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Oh goody, oh goody, oh goody is this an amazing find. You would not believe how fun this book is. So, as my son and I were packing for our move a few months back, we found this stash of gift certificates to the local bookstore which he had never used. We were like, “A Treasure! We must spend this immediately.” Regardless of the fact that it was going to increase the number of things we would have to pack. Why would we have a stash of gift certificates you might ask?
Because the school my son used to attend had partnered with that local bookstore and would reward children with gift certificates for reading a certain number of books. Apparently, my son had never actually spent any of his gift certificates and had six years worth of rewards to spend. When we asked the guy behind the counter if he had any steam punk fiction similar to Airborn by Kenneth Oppel, he pointed my son toward Leviathan. I am a huge proponent of the program which my my son’s school used to incentivize academic excellence in their students. I share this experience in the hope that other schools, businesses, and authors will be inspired to find similar ways to encourage and reward students. Now on to the review.
Leviathan is an Alternative History fiction story set in a world of steam-punk technology and miraculous biological engineering. Are you interested yet? I sure am. It is a retelling of the events of World War I from the point of view of a teenage Austrian Nobleman fleeing assassination, and an Scottish girl who has disguised herself as a boy to join the United Kingdom’s military service.
This is the best kind of fiction. The world of Leviathan is so unique yet so utterly familiar that the reader is able to fully immerse themselves in the narration of this alternative history. In Leviathan, Aleksandar Ferdinand is the son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire. As in reality, WW1 starts when Franz and his wife are assassinated. In Leviathan, that is the start of their son’s adventure as he and his loyal tutors flee for their lives in the mechanical walking tank the family owns. Many of the European countries use complex mechanical devices and are called ‘Clankers’.
Midshipman Deryn Sharp, an average girl from a working-class family in Scotland serves on a Leviathan, a great living air ship called a hydrogen breather. The Darwinist nations use their scientific understanding of the ‘threads of life’ (DNA) to ‘manufacture’ living creatures to take the place of machines. On this ship, Deryn works to keep the secret of her gender from being discovered.
Plot-spoiling circumstances bring the two characters, who see the world from completely opposing points of view, together. Maybe this juxtaposition is supposed to be a metaphor as well as showing the obvious contrast between the two; boy/girl, rich/poor, Clanker/Darwinist, noble/peasant, rash/disciplined. The story shows two people who are fairly different but who find common ground through necessity.
It is a fun read and an excellent listen. Alan Cumming is an excellent narrator. He voices all the characters for all three books in the trilogy and the accents, emphasis, volume, and inflection are perfect. I’m still working my way through book two and can’t wait to start on book three. Book two, Behemoth, was so great that my son went and got the eBook because the audio book was taking too long and he reads far faster than the audio book is narrated.
If you like alternative history, young adult, and good clean adventures then you will likely enjoy this also. I certainly found it delightful.
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