complaint per se, I'm just curious.
All in all, everything comes to a satisfying conclusion. Obviously the war isn't over and our heroes didn't end it (as much as Alek wanted to) and I appreciated that they didn't -- that would have required a little too much suspense of disbelief and I think Westerfeld handled everything really well and in a satisfying way.
Final Verdict: I loved this series from start to finish and I'm so glad I read them all in one go instead of waiting forever to read them all (I have a nasty habit of reading the first book in a series, loving it, and then never getting to the rest of the series.) The world-building in this series has been some of the most well thought-out and imaginative I've ever come across and extremely likable characters to accompany it. This conclusion is somewhat predictable in many aspects, but those bits were so satisfying to read regardless, and there were enough surprises to keep things interesting. I seriously recommend this series. :)...more
Why I Read It: A loveeddd the first volume in the trilogy, Leviathan. Instead of letting the series sit unfinished until Review originally posted here.
Why I Read It: A loveeddd the first volume in the trilogy, Leviathan. Instead of letting the series sit unfinished until I could buy them though, I decided to sign out the remaining two books in the trilogy PRONTO and get them read sooner rather than later.
I think one of my favourite things about this series, and is made more clear in this volume, is that while Deryn and Alek are obviously intrinsically linked and will obviously end up together, they still do their own thing. The alternative POV isn't to give readers different perspectives on the same events (though it does do that as well), but to actually show us DIFFERENT stuff that is happening because these two aren't attached at the hip. I've seen too many YAs with alternating boy-girl POVs that have the two characters together pretty much all the time so the alternating POVs provides little else besides demonstrating how the two leads are falling for each other. Deryn IS definitely falling for Alek in this book, but it's not the reason for the alternating POVs.
The plot in this second volume of the series is definitely more fast paced and continues the forward momentum picked up at the end of the first book. We get to watch Alek really come into his own here, as he finally finds a way to help in the best way he thinks he can in order to help stop the war: by joining the revolution that wants to throw the sultan from the throne of the Ottoman Empire. Deryn still takes the spotlight of course -- she's much more pro-active than Alek -- but watching him be in the thick of things and doing things other than running away was quite nice.
The world-building continues to be impressive and is expanded in this volume with the crew visiting Istanbul. I loved that the city was half-Darwinist and half-Clanker. The contraptions that were a mix of both technologies (such as the giant mechanical elephants) were super cool and I appreciated that it wasn't the ENTIRE WORLD that was divided into either Clanker or Darwinism -- it makes sense that some countries would adopt both.
The story held within this volume is a very self-contained volume (though I don't recommend reading it before reading Leviathan) so you won't find any cliff-hangers here, but it's obvious there's more story to tell. I still appreciated what Westerfeld did here though because it prevented the story from being plagued with Second Book Syndrome, which dictates that second books in series/trilogies/whatever tend to drag as it all builds up to a grand finale. That's definitely not the case here. :)
I loved how Deryn's crush on Alek was handled; it's not at the forefront of things because she's got more serious things to worry about, but it still figures into her decisions (such as deciding to look for him in Istanbul instead of getting back on the Leviathan). And I like that she admits that thinking of him makes her act silly, because really, that's what love/crushes/whatever does to people, and she willingly admits it instead of dressing the whole thing up as TRU LUUVV. Oh, and her jealousy over Lilit made me tut a little, but Westerfeld throws in a (fairly predictable) reversal that had me giggling (regardless of predictability.)
Final Verdict: This was an awesome second volume to this wonderful trilogy. The story is self-contained, so there's no fear of cliff-hangers, and the story is wonderfully fast-paced (as opposed to the first volume which was a little slow to start). The world-building continues to enthrall me, and Westerfeld's world is even further fleshed out in this volume. Alek's character really comes into his own here, though I still unsurprisingly prefer Deryn. ...more
Why I Read It: Initially I wanted to read this because I was attracted to the pretty cover. But then I started digging a bit Originally reviewed here.
Why I Read It: Initially I wanted to read this because I was attracted to the pretty cover. But then I started digging a bit and found quite a few glowing reviews for it from bloggers I trust and have similar tastes with. My brother went on a book-buying spree a few years ago and I was recommending a lot of YA, but he wanted some adult titles too. Since I wanted to read this myself, I gave him the gist of what the book is (zombies, alternative history, steampunk) and he was sold and bought the book for himself. It took me awhile, but I finally got around to reading it for myself. Spoiler-free review ahead.
Why did I wait so long to read this book? Actually, maybe it isn't so bad that I waited as long as I did because now I have at least TWO other books to read in this fantastic world (there's also a third, but it's not as readily available as the other two are.)
So what is it that makes this novel so great? It's FUN. I wouldn't say that the characters themselves are having a whole lot of fun, but reading about this awesome alternative history, steampunk, zombie-ridden Seattle was awesome. It's got just the right amount of everything, which is a hard balance to achieve since Priest is juggling so many elements in one novel (albeit, these elements commonly intermingle, but still; a lot of them fall short where this one doesn't.) But this book never smothers you with too much steampunk, nor do the steampunk elements for like they're thrown in solely to be able to brand this as steampunk. I think Shara (calico_reaction) said it best when she described how some of the steampunk elements -- ie. gas masks, googles -- work in this world because they're actually USEFUL. They make sense in this world, and thus the steampunkiness doesn't feel like it's there solely for aesthetics.
While I wouldn't say this is a character-driven novel (I'd argue it's much more about the action and the world-building/atmosphere), the characters do manage to hold up their own rather well, for the most part. I found Zeke a little bland; he appeared to be there just to witness the action and was rarely a participant, nor did I ever really get a feel for his personality other than his burning desire to redeem his family name. Briar on the other hand, I really liked. She's kick-ass, but also has major brains. And despite the fact that she's incredibly independent for a woman in the mid-1850s, she never felt anachronistic. For one, it's stated early on that she used to be rich (because of her husband), and two, she never bemoans the fact that she's a woman and just wants to do her own thing etc. She just does what she needs to do, but not because she wants to Stick It To The Man. I should also mention the relationship between Zeke and Briar, which I thought was sweet, but for some reason I had a hard time connecting Briar and Zeke as mother and son. Maybe it's because I don't read about this family dynamic much??
My favourite characters though were the secondary ones, specifically the group that Briar meets in the Blighted part of Seattle. Lucy (I think that's her name?) was probably my absolute favourite. The pirates that Briar meets were also pretty likable as well, despite not getting a whole lot of page-time.
When I think back to the plot, I don't remember it being all that great to be honest, but there was something about the pacing that made this 400+ tome fly by. There was enough going on that I was never bored, and because I liked Briar so much and her ragtag group of friends that she makes, it elevated what could have potentially been a very mediocre/less-than-stellar story into something that was greater than the sum of its parts.
Final Verdict: For me, this book had a few flaws: the story isn't ALL that enthralling and one of the main characters (Zeke) remained luke-warm to me. However!! I still greatly enjoyed this novel as a whole because of the fantastic world-building. I loved the balance that Priest achieved with the steampunk and zombie elements in the novel, and neither ever felt gratuitous or like they were thrown in there just to look cool. It all worked together and did so wonderfully. Also, the other main character, Briar, was extremely likable, as well as the characters she meets along the way. I'm really excited to catch up on this series (which I plan to do as soon as I can), and would recommend this to anyone who's digging the steampunk trend. ...more
Why I Read This: I've been PUMPED for this book since its original release in 2009. I thought the concept sounded SO COO Review originally posted here.
Why I Read This: I've been PUMPED for this book since its original release in 2009. I thought the concept sounded SO COOL (steam punk! alternative history set during the First World War! girls dressing as boys!) and the pictures were so pretty!! But at the time my TBR pile was massive (as it is to this day) and I couldn't warrant buying a big shiny hardcover (which was stupid because I've bought MANY a book since then). Anyway, for Christmas back in 2011 I bought the book for my brother because he was just getting into reading at the time and I thought it was something he would like, and I was kinda hoping it would push me to read the read book sooner rather than later. It still took me forever to get to it though, as you can see, but better late than never and all that. No spoilers ahead.
I think I'm in a pretty big camp when I say that I LOVE LOVE LOVE stories about girls who disguise themselves as boys in order to do Boy Things (not that it's FAIR that they've been assigned Boy Things, but you know). So anyway, it's absolutely no surprise that I fell head over heels in love with Derryn.
I think I should clarify that this book is told in alternating POVs, jumping between the secret heir of the Austrio-Hungarian throne, Aleksander, and the aforementioned girl-in-disguise, Derryn Sharp. One problem with alternating POV novels is that sometimes authors don't quite make the voices of the different POV characters distinct, and they thus get muddled. That is NOT the case here. Because of Alek's princely upbringing, he speaks much more proper than our common girl Derryn, who swears like a sailor and has the most awesome turns of phrases EVER ("barking spiders!") Even when there isn't dialogue though, the narrative voices are distinctly different between the two characters, so if I were to open the book on any given page, I'm fairly certain I would be able to tell you whose chapter it was.
As for the plot itself, it felt oddly short for a 440 page book. To be fair though, the margins were pretty big and the spacing was fairly spacious, so it was a fast 440 page read. But it almost all felt like set-up. The first half in particular is kind of slow-moving as Westerfeld gets things going. But honestly? This was all perfectly fine by me because I was engrossed in his world-building, and it deserved all the attention and detail it got. I have read reviews though that complain that there is too much time spent on describing contraptions and vehicles and stuff though, so I suppose that's something to be wary of.
But the world-building! IT'S SO GOOD!! I'm no connoisseur of steampunk, but I've always been fascinated by it. It's all very aesthetically pleasing and alternative history just sounds so fun, doesn't it? It also helps that I've had a fascination with WWI and WWII since grade 10. Before then I had ZERO interest in history, but then I got a really awesome teacher and he got me to enjoy it immensely, and the two Wars (and some other bits) were the core of the course, so those periods in history have always interested me more than others. I haven't even gotten into the technology though! If you're on the internet at all, you have an idea of what steampunk "looks" like: lots of metal, gears, clocks, zeppelins and all that fun stuff. That's all here. Westerfeld takes it a step further though and showed me something completely new and different: Darwinism.
See, the world is mostly divided between "Clanker" technology (which is your Star Wars inspired run-of-the-mill steam punk stuff) and "Darwinist" technology which is, unsurprisingly, completely animal-based. For example, the ship that Alek and Derryn spend most of their time on (the titular Leviathan) is one giant ecosystem; the airship itself is a whale and other animals live inside the whale which in turn helps it function. The whole concept was entirely new to me and I loved it.
I've already mentioned the characters (re: I love Derryn), but I do want to mention that while Derryn was an obvious fav, I loved pretty much everyone. Some people have complained that Alek is kind of complain-y, and I mostly agree, BUT, I think he makes up for it in many ways: he's almost always willing to admit he's wrong and he's quite willing to help people, even at his own expense. The secondary characters are quite good as well. Volger is kind of a dick, but you know he has Alek's best interests at heart (though I sometimes wondered if it was ONLY because of his loyalty to Alek's father); Doctor Barlow is obviously badass and I thought she was hilarious; her interactions with Derryn were awesome. There are a few others, and while they're never given considerable page-time, I still thought they distinguished themselves outside of just "being there".
Some reviews I've read have had issues with the writing of this book, outside of the many descriptions of vehicles and things. This book is marketed as YA, but some have said they believe the book reads too young to be shelved there and should instead be shelved as MG. I'm a bit on the fence here; on the one hand I was surprised at how young the voices read in this. Derry and Alek are both fifteen, but save for a few moments here and there, I wouldn't have been surprised if they were as young as 12. The writing itself reads at the lower end of YA as well. This didn't deter my love for the book at all though. I honestly don't care where it's shelved -- it's a great work of fiction and I enjoyed it immensely.
I also want to express how impressed I was with the art. There are a TON (I'm talking one or two pics a chapter almost, plus the beautiful coloured map at the beginning of the hardcover) of beautiful detailed pictures in this book by the artist Keith Thompson and I was in awe of the detail put into them. They were also often placed at perfect moments, such as when a vehicle or contraption of some kind was being described. I'd be having trouble picturing it in my head and would then turn the page to be pleasantly surprised that I had a PICTURE to show it to me.
Oh, and for anyone who is curious about the alternative historical aspects of the novel, Westerfeld includes a wonderful afterword at the end of the book that talks about what was really based on real history and what was his own fabrication. Definitely worth checking out.
Final Verdict: A wonderfully demonstration of some of the best world-building I've seen in awhile. Westerfeld takes steampunk and totally runs with it, while also mixing in something completely new and fresh (Darwinism). The characters were both likable, though I have a very clear penchant for the wonderful girl-disguised-as-a-boy Derryn and her rough vernacular. Her story is overall more exciting, but I still liked Alek immensely as well. The secondary characters get plenty of development and page-time too. I loved all the wonderful illustrations that populate this book; they're very detailed and incredibly well drawn, and I'm glad that the publishers decided to publish this on nice high-quality paper (though it does make the book kind of heavy.)...more