This will be the first of a new style of book review for me. These reviews will, first of all, be generally short. I do not want these to be like when you go to get a recipe for homemade mac and cheese and you end up having to read about the author’s wonderful trip to Italy and how their Grandma from the Deep South used to take them hillbilly hand fishing for catfish. Just get to the point! Secondly, these reviews will mostly focus on the audiobook since that is most of what I read as a blind reader. Finally, I hope they make you smile while I am answering some goofy questions about each book.
Title: Leviathan (Leviathan #1)
Author: Scott Westerfeld
It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. The Leviathan is a living airship, the most formidable airbeast in the skies of Europe.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With the Great War brewing, Alek’s and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way – taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.
Did I like it?
Yes, quite a lot. I originally read this back in 2014 and I really didn’t remember much of it on re-read. I bought the physical book for G-man to read so thought I would listen to the audiobook so we could chat about it.
What was something annoying about the book?
No book is perfect, even the good ones. One of the lead characters, Deryn Sharp, uses “Barking spiders!” as an exclamation entirely too often. It feels like she says it in just about every chapter told from her perspective. She says it when she is angry, frightened and pretty much any other time she can squeeze it in.
What is the setting of the book?
Leviathan takes place in an alternate version of our world, as Europe is on the road to the start of World War 1. It is a world where Charles Darwin has gone much further than just theorizing evolution and actually began creating “fabricated” creatures by mixing different strands of DNA. These creatures are used by the Darwinists for all manner of things, including massive flying creatures and weapons of war. On the other side of the conflict are the Clankers who use more advanced steampunk-type machines like land walkers and zeppelins. So, the setting is 1914 Europe, just more advanced scientifically than ours.
Swords, guns, or lasers?
A few swords and a lot of guns. Zero lasers. Also, there were bats that pooped razor blades to destroy enemy airships.
Is it safe for kids?
Yes, I have no concerns about any of my kids reading it. Some of the science stuff may go over my 7-year-old’s head but as for inappropriate content, I have no concerns.
I liked the two lead characters, they were fine. I expect that they will grow on me as I continue on in the series. I really enjoyed the scenes with Dr. Nora Barlow. A woman of science who uses her powers of observation along with a fiery personality to get things done.
Any villainous villains?
This was the rare book where there weren’t any clear villains. This answer sort of depends on which side of the war you would have been on.
What about the audiobook?
The audiobook I chose is narrated by Alan Cumming (the actor that portrayed Nightcrawler in the X-men movies among other things) and he is great, as a narrator. His use of accents and different voices are excellent. Listening time is 8 hours and 16 minutes and that went by quite quickly.
A good, quick read that was more enjoyable the second time around for me. The little historical elements about the events leading up to WW1 that matched up with our real history were ingenious additions and made it fun for me to read as an adult. They added realism to the story that really made it click for me.