Tuesday, December 15, 2009

BR: Leviathan


by Scott Westerfeld

I picked up this book because 1) It's by Scott Westerfeld and I enjoyed his Uglies series 2) because of the hype and the fact that I buy into the hype 3) It's about WWI, which I enjoyed studying in school, 4) The cover is gorgeous, and 5) there were illustrations which I liked.

Leviathan revolves around, I dunno, 5 main things. Alek, the heir to the Austria-Hungary throne; Deryn, a commoner girl pretending to be a boy who flies with the Leviathan whaleship from Britain; Darwinists- the British who make genetically modified/fabricated animals as weaponry; Clankers- advanced machinery used by Germany and Austria; and lastly, WWI- which starts in 1914 and is now altered by Westerfeld because of the previously mentioned Darwinist beasties and Clankers.

Through some unlikely circumstances, Alek and Deryn's paths become interwined in the neutral Alps of Switzerland, with secrets on both sides and the constant threat of German attacks.


I'm going to first start off by saying I liked this book, I didn't really love it, I didn't really even like it, it was just good. I didn't hate it either, if you know what I mean by this really weird sentence. I was a bit disappointed because I really expected a lot more (see the 5 exciting reasons from above).

First, I felt it read more like a Juvenie Fiction book than a YA one, it was like constant action-action-action without much depth. The characters might have contributed to it because there could have been a lot more 'layers' to them, and the narration sounded a bit childish. This might be due to the parts with Deryn, and her poorer upbringing and uses of slang but I just felt overall, it felt more like a children's book. If I wasn't told Alek and Deryn were 15, I would probably have no trouble believing they were 13ish.

Second, there were a lot of parts that annoyed me. I think there was at least one point where every single character would grate my nerves, if it was Deryn's speech and actions or Alek's naivety and constant will to 'prove himself'. Honestly, It was mostly Deryn (who's 'boy' name is Dylan) and the way she describes everything using 'wee bit', swears using 'Blisters!' (that got really annoying), and explains every big thing as 'barking --'. Oh, and calling the animals 'beasties'. It just got repetitive and ughh.

Other minor characters like Dr. Barlow annoyed me. Yes, I do think I spent a lot of this book annoyed. I should have a ticker counting the times I'm using the word annoy in this review, seriously.

Third, the switching POV at the beginning wasn't as tastefully done as I wished it could be, yet I don't have any alternatives. Deryn and Alek are in completely different countries leading different lives at the beginning, so there isn't much the author could have done about it. When the two finally meet, the POVs started meshing better and made the story more interesting. The characters themselves weren't terribly deep, but they had their own flaws, insecurities, and all that jazz. They could get irritating at times but mostly, they were drawn out decently.

What I did really like about this story is the action-action-action. It was nonstop, and exciting, with the huge array of new ideas presented by Westerfeld, between the Darwinists' beasties and the Clankers, along with the whole new take on WWI. I thought the imagination put into this was splendid, and definitely worthwhile. The plot was definitely redeeming.

I loved the illustrations too, it added to the story as I had visual aid in imagining the Leviathan whaleship, characters, Clankers, and other events. It didn't take away from the story at all, and was very rich in detail and a peasure to look at.

8/10 - because despite many things I didn't particularly love about it, I felt it still conveyed the story it was intended to, and the plot was really great. The new premise of WWI was fantastic, and I guess I can forgive the characters' less-attractive traits. The story picks up after a bit of a slowish start. Give this a try if you like fantasy, war, adventure, action. There isn't much romance at all, and Leviathan is the first book of a series (it is very open-ended at the end).

-AyC

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