Posted by : Deborah Takahashi Thursday, May 31, 2012

Plot Summary:
Prince Aleksander wants nothing but to be just like his father the smart, thoughtful, and peacekeeping Arch Duke. For Deryn, it was her father that showed her the beauty of aeronautics and aerology, but, unfortunately, she was born a girl and not a boy. These teens share one thing in common and that is to master machines and beings that were invented to do battle. In this alternate reality, World War I has just begun. After Aleksander's parents are murdered, he is forced into hiding by the Wildcount Volger and Master of Mechaniks, Otto Klopp. The reason why he must go into exile is that Aleksander's mother was a commoner; therefore, he has no claim to his title, which leads to chaos when his own people turn against him after the death of his father. Meanwhile, with the help of her brother, Deryn (aka. Dylan), is able to enlist in the Navy, provided she doesn't blow her cover with "girly" ways. Although Deryn isn't really all that feminine, her worries and fears could easily expose her true identity. However, Deryn has one aspect that most of these recruits do not have and that is guts. Ever since she was a little girl, she has been exposed to daring feats such as riding in air balloons, high into the sky. What she wasn't counting on is the Darwinist weapons that the Brits have created; in this world, there are two types of military power: the Clankers (machine builders) and the Darwinists (bio-engineers). For Aleksander, his only hope for survival is a rickety Stormwalker that holds him and his small crew. While Alek is running for his life, Deryn's recruitment advances rather quickly since she is very capable handling the "beasties" (the Darwinist animal weapons) and finds herself aboard the Leviathan--a floating ship that is made of a real whale and hundreds of small ecosystems. After proving herself worthy, Deryn is a "middie" who not only has the pleasure of outdoing her male counterparts, she becomes the personal assistant to Dr. Barlow who is a bio-scientist and is carrying a top secret government secret. The journey for Alek and Deryn takes a rather explosive turn where the end up meeting on a glacier in the Swiss Alps, which inadvertently brings the Clanker Austrian outcasts and the stranded Darwinists.

Critical Evaluation:
Scott Westerfield has written a cleaver alternate reality where machines and science will determine the fate of the world. I am very new to the Steampunk genre and I have to admit that's its pretty darn cool! Although the idea of animal weapons is a bit creepy, I would give anything to see a flying whale or a bat that is able to digest explosives. Granted, there are many ethical issues in the creation of these beings, what I found fascinating is how these creatures are able to coexist without impacting their surroundings. However, just because man has dominion over animals, doesn't mean he can use them in a way that puts their very existence at risk. The Clankers, those who prefer mechanical robots, strongly oppose these "abominations," which leaves the readers wondering the true purpose of the war: eliminate the Darwinist methods. Although history states the Germans and the Serbs were begging for a war, was the assassination of Alek's parents just a cover for an all out war between Darwinists and Clankers. Although Leviathan is the first book in the trilogy, it leaves readers pondering a variety of outcomes. For instance, when Alek finds out that his father made an agreement with the Pope to honor him as the next Emperor after his great-uncle dies, is Alek's accession to the throne  the reason why the entire world went to war. Secondly, why are the Darwinists France and Russia teaming up against the Clanker Germany and Austria? What makes this book so brilliant is that it reads like a strategic war game where players have chosen their pawns and the battle is about to begin.

Information about the Author:
According to his website, Scott Westerfield was born on May 5, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. His father was a computer programmer in the 1960s-1970's that took his family to different parts of the country; his father and mother are native Texans. Westerfield graduated from Arts Magnet High School, earned his Bachelor of Art in Philosophy from Vassar College in 1985, and his Master of Performance Studies in 1988. Westerfield has two older sisters and is married to his wife, Justine Larbalesteir. Westerfield has written eighteen novels (thirteen for young adults and five for adults). Here are some random facts about Scott:
Jobs held
factory worker (making lead soldiers!)
substitute teacher
textbook editor
software designer
ghost writer

Six Interesting Facts
1. I just bought a telescope (80mm primary)
2. I am a vegetarian (for family reasons, mostly)
3. My book So Yesterday has been translated into Slovene.
4. Languages studied: Japanese, Spanish, and Latin. Languages fluent in: English.
5. Justine and I are bisummeral, moving between the hemispheres to avoid the deadly scourge of winter.
6. I never wear jeans. Never!
 The Leviathan Trilogy is his latest trilogy and I am sure there are more on the way! For more information on Keith Thompson, click on the following link.

Teen Steampunk

Reading Level/Interest:
Grades 9 & up

Books Similar to Leviathan:

Awards & Recognition:
  • Starred Review Kirkus Review (9/1/2009)
  • Starred Review Publisher's Weekly (8/24/2009)
  • Starred Review School Library Journal (9/1/2009)
  • Starred Review Bulletin of the Center for Children's Book (12/1/2009)

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Deborah Takahashi
Pasadena, CA, United States
My name is Deb and I am a Librarian who absolutely loves to read and recommend books to teen and tween readers. In this blog, you will find reviews on a variety resources ranging from books, movies, video games, and much more. Please feel free to leave any feedback, especially book recommendations!
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