Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Leviathan has so much going for it – I absolutely couldn’t wait to read it as soon as I heard about it! An alternate history story about World War I being fought between the Darwinists (i.e., England et al.) who have bred all manner of newfangled creates (including two-headed, six-legged dogs, lizards who repeat whatever they’re told in the voice of whoever’s told them, and the Leviathan itself, a huge whale that is used as an airship) and the Clankers (i.e., Germany et al.) who are the steampunkers of the group featuring a girl disguised as a boy and the heir of Austro-Hungary on the run? What’s not to love?!
But I didn’t love it. At least not at first. It’s told in chapters alternating Deryn (the girl)’s and Alek (the heir)’s points of view and for the first thirty-odd chapters, Westerfeld explains his world-building. And fair enough, there’s a lot of alternate history to fill the reader in on, but I found that it got a bit tedious – I’m not sure whether it would have worked to just drop us in and let us figure it out as we read, but it might have been worth a try.
But once Deryn and Alek finally meet (around chapter thiry-four or so), things really pick up and for those last ten (or so) chapters, I was hooked! Lots of big action sequences and secrets to be revealed – including the one that leaves us hanging, anxious for the next book (I predict lots of political intrigue ahead…).
Like I was saying, Westerfeld has obviously done his homework and put in the time to think things through – here is what appears on the book’s endpapers:
Along with the endpaper illustrations, the book also features illustrations by Keith Thompson which I liked an awful lot (and during all the exposition, were my favorite part):
My rating: B (I want to give it a higher rating because of how I felt about it at the end, but with kind of uneven pacing, I just can’t quite do it…)