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January 1, 2013

"Leviathan" by Scott Westerfeld

[Clickey the cover for Goodreads!]

Title: Leviathan (Leviathan #1)
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Publication: 2009, Simon Pulse
Summary: 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
....read more

Review: This book would be a very classic example of YA steampunk and as a fan of historical fiction, I really appreciated the WWI alternate history that was pulled off here. "Leviathan" has some great world-building and Scott Westerfeld's creativity soars in the moulding of a completely different outlook on the Great War  

"Leviathan" is told from two different POVs, one of the 15-year-old Austro-Hungarian prince Aleksander and the other of a British girl named Deryn Sharp. Mr. Westerfeld kept the pacing really even overall and we get to see the world and situation in "Leviathan" in equally sized chunks from both pairs of eyes. Both main characters have dimension, however I did not find them to be engaging to a satisfying extent. Third-person POV was used for both Alek and Deryn and I felt that that resulted in both of them being kept a distance away from me as a reader. Although that's not the only factor, that definitely didn't help. Don't get me wrong, they were likeable and nicely shaped but neither truly pulled me along or felt memorable to me. I also felt that it was probably because I was a bit old for these characters.

This book was a long ride for me, not only because it does have quite a high page count, but also because the atmosphere wasn't intense enough for me to keep trudging along. I took a ton of breaks in between chapters and it didn't bother me to put the book down, sadly. There was nothing wrong with the pacing, but the whole story felt very detached, a bit like what happened with the characters. 

I'll be utterly honest and say that I'm not one to be very excited about science-fiction, and this is my first YA steampunk read. I thought that Scott Westerfeld did a great job in getting his visions of his world across clearly for the most part because someone who has a weaker imagination for sci-fi was able to follow along. (tell me to conjure up fairies and mermaids and I'll be able to do that, no problem. A great big robot-like war ship? Uh oh.) Yet, of course, it wasn't perfect and although it was possible for me to see the vividness, it wasn't amazingly clear or grasping and it did take me a long time to truly understand what the author was trying to pull off. 

Which brings me to my favourite part of this book. The illustrations. They. are. awesome. I don't mean to down-talk the book itself, but I'll say quite frankly that without the illustrations, I would not have made it through this book. Kudos to Keith Thompson because his artwork really captured the essence and important details of Scott Westerfeld's universe to a huge extent and as a reader, I was grateful for that extra visual embellishment to the book.

Even though "Leviathan" was a relatively slow read for me personally, I still enjoyed the journey because the premise painted here really is quite genius. I may not be one to fully appreciate and experience the wonders of sci-fi steampunk to full potential, but I still have the feeling that this book would be a great standard example of what a good steampunk novel should be like. The imagery presented was incredibly broad and stretched my imagination and Keith Thompson's illustrations added much more as well. Overall, still an entertaining ride that had me looking up the sequel. 

Ratings: ✰✰✰ 3.5 Darwinist Hoots (because Vivi's Team Darwinists)

Final Notes:I've already got the second book sitting on my shelf, purely because honestly, this book wasn't that bad. I do think that the ideas were really clever and well thought out. It's just that I hate science (I'm sorry...most hated subject ever, from grade school to high school.), so I don't really enjoy science fiction, so I wasn't really able to connect with this genre. 

My personal bias aside, I think that steampunk fans can really appreciate this alternate world. It's smart and it's good. Plus the illustrations are really great! (I had to say that again >_<)

Thanks for reading!

P.S. Hourray for first post of 2013! Happy New Year (again) everyone!! 


  1. I remember seeing Leviathan in the book store and being at war with myself, I loved the illustrations and the cover was so beautiful. My friend convinced me that I probably wouldn't enjoy the storyline and I had countless series to finish. ^^:

    I have a love/hate relationship with the sci-fi genre, sometimes it does get a bit boring or confusing so I end up taking breaks from the book too. It's disappointing when you feel distant from the characters, I can't invest myself in the story if I don't feel attached to them but I'm glad you did enjoy some of the concepts. Great review. Thank you for sharing. :)

    1. I also forgot, happy new year! May your year be filled with many amazing books and fantastic reads. :)

  2. Leviathan sounds interesting and the illustrations seem like they're amazing! I've read a few steampunk books and I've really enjoyed them, so I think I'll definitely be adding this to my TBR. Thanks for the great review :)

  3. Woohoo first post of the year! I have been putting off reading this book because I was unsure of the pacing and alternating POV (usually I'm not a fan) but the illustrations may be enough for me to give this book a try!

    Great review as always Vivian =)

  4. Ooh I totally agree! I actually DNFed Levithan, because while the story sounds SO intriguing and so does the plot and the premise and EVERYTHING. But the steampunk and the sciencey stuff totally turned me off ;P Maybe I'll try it again soon, but for now I think it'll be good in the "Recommend for Sci-Fi Fans" column :D

    Awesome review!

  5. Ugh I always hated science too! This one always catches my eye simply because it is so pretty! I did see the hardcover on sale for $5.99 one day and picked it up, fully intending to buy it, until I opened it and saw that map. Those things scare me in the fronts of books, usually I know that those books aren't for me. Awesome that overall there was still a lot that you enjoyed with this one. Great review, thanks for sharing, Vivian!

  6. Happy New Year, Vivian! :Lovely review. I'll be picking up Leviathan next week, so I'm glad to hear it's pretty good. I don't mind science and I love steampunk.

  7. Happy New Year, Vivian - I hope 2013 treats you well! :P

    I've actually heard so much about this series that I feel I ought to read it sometime soon! It's just a shame that you felt a little detached from the book as a whole... I wonder if my own imagination could stretch that far. Probably. I've got quite the reputation in my family for being on cloud nine! :3 I've never read a steampunk book either... I don't think anyway. Maybe The Infernal Devices by Cassandra Clare? Does that count? Hmm... And I really like science! Well, biology anyway. Since that's the only science I decided to take. But I do find it really interesting... and I'm thinking of a career in it. We'll see! :D Not the part that includes dissecting chicken wings and a bull's eye though - considering I'm a wee veggie! :(

    Great review, thanks for sharing! :D xx

  8. Meh.... big books really do scare me off! haha.. but sucks that it wasnt even intense to keep you reading!! Though I would love to take a look at the illustrations!! Great review!
    - Farah @ MajiBookshelf

  9. Happy new year darling! This cover is just stunning!!! just for that I want to try this book.

  10. I'm also not a huge fan of Sci-Fi books, but I love to be surprised by a story (like Cinder (L)) The drawings sound awesome! That was something I really appreciated in Liesl & Po from Lauren Oliver. I wish they did that more often, haha.

    I'm not really sure if this is the book for me. If I put a book away, I want to have the oh-my-god-I-need-to-read-I-don't-want-to-do-anything-else-feeling. So yeah, I'm not sure about this book, so I won't pick it up anytime soon :)

    Woehoe for the first post in 2013!


  11. Nice review! It's been a few years since I read this, but I remember that I loved it, mainly because of the world Scott had created, I just loved it, and yeah, the illustrations are amazing, and I really liked both characters. It was actually one of my first steampunk novels I've read, and I got hooked on steampunk, although I never did read the sequels, although I'm still planning to, and I'm actually a big sci-fi & adventure & historical fan, so it was definitely my kind of book ;) & that's why I got hooked on steampunk ;) Still, I'm glad you liked it :)

    Happy New Year!!!


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