Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

I loved this book! I read it in 3 days. I could not put it down.

I really enjoy historical fiction, but what’s even better is historical alternate fiction with steampunk!

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld, takes place in June of 1914, when Europe (not to mention the rest of the world) is on the brink of war. It seems that any excuse would bring about a worldwide war. The world is divided essentially into two factions (excepting neutral parties, though Switzerland would kind of favor one over the other…): the Darwinists (Allies–England, France, America, and their allies etc..) and the Clankers (Axis–Germany, Austria-Hungary, and their allies etc…). Deryn is a Scottish girl who was brought up to be in the air. Her father practically raised her on airships and taught her everything she knows. The downside is that she can’t join the military because of her gender. Alek is the (fictional) son of Archduke Ferdinand. Alek’s father’s fateful assassination tips Europe into the war for which it has been waiting.

The Darwinists have perfected genetic engineering, and they use fabricated creatures to great effect. They pilot great, gigantic air beasts–large whales which exude hydrogen so they can float and carry passengers. The Darwinist world is populated with entire ecosystems which serve their needs, like message lizards and bats that poop spikes. Daryn longs to be among these airmen, living in the clouds.

The Clankers have steam-powered machines which are the brute force of their military. They are steam-powered, iron walkers with mounted cannons. They move fast, but are rather loud. They take great skill to pilot them. Alek is training to be a military leader when his father is murdered and he must flee due to his illegitimate birth.

I like that this is rather educational (read the author’s note as well) while also providing the interest for the fantasy lovers. Even more, the use of Clankers and Darwinists and their rivalry allows for the exploration of prejudice. They vehemently hate each other, yet they have similar values and ways of doing things. The Clankers call the Darwinists godless for tampering with different species, while the Darwinists believe that the Clankers are soulless for turning to metal rather than life.

Read this, but a nice touch is the sketches which are included to enhance the world a little. I love a book with pictures!


4 thoughts on “Book Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

  1. For a J book, I think “Leviathan” is pretty darn creative! It certainly explores the themes you mentioned as well as introducing steampunk and fantasy elements to young readers. I started reading the book with the wrong expectations (in that I thought the content would be a bit older) which made the reading experience a little lesser for me. I still read the book incredibly fast and finished it. I liked it, although sadly I didn’t love it. I am glad I read it though so I can recommend it to young readers who may not be old enough for a YA read yet. The book ended in a far more interesting place than it began so there is a good chance I will read the second. It just depends on what my reading life looks like at the time:-)


  2. I loved loved loved this book. The simplistic (meant for younger readers) style didn’t put me off at all. The story was fun and entertaining and I enjoyed the characters and the world. I first listened to the audio, and it was phenomenal. What a great narration! And when I went through with the illustrations it all really came together for me as one of my favorite books. It may not be for everyone, but with the pictures and the audio it has wormed its way to a special place in my heart. Fabricated worms, that is.

  3. Pingback: Beyond the Deepwoods by Paul Stewart and Chris Riddel « Elementary, My Dear Reader

  4. Pingback: Book Review: The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson « Elementary, My Dear Reader

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