Sunday, 17 January 2010
Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Released: October 1st, 2009
Grade rating: A
The year is 1914 and Europe, armed with futuristic machines and biotechnology, is on the precipice of war. Prince Aleksandar is fleeing for his life, having discovered that his parents have been assassinated and that he is now a target for the Clanker Powers, a group determined to take over the globe with their mechanical machinery. They will stop at nothing to get what they want, so Alek knows his only choice is to keep on running. When he meets Deryn Sharpe, an orphan girl who has disguised herself as a boy so she can to join the British Air Service, they form an uneasy, but necessary, alliance. But the pair will soon discover that their emerging friendship will dramatically change their lives and the entire course of the Great World War...
I'm still a bit excited about Leviathan, so I'm going to have to begin by saying that I loved it. It really is an accomplishment, and as a first time reader of Westerfeld, I think I picked the right book to start with. It's lavishly illustrated by Keith Thompson, and some of the images are just amazing. They make the world come to life, and complement the writing brilliantly.
It's been quite a while since I've been so drawn to a story, but Westerfeld effortlessly pulled me in with his tale of Clanker machines and Darwinist fabricated species. I've never read steampunk before, but now that I have, I get why it's such a popular genre. There's so much scope and history to play with, not to mention the fantastical inventions and machinery that are woven into real events and important moments in world history.
Alek and Deryn are two very different teenagers, thrown together during the First World War. Alek's a reluctant heir to an empire, while Deryn is masquerading as a boy just so she can fly in the British Air Service. Both are headstrong, brave and determined, and both are instrumental in the outcome of the war. I must admit that I enjoyed Alek's narrative more than Deryn's. It flowed easier, and his journey across the country was marginally more interesting than her time aboard the Leviathan aircraft. Westerfeld's decision to tell two stories from two perspectives was quite a genius move -- when you have characters that good, there's never a doubt that they can hold their own.
The action in Leviathan is non-stop, with one threat or another always lurking around the corner. Whether it be German Clanker machines hot on their tail, or the fear of being kicked out of the air service, things are never quiet for Alek and Deryn, and they never take anything lightly. I honestly can't think of a better introduction to Scott Westerfeld, and all I'm wondering is: when can I get my hands on a copy of Behemoth?