Review Blog

Dec 09 2009

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

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Simon Pulse, 2009. ISBN 9781416971733.
(Ages 10+) Recommended. Excitement, extreme adventure and thrills start on page one and don't let up until the last page in this latest blockbuster in the steampunk genre. Riding machines that are fuelled by living creatures, with talking lizards taking messages between crews, the Darwinists (the Allies) are about to be embroiled in a war with the Axis powers (the Clankers) who still use only mechanically driven machines. It is World War One, taken to a whole new level.
The Archduke and his wife have been shot; their son is fleeing for his life on the magnificent Stormwalker, and is holed up in a castle, especially prepared for him, in Switzerland. Landing badly nearby, a whale airship, powered by bats, called the Leviathan, the most magnificent beast in the British fleet, is stranded and dying. After Alek skis down to aid the wounded man, the captain and particularly Dr Barlow, turn for help from him and his small crew at the castle. Each has a hidden agenda, and if Alek can help the airship at least clear the ground then the hope of continuing its mission to Constantinople will be realised.
Alek, the son of the Arch Duke, and Deryn, an imposter aboard the airship, trying to make it as a crew member, and hiding her sexuality, become friends, and so the adventure begins.
Readers will be enthralled at the beasts themselves, whether they be the mechanical giants of the Axis powers, or the part animal beasties of the Allies, the descriptions are fascinating, made more so by the scatter of drawings through the text and the engrossing drawing of the map of Europe on the end papers. The publication of this sublime novel, of which there is at least a sequel, is handsome. Hardback, a sumptuous cover with tactile lettering and raised pictures, the end papers are illuminating as are the descriptions added by Westerfeld at the back of the book. Everything about this book screams a pleasurable experience, and the reader will not be let down.
Fran Knight

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