Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Alek, better known as the son of the Archduke of Austria, next in line for the throne, has had better days. He's woken up in the middle of the night, rushed around by his fencing instructor, piled into a walking machine, and made to march across the country for weeks. Why? Only because the Germans assassinated his parents to instigate World War I, of course! Like I said, he's having a rough time. In addition to this, he has to get out of Austria before someone kills him. Turns out his uncle, the Emperor of Austria, denies that Alek has any claim to the throne...because Alek's mom wasn't of royal birth. So pretty much his whole life, he's been made to feel like a fake prince. Losing both his parents at once, and running for his life is not exactly helping things.

Deryn wants so badly to be a member of the British Air Service. Her Da used to pilot a hot air balloon, and she loved it. After her Da passed away, it's the only thing she can think of that will give her another chance to fly. The obvious problem? It's 1914, and she's a girl. Using some serious tomboy skills, some advice from her brother, and the fact that she doesn't look a lot like a girl to her advantage, she signs up as Dylan Sharp. Turns out she is a serious airship(wo)man , and lucks out getting assigned to the Leviathan.

This story takes place in an altered history, which uses similar historical events (like World War I) but changes things to bring about a different future. One of the major element changes in this 1914: mechanical walking machines and bio-engineered animals. Starting to see some steampunk elements? The Germans (Clankers) are really into mechanical tech, while the British (Darwinists) prefer armored, engineered animals. It's a fascinating concept to think what might have happened if Darwin had engineered new species.

So, back to our protagonists. Dylan's ship, the Leviathan, is a huge collection of different animals which acts like a hydrogen airship. (S)he shows enough skill and daring to stay on board as they take on some interesting passengers and cargo. En route to deliver said cargo, the ship encounters enemy fire. They land on a glacier (not an ice berg) near where Alek and his "family" are camped. Alek first meets Dylan when he cuts her loose, and (s)he promptly proceeds to turn him into the higher ups. Without giving too much away, there is some great action, really cool drawings by Keith Thompson, fantastic slang ("Barking spiders!"), and the promise of more to come.

If you like steampunk, this is a must read. I was a little disappointed at how Westerfeld kept jumping back and forth between characters, and the storyline seemed disjointed. When the storylines joined, it was a much more enjoyable read.
"Maybe this was how you stayed sane in wartime: a handful of noble deeds amid the chaos," (Westerfeld, 2009).
*Library Link*

If you liked this, check out:

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
The Scorch Trials by James Dashner
Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

Westerfeld, Scott. (2009). Leviathan. New York, NY: Simon Pulse.

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