Author: Scott Westerfeld
Series: First of a trilogy (Leviathan, Behemoth, Goliath)
Age/Audience: YA – 7- 10th grade
Genre/Style: Alternate history
Read If You Like: WWI history, genetics, adventure/war stories, European history, women in science/engineering
In this alternate WWI Europe, the map is split between two groups. On one side is the Darwinist English who use modified animals as war machines, airships, and communication devices. On the other, the German Clankers whose iron machine based culture puts them at fundamental odds with the British: and both sides are itching for war. Caught in the middle is the young illegitimate Alek, son of Archduke Ferdinand. With his parents’ assassination Alek’s life is in danger, and with the help of trusted servants and a Stormwalker gun machine he hopes to survive the declaration of war by racing across Germany to neutral Switzerland.
Meanwhile Deryn can’t wait to join the battle. Disguising herself as a boy “Dylan” enlists in the British Airforce and joins the crew of Leviathan, a modified whale turned airship. Onboard Leviathan is Dr Nora Darwin Barlow, a scientist who promises British victory with her new secret weapon – but what is it?
As Europe is plunged into what would prove to be its bloodiest conflict what can be done to stop it? After Leviathan crash lands next to Alek’s Swiss safe-house, it seems the two cultures have more to learn from each other than they would ever admit, and it may be the key to saving not only their own lives, but all of Europe.
Bottom Line: Great read to create a bridge between fiction and non-fiction, really well paced, complex female characters (in the sciences and the military to boot!).