April 24, 2012

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Title: Leviathan
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Ships Launched: 811
Pages: 484
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Year Published: 2009
Genre: Steampunk/Historical Fiction
Synopsis: It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.

I really enjoyed this book. I have read a few books by Westerfeld before, and I enjoyed them very much as well (Uglies, Pretties, etc.) So naturally, I expected much of the same style from this book.
Westerfeld surprised me. It almost seemed like the different people wrote Leviathan and Uglies. His voice switched perfectly into the best type of narration for this book. The world of Leviathan was fascinating. It was like a parallel universe to WWI, but with fabricated animals against machines.

It was really fast-paced, almost too fast-paced at times. There was endless non-stop action. Sometimes it was a little overdone, but it was not nearly as bad as mindless action movies, where it seems like a lot of action with a smidgeon of plot thrown in. In Leviathan, the action supported the plot without overwhelming it. At times, the story got a little confusing because the world that Westerfeld created was so complex that it was difficult to understand what was going on. 

I thought that the plot was intriguing. Having just studied WWI, I found it interesting to link up what was going in the book to the real events of the war. Even with all of the action, the plot was still strong. Leviathan was never boring.

The characters in this book were excellent. Deryn’s masquerade as a boy was so convincing that sometimes, when a “she” popped up in the writing, I was surprised to recall that she was, in fact, a girl. Alek’s growth from a scared, orphaned boy into a confident young adult was interesting to watch. But again, with all of the action, it did not feel like you really got to know the characters. I liked the switching viewpoints between these two characters, however. It gives the reader a different perspective on everything that is taking place.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was mesmerizing and never boring, and the characters were interesting and original. The action sometimes threatened to bring everything down, but the plot remained strong in the end.

+20 – WWI Plot – I enjoyed the references between this mostly fictional book and the real war that took place very much.
+15 – No clich├ęd romance (yet): Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for cute love stories, but I’m glad that this book didn’t do that. It’s just too overdone, and the romance would not have fit in with all of this action. We'll just have to see what the sequel has in store!
+15 – The Illustrations: The illustrations in this book were beautifully done, and they gave you a clearer image of the intriguing world that Westerfeld created. They really added another level to the story.

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