Scott Westerfeld’s “Leviathan”

Tomorrow I’ll be working on my review for Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, before I begin putting the next episode of BookBanter together, so I wanted to get a few thoughts down about it before I write the review, plus I’ll add a few thoughts and ideas that likely won’t make it into the review.  It’s why there’s a blog.

Levithan is an alternate history set during the beginning of World War I, kicking the book off with the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, leaving Prince Aleksander on his own.  He lives in a strange world of Clankers: giant mechanical machines of varying sizes.  Back in jolly old Britain is Deryn Sharp, who is training to be an airman in the British Air Service.  Yep, that’s right, airman; only men are allowed in the service, so Deryn cuts her hair short and keeps herself disguised.  Britain is on the side of the Darwinists, who have giant beast that are a genetic amalgamation of different creatures.  The Leviathan of the title is in fact a giant gene-crossed sperm whale upon which Deryn is an airman.  The Levithan finds itself caught in an impressive air battle with the German Clankers, causing it to flee into the alps where it conveniently crashes not too far from Prince Aleksander, which is how the two main characters meet.

The book reminded me in a number of ways Phillip Pullman’s His Dark Materials, no surprise really with the alternate history/fantasy world.  And my main complaint with the book would be while the setting was epic and impressive like Pullman’s world, the complex undertone and storyline wasn’t there, if anything the story seemed a little too simple.  But at the moment I’m putting this down to Leviathan being the first book in the series, where the second will open up the stage to something epic and mind-blowing like His Dark MaterialsLeviathan also reminded me of Naomi Novik’s successful Temeraire series also.  With how much story and set-up Westerfeld has done, the next few books in the series — I think — are really going to blow this whole thing out of the water, so to speak.

The other great thing about Leviathan is the work and care that has gone on with the book design, with the eye-catching Steampunkish cover, the type layout, the beautiful illustrations, the inlay design.  It’s a work of art that anyone would appreciate on their bookshelf.