Teen Book Review: "Leviathan"

If you’re looking for a master of the science fiction and fantasy genre for teens, it’s hard to find a better candidate than Scott Westerfeld.  His work has tackled everything from the concepts of beauty and status to vampires and disease, with midnight shenanigans and satire on pop culture thrown in for good measure.  His latest work is a freaky historical fiction novel called Leviathan that will leave you eager to learn more about the real era of World War I.  But if you want to learn more about the book itself, read on.

It’s 1914, and Europe is on the cusp of the Great War.  On one side are the Darwinist Powers of France, Britain and Russia, who have been using fabricated creatures as beasts of burden and weapons of war since Darwin discovered how to manipulate DNA about 60 years ago.  On the other side are the Clanker powers of Germany and the Austria-Hungarian Empire, determined to prove their mighty mechanical walkers can take anything a beastie can dish out and send it back tenfold. Just as in our own history, the spark that sets off this powder keg is the assassination of the Austrian Archduke Ferdinand and his wife.  But here, their young son Aleksander must go on the run, fleeing to Switzerland to escape the wrath of the Emperor and his minions.  While there, he witnesses the crash of a massive English airship called the Leviathan, on a secret mission to secure an alliance with the Ottoman Empire.  Against his better judgment, Alek tries to help these stranded enemies, and ends up being caught in their mission.  Joining him is Deryn Sharp, a girl secretly posing as a boy to serve in their military to indulge her love of flying.  Told in alternating chapters, find out how these two castaways grow up in struggles far beyond their control among the grand events of their time.

Action, adventure, spying, war, death and destruction…you name it, this book has it.  Although it goes on for over 400 pages, the chapters are short and easy to read.  World-building is excellent, and readers will find themselves traipsing through the guts of the Leviathan or manipulating the saunters of a Stormwalker on the run.  Illustrated shots of the story’s high points are scattered throughout the book and only add to the detail.  Deryn and Alek both start out as products of their culture, but exposure to each other and the need to work together help change their narrow views for the better.  This book has a fast-paced plot that will leave readers on the edge of their seats, and sets up sinister manipulations for a great sequel. 

Leviathan is recommended for tween and teen readers at all levels.  Check it out along with other books by Scott Westerfeld at Northeast Neighborhood Library or your local DC Public Library branch today.

-by Brandon Digwood