Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Review: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

    Leviathan (Leviathan (Quality))
  • Reading level: Young Adult
  • Paperback: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Simon Pulse; Reprint edition (August 10, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1416971742
  • ISBN-13: 978-1416971740

All the European powers are arming up for World War I. 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 is an Austro-Hungarian prince on the run. Deryn Sharp is a commoner. Their paths cross in the most unexpected way.

When I first started reviewing books, I put out a Facebook status asking for suggestions from people about what I should read.  I got a lot of recommendations, but almost every guy that responded said, "You have to read Leviathan!!"  I kept thinking that I really should pick it up, if so many people liked it, but for some reason, I just couldn't get myself to start it.  I'm not sure why, especially since I really enjoyed Scott's Uglies series, but something about it just didn't appeal to me.  Finally, though, I decided if I couldn't make myself read it, that I would at least listen to the playaway audiobook in the car.  

Why did I wait so long??  I loved it!  I loved the story, I loved the characters, I loved the mystery and how it all weaved together.  I even loved the reader of the audiobook, Allen Cumming.  He did SUCH a fantastic job!  He had a British accent as the narrator, then Scottish accent for Deryn and a German accent for Alek.  He was amazing!

It took me awhile to get into the book.  I think some of that had to do with the fact that I was listening to it, and I was unfamiliar with the different kinds of creatures and the reader had an accent, so that made it a little more confusing.  But, once I got into the story and became familiar with the dialog, I couldn't stop listening to it.  I started looking for reasons to get in the car and go somewhere, and finally ended up taking the playaway out of the car and listening to it with my headphones.  

Leviathan is a Steampunk novel (blending of future and past) told as a kind of alternate history (1914-WWI) combined with a possible future (technology/science).  Charles Darwin has discovered DNA, and with that knowledge learned how to thread the "life strands" of different animals together to make new extraordinary creatures.  Giant flying whales and jellyfish-like creations, and talking message lizards were just a few of the inventive creatures found in this book.  The fantastical animals were just one thing that I liked so much about it, though.  I also really enjoyed the characters.

I loved Deryn and Alek.  The story alternated between their viewpoints while also alternating between the Darwinist and the Clankers.  Deryn is part of the Darwinist group and she has to disguise herself as a boy in order to become part of the British Air Fleet, because girls aren't allowed to fight.  She is a feisty, spirited girl who is looking for any opportunity to prove that she can do anything just as well, if not better than, the boys she served with.   Alek starts as a pampered, spoiled aristocrat with the Clankers, but after his parents are killed, he has to come face to face with the real world and learn to care about more than just himself.  By the end of the book, I was completely immersed into the world that Scott created, and the cliffhanger ending is killing me!  I can't wait for the next book, Behemoth, which came out October 5.  I'd love to listen to it on audiobook also!  Fantastic!

Reagan and Bransen's mom

Scott Westerfeld has tons of fun stuff on his blog, you should go check it out!  Here's the trailer for Leviathan.

In case you were wondering:  This book is very clean.  There is no sexual content or language (at least not American cussing, I'm not sure about some of the British/Scottish/German words :)  There is some war violence, but nothing graphic or detailed.

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