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Leviathan written by Scott Westerfeld.
Genre: young adult steampunk alternate history.
Premise: Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, 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 World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
Plot: There were plenty of unexpected moments and twists to keep me guessing. For me the World Wars are a fascinating time period, so reading a book about the first War set in an alternate history, steampunk world was extra fun.
Worldbuilding: Brilliant, very well thought-out and written. I like a book where the world is so fresh you can see what’s happening, feel the essence of it, and know what everything looks, tastes, and smells like as if you were really there. Even though the slang Deryn speaks is often crude, it perfectly fits the world Westerfeld created. I’ve caught myself saying “barking spiders” several times. Also, Deryn’s rides on the Huxley are so real they were making me giddy.
Characters: Ahhh… the characters. ^_^ Alek captured my heart at once — charries with tragedy do that to me. He’s such a sweet, brave, lonely little boy. By the time he realizes he has no clue how to pretend he is a commoner I was rooting for him completely. Deryn is a fiesty, clever-boots, determined girl who took a bit longer to worm her way into my affections (more on that later) but I love her to pieces now. Of the two Alek is my favorite. His character arc throughout Leviathan is fascinating to watch, from a little boy playing a strategy game with his toys to a responsible young man.
I like everything about the Count, particularly his dry snark and when he talks politics with Alek — which is almost always. (Can I just say how much I loved the addition of politics in this book. Lots of books leave that element out of their worldbuilding, or only touch on it briefly, and I love that Leviathan wasn’t like that.) The “boffin” doctor is another favorite with her quick mind, clever dialogue, and enigmatic way of behaving. Diplomat much? I like how she keeps Deryn on her toes, but I felt badly for how easily she tripped up Alek in verbal sparring. Poor chap. He has a lot to learn.
Firstly, the evolutionism. One side of the War — mainly the Brits — are called Darwinists because they have evolved species of animals to make them more useful and spliced together genes to create various creatures that are combinations, e.g. dogs with spiders legs or a weird mixture of tiger, lion, and I don’t remember what else. It’s uncomfortable to read about because it’s so clearly against the laws of God, nature, and scientific logic.
The other thing is Deryn’s attitude towards being a girl. It’s one thing to disguise yourself as a boy so you can be a midshipman, it’s quite another to do it with a hearty disgust about everything feminine. One of the saddest effects of feminism is girls who are taught to be uncomfortable as womanly women.
Despite those two points I enjoyed Leviathan very much, and I’m dying to pick up Behemoth and see what happens next.
In conclusion: Leviathan is an engrossing read with some unfortunate elements, but with stellar worldbuilding, a captivating plot, and lovable characters.
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GUYS. If those eggs don’t turn out to be dragons I will be barking furious. I will REND ALL THE THINGS. (kudos if you get that reference.) Also, I know they’re still children practically but I ship Alek and Deryn. so. hard. I need this to be a thing. And I’m dying of curiousity: has anyone else shipped the Count and Dr. Barlow together? Because there would be so much snark and adorableness. I WILL GO DOWN WITH THIS SHIP.
And can we just talk about the Huxley rides for a moment? Did they make anyone else feel dizzy? Heights are not my Favorite, BUT the moment when Deryn uses the whole set-up like a zip-line was EPIC. And I was freaking out when Dr. Barlow asked Deryn about her razor. I wonder how long it’ll take her to realize that she’s a girl?
Oh, my stars. O.O How will Alek react?!! *hyperventilates*
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