Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld - action, drama and science fiction (ages 10-14)

The year is 1914, and Europe is about to turn upside down, torn apart by war. This is the setting for Scott Westerfeld's new novel, Leviathan, but it's not quite the 1914 that we know and expect. In this science-fiction alternate history, the world powers are divided into "Clankers" who use enormous walking war-machines, and "Darwinists" who have developed hybrid "beasties" to use as airships, steam-trains, war-ships, and more. Filled with battles, political intrigue, science and history, this book is sure to grab kids who like gripping, compelling stories with plenty of action.
by Scott Westerfeld
illustrated by Keith Thompson
NY: Simon Pulse, 2009
audiobook narrated by Alan Cumming
ages 10 and up
Prince Aleksander is suddenly woken up and secretly taken to a Stormwalker.  His parents, the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and Princess Sophie, have been assassinated, and now, the would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His grandfather won't recognize his rightful inheritance. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.  And the people who murdered his parents will surely come after him.

Deryn Sharp is a Scottish girl, a commoner pretending to be a boy in order to enlist in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. Deryn becomes a midshipsman on the Leviathan, a floating hydrogen-breathing airbeast made up of whales, bats, bees, and all manner of animals. Will she be able to fly the way she has always dreamed? Or will her secret be discovered?

The audio version of Leviathan is fantastic, utterly brilliant.  Alan Cummings develops several great accents which help develop the different characters even more fully than they are developed in print.  The only problem I had is I kept wanting to shout, "Barking Spiders!"  You miss the wonderful illustrations, but I have to admit that I loved creating my own pictures in my mind.

Scott Westerfeld is the acclaimed author of the Uglies series, which is very popular in our library.  I predict that this will fly off our shelves as soon as we get it processed!  All of the copies are currently checked out at my local public library, but it's worth putting a hold on it.

This would make a great book for kids who love action, imaginary worlds, politics or history, and books with twists and turns.
The video book trailer below will give you a good idea of the political intrigue and alternate world in Leviathan.

Other reviews are at:
Boing-Boing: "Westerfeld writes gripping, relentless coming-of-age novels that are equally enjoyable by boys and girls, adults and kids, and Leviathan is no exception."
Abby the Librarian: "Besides having a super-interesting premise, I was drawn into stories about two characters that I immediately liked. Short chapters that switch between Alek's and Deryn's points of view kept the action moving."

The review copy was purchased through Amazon and  You may find a copy at your local library on  Or you can find it at your local bookstore or online at Amazon. 


  1. I saw the review on Boing Boing and was instantly intrigued. Now I'm determined to find it.

  2. Yay! I'm so glad - do you have much of a commute? I don't know if you like audiobooks, but it was fun this way.

    I love your late-night comments (for us, that is) from Australia! all the best, Mary Ann

  3. This sounds fascinating. Our library had one copy available so I just put it on hold.