Title: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Summary: (from Goodreads) Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, 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 World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.
Review: Once again Scott Westerfeld delivers a wonderful book. Sometimes it amazes me how often he manages to create books that are spectacular and, in a lot of ways, very unique from each other. Often if I read a lot from one author, I feel like I'm reading the same book over and over again. I don't ever get that feeling from Westerfeld.
Westerfeld has a knack for creating worlds within our world. In Peeps it was a world of vampires teeming beneath the NYC streets. In Uglies it was our world in the future, changed to a Utopian-like society. In Leviathan it's the same way. It takes place at the outbreak of WWI but instead of Central Powers and Allies, it's the Clankers and Darwinists. The story follows two kids in their teens. Alek is the son and child of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and unable to inherit the throne due to his mother's low status. Deryn is a girl pretending to be a boy so that she can join the British airforce and fly her whole life.
Alek is a great character (and a Clanker.) He's so stuck up and pompous and continually makes stupid mistakes. I've never seen a person who is supposed to stay hidden give away who he was, whether on purpose or inadvertently, so many times. At least three times I can think of that he gave away that he was Ferdinand's son. Even though he's not supposed to inherit the throne, everyone wants him dead. Alek does stupid things repeatedly that makes you want to hate him. However, you can't. Alek, despite his flaws, is so HUMAN. Most of his annoyances come from the fact that he was brought up as royalty. He acts like he's above everyone because he has been taught that he is. However, he has many moments that make you love him. He's compassionate and cares so much for the people around him. Even when Deryn and him meet, Alek ends up liking her (though, Alek thinks Deryn is a boy.) Alek is protective and just wants to genuinely make the world better. Unfortunately, he's so naive that he keeps screwing up.
Deryn (a Darwinist and a girl posing as a boy) works hard to keep her identity a secret but when a scientist comes aboard, she's almost found out. She ends up working on the Leviathan, by accident, a Whale that has been fabricated with other animals to be a blimp and is a living creature. Leviathan was the first hydrogen balloon to house so many and make long trips around the world. It pioneered everything else in it's class, a legend in Britain. Deryn's a true tomboy and has been anxious to fly ever since her father died and she was no longer able to go up in his hot air balloon. Over and over again, war seems to push her into actions she rather not do but feels that she has no choice. I really liked her because she made me laugh. Her reactions were so genuine and unhindered. She never thought that she shouldn't say or do certain things. For the most part she just did it. She also over thinks things a lot, which is usually when she runs into problems.
When Deryn and Alek finally met, it was a little hysterical. Alek was so proper he couldn't understand Deryn half the time. She used a lot of slang which caused a lot of miscommunication between them. And they both have such a sense of duty. They promised people things and they are bound and determined to keep those promises. Despite that, they don't want anything bad to happen to the other. Though annoyed with each other at first, they're so fascinated by each other that they form an easy alliance, despite being on opposite sides. Clankers and Darwinists are enemies (they are both constantly referring to each other as "ungodly.")
I even really enjoyed the side characters in this one. Count Volger is Alek's fencing instructor and was instructed by Ferdinand before he died, to protect Alek if anything happened. Volger often does things that can be viewed as mean or ruthless but he just wants to make sure Alek is safe. And Alek loves the man, despite the fact that they're always at odds. You can tell because, when Alek screws up, he always thinks about how he's disappointing Volger. Newkirk is Deryn's friend, and the only other middie (or midshipmen. Basically, the lowest rank of the army) on the ship. He's in the airforce but afraid of flying. What's more, is that he doesn't like fabricated creatures (like Leviathan) and believes them against nature. However, he knew a war was coming and the best was to stay alive was to be in the air.
The only problem I had with the book was that the end was a little awkward and abrupt. It really doesn't come to a conclusion at all and leaves you in the middle of the action. I don't mind that so much, after all, it's the first book in a series and a lot of books stop mid-action. Westerfeld just didn't execute it well. There are books I've read that can end the book at a cliff-hanger but I don't feel like the book hasn't ended. Westerfeld's book just felt unfinished, like he was just ending any old chapter as opposed to the last one.
I recommend this to sci-fi lovers. Really, I recommend it to anyone because I think that everyone should read Westerfeld. He's an amazing writer who pulls you into his stories with such ease
You can read this review and all my others on my Goodreads account.
Books so far this year: 50/50 :D
Currently reading: Paper Towns by John Green