Hannah's Reviews > Leviathan

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
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's review
Jul 27, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, received-for-review, steampunk, alternative-history, middle-grade
Read from August 04 to 08, 2011

1914 Europe is on the brink of war and 15 year old Austrian Prince Alek is on the run from the same Clankers (allies who use steam-powered machinery) who killed his parents for no other reason than to incite this war. Meanwhile, the Darwinist Brits running the Leviathan, a massive hybrid flying beast ship, run into a little trouble of their own with the Clankers whilst on their way to try to make peace before war can begin. The story follows the perspectives of both Alek and Deryn, a girl who loves nothing more than flying and had to disguise herself as a boy to be able to join the British Air Service to even be considered entry.

What Leviathan attempts to do is to combine old boyish adventure stories with more modern ideals to make the story appealing to both genders whilst using a steampunk theme, and it does this perfectly. It is an utterly imaginative, high-speed tale that will have you on the edge of your seat from beginning to end. It literally doesn’t stop. And the combining of the two stories, that of Alek and that of Deryn, come together so fluidly you can’t fault it. Each character is given two chapters in turn which keeps the flow.

The pictures sprinkled throughout the book add to the overall feel of the novel really well, adding visualisation where description might be lacking, as well as a more alternate 1914 atmosphere. I found myself inspecting the pictures as more than just images to accompany the words because they are as much a part of Leviathan as the story itself and they’re so fantastic. The cover pictured in this post features a full colour version of one of the images from the book. This is a much newer cover recently released by Simon & Schuster and I absolutely love it, I think it’s gorgeous.

Scott’s reinvention of World War One Europe is, in my mind, absolute genius. While I was interested in the Clanker’s very steampunkesque lifestyle and weaponry, using a vast array of Walkers which were impressive on their own, I was completely amazed by the idea of the Darwinists. Fabricated beasts bio-engineered for use as airships, weapons, and all sorts of crazy things, including the message lizards which record a message and then run off to play back the message in the person’s voice just like a tape recorder.. it actually reminded me a little of the Flintstones. I found the entire concept of Darwinists versus Clankers fantastic, and the more you read, the more you realise that yes, these were the allies. The afterword is also worth a read as it explains the true history Leviathan was based upon and I think this quote sums steampunk up very nicely: “That’s the nature of steampunk, blending future and past.”

I think Leviathan may perhaps be a little too young for my usual tastes. Though I appreciated everything about it and I couldn’t find fault in the story as a whole, I found myself wishing towards the end that it might slow down a little bit. I like a breather in my books to allow for conversation between characters and intrigue to develop, but that’s just me. As a kid’s book Leviathan is brilliant.

I believe that this book should be a must read for all kids around the age of 10, though by no means would I suggest anybody much older than this age avoid it because it is such a fun and beautiful novel, if you haven’t read Leviathan yet, you really should. It is a wonderful introduction to steampunk and a fully enjoyable read.

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Reading Progress

08/04/2011 page 78
18.0% "What a wonderful imagination!"
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