Steampunk WWI in Leviathan | Book Review


Rating: 4 out of 5.

A steampunk reimagining of WWI? What more could you want.

Genre: Alternate Historical Fiction, Steampunk
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Published: October 2009
Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Pages: 440 (hardback)

This was so much fun and I’m so glad I read it. I wasn’t expecting this to have such young main characters – it’s firmly within the middle grade age category (or bottom end of YA) – so it had a real air of innocence to it. The whole book follows the (imagined) son of the Archduke of Austria-Hungary and his wife after their assassination, which sparked the beginning of WWI.

There’s a quick little note about what is true and what isn’t at the back of the book for anyone needing to uncross their wires. But Westerfeld has cherry picked moments in history to put together a great tale of steampunk-ified historical fiction like you’ve never seen before.

The imagination pumped into this was spellbinding in a mildly disturbing way. The world is divided by ideologies and this dictates who uses what technology. Given that it’s steampunk, picture mechanical cogs and the like. So we see monstrosities where whales have been ‘fabricated’ to be part-blimp essentially. Kind cool, kind gross. Lots of fun.

Aside from Alek’s story (the Archduke’s son), in which he is running away from the Germans trying to kill him, we also have Deryn’s story – a girl pretending to be a boy by the name of Dylan so that she can join the air force. And most of the story is set in the Swiss Alps, nothing like a frosty setting to heighten the stakes.

Naturally, it’s a game of waiting for these two stories to meet in the middle and see which objectives come out on top. This is a real adventure-driven story with lots of problem solving and action scenes with fun twists. The scope of the plot is small and I confess I had thought we would see more of the war that just the one storyline we get, but it was nonetheless fun.

This is good and lighthearted! If you’re a steampunk fan and like your history, this is not to be missed for it is so unique and I’ve not read anything else like it.

Grab a copy!

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