In an alternate reality Europe, the early 1900s are filled with two very different cultures; the Clankers, and the Darwinists. The Clankers have built amazing machines that can walk and fly and even run. They distrust the Darwinist mightily, and feel that they have made some ungodly discoveries. The Darwinists have taken the discoveries of Darwin, (alternate reality Darwin has discovered DNA, and how to manipulate it), and have created living beasts that serve as machines. A whale that flies, like a giant dirigible, but one in which the passengers ride inside of, rather than beneath.
It is 1914, and Aleksandar is the prince of Austria. When his parents are murdered, he is whisked away for safekeeping, as Europe plunges into war. Deryn is an Irish girl who longs to fly more than anything, so she disguises herself as a boy and joins the British Air Force.
The opening months of the war unfold while Aleksandar flees the Germans who would have him dead, and Deryn begins to prove herself as a talented airman, belching and swearing along with her fellow soldiers, to keep them from suspecting her secret, one that would have her soundly down on earth again, wearing dresses and missing all the fun. Not that she thinks war is fun. Not in the least. But flying, flying she loves.
Their stories converge to a taut and suspenseful ending in this first of four planned stories, Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld and Keith Thompson. Westerfeld authored the Pretties series, one of Maya’s favorites EVER, and Thompson’s illustrations bring the story to life, especially the somewhat confusing Darwinist creations. I’ve never read anything in the Steampunk genre before, but once I got past the somewhat boring descriptions early on (not generally good at Sci-Fi or Fantasy reading for this reason) this book had me hooked, and I’m looking forward to the release of the second book in the series this fall.