Grace's Reviews > Leviathan

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
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Mar 20, 10

bookshelves: fantasy, epic, history, steam
Read in March, 2010

Ever since "Midnighters", I've been casting horrible looks in Westerfeld's direction (never, ever read those stupid books) -- but Leviathan got listed as a great book, I had to check it out. And it's pretty damn good.

It's the first part of a series, so I'm being conservative with ratings, but so far so good. Deryn is believable as a boy, unlike many other girl-dressed-as-boy fictions. She talks rough, plays rough, and Westerfeld doesn't load her down with moments when she's worrying about her secret or about to be discovered. It's really nice. And Aleks is understandably arrogant, but also has a good dose of perception in him, so when he does stupid things he chastises himself almost at the same time the reader's thinking "...you idiot."

The concept of "Darwinist" engineered creatures is fascinating in the context of WWI, especially when the opposing side is wedded to machinery ("Clankers"). It's such a fundamental difference in strategy, and it also helps to differentiate which force is doing what, which can be difficult when writing battle scenes. Sometimes Westerfeld gets a bit cutesy with it (of course their war machines had legs, who would use common treads like a farm machine?!), but that's making it more accessible to the target teen audience, and is balanced with stuff like a quick discussion between Deryn and Aleks about the Clankers being influenced in their design by the biological vehicles on the Darwinist side.

Altogether, this is a great book for teenagers and preteens interested in history, science, machinery, or just long periods of rigging themselves to a giant flying, farting whale.
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