Leviathan Scott Westerfeld
I'm usually not a huge steampunk fan and no matter how true the descriptor of "rollicking good adventure" is, it won't draw me in. Neither of these are things that will turn me off a book, but they also won't make me go "ooooooo" the same way saying "China" or "Fairy Tale" or "Hysterical British Girly Book" or "World War I" will. Oh, wait, "World War I?" Yeah, that's what made me pick up Leviathan. World War I will get me most of the time.
So, Leviathan is World War I, but a steampunk slightly alternate history version of it. Alek is the only child of the Archduke Ferdinand, roused out of bed and sent running for his life after his parents are assassinated in Sarajevo. Derwyn has disguised herself as a boy to join the British Air Force. All she's ever wanted to do is fly like she did with her hot-air ballooning father. There's more, of course. The Central Powers are known as Clankers, relying on intricate machinery for their armed forces. The Allies are Darwinists, combining several strands of DNA from different species to create fabricated beasts for theirs.
The action follows both of these characters before their stories collide. Beyond the intriguing premise (and the rollicking good adventure) it's just a damn fine story of people finding themselves and trying to save themselves and war and friendship and all sorts of good things. I like the conflict within the Darwinist countries-- there's a subgroup called Monkey Luddites who feel that fabricated creatures are soulless and evil. I also like how much politics comes into play, especially with Alek's plot line, which closely follow the actual politics of the day. Westerfeld's ending note is also great, commenting on what is real and what isn't, both in terms of war and politics, and also the technology used. Cannot WAIT for the sequel. (Also, due to the placement of the ending, you might actually want to wait to read this until the sequel is out, so you can read them together.)
Book Provided by... my local library
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