Leviathan by Scott Westfeld

At the Ashland High School library, Westerfeld is most famous for his Uglies series, which I haven’t read. Social commentaries have never been my thing (to be fair it might not be a social commentary; I’ve never read more than the back cover). When I realized the shiny new hardcover Leviathan was written by the same author, I was surprised. But the book had cool graphics and “leviathan” is one of my favorite words, so I checked it out. Turns out it was more than a pretty face.

All Deryn ever wanted was to fly. After the death of her balloonist father her mission becomes to join the British Air Service and serve in one of the fabricated animals created by twisting genetic strands of different animals into a “hydrogen breather.” Unfortunately Deryn, despite being outstanding in every other flight-related field, fails one basic requirement: she’s not a boy. But Deryn isn’t the kind of girl to let something like that stop her. With a practiced “swagger” and her brothers flight uniform Deryn heads for the sky, and ends up on the Leviathan, a whale based ship headed to the Ottoman Empire on a secret mission involving a female scientist, some mysterious eggs and the war that is threatening to erupt all across Europe.

After the murder of his parents, Prince Aleksander is on the run with his fencing instructor and pilot instructor. Fleeing toward Switzerland in a giant walking war machine (of course war machines walk, would you expect them to move about on treads, like some tractor?) Alek faces challenges that he had never imagined in his cushy life as the son of an Archduke. Soon his destiny becomes intertwined with the Leviathan, and a cocky airman, a new recruit on the ship, going by the name of Dylan.

Nonstop action from beginning to end, “Leviathan” is wickedly entertaining and spectacularly written. Both Alek and Deryn are good characters, likable and interesting with good chemistry. They aren’t the typical cut-from-a-mold action heroes, with no real internal conflict and predictable behavior. The war machines (especially the “Darwinist” fabricated animals) are absolutely fascinating, and the illustrations spaced throughout the book are helpful for getting a picture of these giant animals. A fast and interesting read, this is one book that I can’t recommend enough.