Leviathan is delightful Steampunk and WWI alternative history blending that comes off gripping with its rapid-pace. Europe is divided into two factions. Austria-Hungry have advanced weaponry called Clankers, which can cause devastation in their many walking tank-like forms. Britain and its affiliates are Darwinists adhering to an advanced genetic science.
Leviathan doesn't contain your typical airships as Westerfeld's best innovation is the Darwinist genetic created Beasties, which include dozens of imaginative types that fill the world with creatures raised from the ocean into the skies. The Clankers are fun as well, especially when you get into the mechanics. The illustrations strewn throughout the book help greatly and nail the descriptions.
The story is split from two points of view that you know from the start will intersect and is at turns very predictable, which feels a bit done before. An unwanted Priceling is escaping capture and a girl does her best to pass as a boy in the military. The world-building is what saves the book as it is so beautifully realized keeping up wasn't a problem. Leviathan is marketed as a YA read, but felt a little more like a middle-grade reader, but it can be easily digested in a couple of sittings.
Leviathan is as Steampunk as you can get, but is a little on the popcorn side of things and has a very cinematic style. There isn't a lot of depth to the story or characters yet, but hopefully they'll come more alive in the next volume. I give Leviathan 7.25 out of 10 Hats. The illustrations by Keith Thompson are gorgeously done and the whole production reminds me of the quality of Subterranean Press's work. I have bought books for art alone before and for that reason alone I'll be picking up the follow-up Behemoth later this year.
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