Servants hurry a young man out of bed. He must flee the assassins of his parents. A girl disguises herself as a boy in order to pursue her passion for flying. Europe teeters on the brink of war. Tanks walk and whales fly. This is the gripping young adult novel Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld.
The heroes are a pair of intrepid teenagers. His Serene Highness, Aleksander Ferdinand of Austria eludes an entire empire full of people who want to kill him. Deryn Sharp, disguised as the boy Dylan Sharp, masters life aboard a Royal Navy airship without her secret ever being guessed.
Leviathan contains fantastic technologies. The Germans and Austro-Hungarians have the steam-powered machines so familiar to the Steampunk genre. Great Britain has abandoned those mechanisms in favor of genetically modified animals. The title character, the H.M.S. Leviathan, is a flying whale ship with its own ecosystem of fuel-gathering bees, watchdogs, and organic weapons. I find the animals the most enchanting form of mad science I have ever read.
I am still not sure what a “boffin” is, or why they wear bowler hats. The enigmatic scientist Dr. Barlow is one. Perhaps they fabricate the strange beasts that run the British Empire? Perhaps I will find out in a future book.
A most delightful aspect of this book is the cunning illustrations. They are the work of Keith Thompson, an artist gifted with the ability to capture expression in action. His work makes this book all the more exciting. Perhaps adults have been remiss in abandoning picture books. Illustrations add such charm.
I give Leviathan four gears out of five. I can’t wait to read the sequel, Behemoth.
Your Correspondent from the Bookstore,
Penny J. Merriweather