Steampunk is not normally one of my favorite genres, but the Leviathan series by Scott Westerfeld may have changed my mind.
In this steampuck version of the early 20th century, half of the world follows the science of genetic engineering and the other half is devoted to the creation of machines. These completely different philosophies fuel the fire of the war known as "The War to End All Wars."
At first glance, it seems like a simple war series. But underneath all of the stereotyping, Leviathan is about finding yourself, true friendship, following your passions, and the tedious balance of the world.
*There will be spoilers for the later books in the series, so if you have not read any of the books just stick to reading the first review.*
A commoner, a prince who is anything but common, and a war that is going to tear the world apart. Mix these things together and you get Leviathan.
Deryn Sharp is a girl masquerading as a boy in the British Air Force. She is fiercely loyal to her country, but her country does not believe that women like her can make a difference in the world besides creative needlework and getting pregnant. In a stroke of good luck, she is assigned to the most prestigious ship in the Air Force, the Leviathan. So far, no one has called her bluff, but her deception is going to be hard to keep in the madness of global war.
Aleksander is a prince and the possible heir to the throne. But all of that is thrown into the toilet when his parents are brutally murdered, which incites a war that is quickly spreading to the rest of the war.
These two characters' paths are crossed and they, and the world, will never be the same because of it.
This is the first installment of the Leviathan series. It is also my least favorite of the group. Leviathan is one of those series that starts off without a bang, but slowly escalates into amazingness.
One of my biggest problems with this book was the pacing. The first 100 pages were extremely slow and I almost DNFed it. A lot of the world-building was coupled with info-dumping. Even though the unique world in this novel is amazing, the presentation dulled my enjoyment.
I also had a little bit of a problem with all of the mechanic and scientific jargon. Science has never been and will never be one of my favorite subjects. It just does not click in my head. So, I found myself struggling to comprehend some of the more technical explanations of the book.
The best part about this novel, and really the series, is the characters. They are so full of life, detailed, and sassy. Deryn is such a strong female character without being overbearing. Alek is pretty cool too, even for a stuck up royal.
I also loved the seemingly minuscule details that Westerfeld incorporated into the story. He created his own dialect and curse words that really flowed with the time period and characters.
Call me immature, but I also loved the illustrations in the book. They were extremely detailed and helped me with the visualization issues I was having with the tech-talk.
It seems that Deryn and Alek are in the middle of the war. And not just any old war between feuding countries, but a war between the world. Deryn and Alek must make a detour with their ship, but that detour results in more than just an inconvenience. They are thrust into yet another part of the war that is teeming with violence and protests. Soon enough, Alek is forced to pick a side in a rebellion that will sway the nature of the World War. Through spice bombs, elephant attacks, and spider machines, they must find a way to save the country, its people, and eventually the world.
The series really took after after the second half of Behemoth. The war was flowing into every country of the world and seeping into everyone's lives.
The action took precedence in this novel. There were less long, descriptive, but boring paragraphs that detailed every minute detail about the world. Action-packed fight scenes and dramatic military maneuvers took the spotlight.
Alek and Deryn were also more involved. The plotline delved into the broad problems of the world and into all of the character's personal lives. We were also introduced to some pretty cute characters who lightened the mood of the dreary war with their cleverness.
In the midst of a complete world war, the Leviathan is nowhere near the action. Instead the ship is ordered to take a trip into the one of the most isolated places on earth: the heart of Siberia. It seems like this cold, barren wasteland is the only place that the war has not touched yet.
Everyone is surprised when their destination is not as abandoned as they thought. The ship ends up leaving with a dozen more crewmen and a lunatic who is generally considered one of the world's best inventors.
With only one book left, Alek and Deryn have to figure out how to stop the war, claim the Austria-Hungary throne, and find out how to be together when the world is doing its best to keep them apart.
During this book, the action veered from war and battle into more of politics and behind the scene fighting. Of course, there were still some pretty epic (and rather violent) scenes with Alek and Deryn.
The whole mood of the novels changed, and for the better. The story became 4x as complex as the other books, but I never got confused or lost. Also, by this time in the series, I became accustomed to most of the mechanic jargon of the series and could follow along better.
The ending was somewhat satisfying. There is definite closure with Alek and Deryn's relationship, but everything else is left in a haze of assumptions. There is no significant "end" to the war, but the book leaves with the battles dying down. I suppose the reader is supposed to conclude that the war ended like the read World War I.
I really had to stick through the first book in this series to find the awesomeness in the rest of the books. The pacing is slow at first, but if you have any kind of patience, the wait is worth the reward.
I would recommend this to anyone who likes history, steampunk, war-based novels, or action. The Leviathan series seamlessly combines all of those aspects with ease and makes a vivid story.