After his parents are murdered, Alek goes on the run with two of his mentors, Otto Klopp, master of mechaniks, and Wildcount Volger, his fencing master. They board a Cyclops Stormwalker, a two-legged metal engine of war, which Alek has a hand in piloting. Meanwhile, Deryn (aka Dylan) becomes a midshipman on the Leviathan, an airship made of a genetically engineered whale. The Leviathan and its human passengers rely on other fabricated animals for power, defense, communication, and defense. (Move over, messenger pigeons: Devyn has messenger lizards who scurry around and parrot urgent news and orders to recipients.)
Leviathan is a mix of history and invention, with an afterword by the author which clarifies what is fact, what is fiction, and how he blended things together. For example, while Alek did not exist, Archduke Franz Ferdinand did have children, and the assassination of the Archduke and his wife was the casus belli for World War I. Another heavily-featured character, scientist Nora Barlow, was a real person, though her vocation and actions were altered for the sake of this story, naturally.
Throughout the book, main characters and important events are captured in wonderful black-and-white illustrations by Keith Thompson, most of which are full-page images complete with captions. The endpapers offer a map of European nations entangled in the war, detailed with animals and weaponry to show which lands are Clanker powers (meaning they use steam-powered machines, like Alek), which are Darwinist (they use fabricated animals, like Devyn), and which are neutral. The eye-catching jacket design and illustration are by Sammy Yuen Jr., with the mechanical wing illustration by Keith Thompson.
Leviathan was the book of the month at readergirlz in March 2010. Please join us at the website www.readergirlz.com and the blog readergirlz.blogspot.com to discuss the book with other readers and with the author himself!
The next book in the series, Behemoth, was published in October 2010.
I would love to have a message lizard. I miss Auryn.
Check out my companion post, Definitions from Leviathan.
This book prompted me to research Tasmanian tigers. The fact that these beautiful creatures are extinct makes me want to cry.
Do not confuse this with Leviathan, the second book in The Fallen series by Thomas E. Sniegoski. I urge you to read that series as well!
"Oi, beastie!" Dylan cried, and one of the ropes seemed to move in response, curling like a cat's tail. - Page 267
"I suppose I've had an unusual upbringing." - Alek, page 280
In a way Dylan was the sort of boy Alek would have wanted to be, if he hadn't been born the son of an archduke. - Page 327
Devyn remembered after Da's accident, her mother and the aunties trying to turn her back into a proper girl - skirts, tea parties, all the rest. As if they wanted to erase the old Devyn and everything she'd been. She'd had to fight like mad to stay who she was. - Page 377
Related Posts at Bildungsroman
Interview: Scott Westerfeld and Justine Larbalestier
Peeps by Scott Westerfeld
The Last Days by Scott Westerfeld
The Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld
The Midnighters trilogy by Scott Westerfeld