Book Review – Leviathan

October 30, 2015 Reviews 4 ★★★

Book Review – LeviathanLeviathan by Keith Thompson, Scott Westerfeld
Series: Leviathan #1
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Date Published: October 6th 2009
Genres: Action & Adventure, Europe, Fantasy & Magic, Historical, Legends, Myths, Fables, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 440
Audiobook Length: 8 hrs and 20 mins
Audiobook Narrator: Alan Cumming
Rating: three-stars
Description: It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl 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 the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever.


Lynnpic Lynn’s Review:   3-stars 

Is it odd that I’ve recently read an alternate history book and a book about a girl pretending to be a boy? And Leviathan had both.

Let’s start with the format review: Julie listened to the audio. But I read a hardcover copy of the book. With all the amazing drawings by Keith Thompson. I really feel like the drawing added to my reading experience. To me, they felt like the drawings that Deryn is always making in her notebook.  The drawings are excellent representations of the scenes. Including the inside flap (below). I love all of the details, the clear demarcation between the Darwinist and Clanker countries. 


As for the characters and plot: I found myself more interested in the secondary characters in Leviathan. The main characters of Alek and Deryn were not all that interesting to me. Alek starts out as a whiny teenage boy, but does redeem himself in the end. And I understand Deryn’s motivation to disguise herself as a boy. A girl in 1914 would have never been able to join the Royal Air Service or fly in an airship. However, I would have rather learned more about the scientists, or more accurately the boffins. Dr. Barlow is not only a scientist, but a female scientist. And on the Clanker side, Count Volger is a brilliant strategist. I would have liked to have learned more about how these characters tick. I thoroughly enjoyed the alternate history plot line in Leviathan. To think about the science behind not just the different fabricated beasts versus the mechanical engineering necessary to create giant walking machines. It was all very fascinating to me.

As for the writing: I found Leviathan to be incredibly descriptive. With all of the different beasts and machines, Mr. Westerfeld’s imagination is on point. Like this example of Deryn’s first foray into flying in a Huxley.

Deryn looked up and saw the medusa’s body alight with the sunrise, pulsing veins and arteries running like iridescent ivy through its translucent flesh. The tentacles drifted in the soft breezes around her, capturing pollen and insects and sucking them into the stomach sack above.

I can vividly picture in my mind what a Huxley looks like from this passage. Most of the writing is like the above example. Very striking. But Julie is correct about the non-ending. I turned the page of a chapter, expecting the next chapter, to only find the Afterword. Which was a major let-down. Leviathan was clearly written as a series, which I’m fine with. I do prefer, however, to have each book in a series have an ending. For me, my rating would be a 4 if it weren’t for the non-ending. 

I’d recommend reading this if you are into WWI alternate history, genetics, mechanical engineering, or just having a fun adventure. But be sure to get a copy of the hardcover for the drawings. 


Julie Review Avatar Julie’s Review:  2-stars

meh scrubs

So I’m probably gonna be the black sheep on this one, I don’t know it seems like this book is getting high reviews, but I’m not seeing it. I gotta say that steampunk has been mostly miss for me. The stories are so tedious with the setup but haven’t really been high on plot for me.

I liked the idea of the two groups – Darwinists (the steampunk ship people) and Clankers (the machinery and war machine people). I really thought the alternative history aspect of this book was brilliant, and setting it in WWI was a good choice. But I was bored.  I was just so bored during the first half of the book. I even posted that as an update on Goodreads, so you know I’m serious. I almost didn’t care what was going on because it was slow to do anything.

The book alternates POV between the Archduke’s son in hiding and a Scottish lass pretending to be a lad so she can be a soldier. (The audiobook narrator does a great job with the accents btw, I should point that out.) We expect that eventually their paths will cross, but they took forever to cross. Then it did get a little more interesting, especially with the secrets and both characters knowing so little about each other’s science and technology – that was kind of funny at times, and dangerous at others. (Like the time Alec almost blew everything up because he pulled a gun at Deryn outside the airship that was leaking hydrogen.) It really started getting interesting when the folks aboard the Leviathan airship needed help from the Clankers on the war machine, and people were held “prisoner” to ensure the sides help each other out. And then…

AFTERWORD. Hold on, what? It just started getting interesting, and then the book barking stops! (see what I did there?)

But really, this non-ending of book stoppage is one of my major peeves. I invested some time into this book, and got very little out of it. Not even a cliffy, not even ok we have resolved it for now, but more chaos is on the way, no, just, afterword. 

So that’s why 2 stars. Ok now you tell me what I missed and why everyone loves this book. K?

I do have to say I agree with Lynn, the secondary characters are fascinating. I really want to see more of Dr. Barlow and I want to know what is up with those eggs! The Count is quite interesting, too, and very clever. Can we have more of those characters, please?


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4 Responses to “Book Review – Leviathan”

    • Lynn

      I liked Leviathan up until the end, Terri. I’m hoping that the other books in the series deliver. And maybe end properly.

  1. Ramona

    I wasn’t bewitched by this one either, though I read the whole series. I can’t really remember, but I think I struggled with the pacing among other things… Have a good weekend, ladies 🙂
    Ramona recently posted…The Book Courtship Tag

    • Lynn

      Thanks, Ramona. I’m hoping I like the rest of the books in the series more than this one.

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