The whole time I was reading this, I wanted to like it more than I actually did. It has so many elements of a book that I should love. Steampunk – check; Strong heroine – check; Alternate history – check. But for some reason I was not able to get into it.
The premise of the book is pretty simple. World War I is starting but instead of the Axis and Allied powers it’s a war between Clankers and Beasties. There is a main character from each side, Alek is the son of the archduke and is on the run from the Germans who are trying to finish off the family. Deryn/Dylan is a Scottish girl who is pretending to be a boy in order to serve in the army. One day after she signs up she finds her way on to the airship Leviathan (IT’S A GIANT FLOATING WHALE HOW COOL IS THAT?). Eventually these two characters are thrown together and have to face an attack together, all while they don’t really trust each other. Man, I should love this book. Sigh.
Things I enjoyed: The Beasties - I have to hand it to Westerfeld. He came up with some neat fabricated animals. Giant helium filled Jellyfish called Huxleys (I will take a Huxley reference wherever I can get it), talking lizard messengers, and of course the Leviathan Airship. These were probably the coolest part of the book. Additionally there were pretty illustrations, so you could see what Westerfeld wanted them to look like.
The Alternate history/Steampunk aspect – I saw some reviews of this that complained about how closely he stuck to actual WWI events. They thought that since it was alternate history, WWI should be completely different. I disagree with that. The fact that he stuck closely to the alliances and the reasons that The Great War got started was fascinating to me (the assassination of the archduke). And it showed that he knows his history. All he changed was the reasons why the war was started, which allowed him to explore the Clankers v. Beasties.
Things I didn’t enjoy: Deryn’s secret – The writing behind it was so forced. Ok, we get that Deryn is pretending to be a boy because girls weren’t allowed to serve during WWI. It did not need to be highlighted almost every single page that she was worried she would be found out. There were some painful sentences that were basically “Golly gee I hope they don’t find out that I’m not a boy.” It wasn’t long before I started rolling my eyes.
The Ending - I think Westerfeld was going for a cliffhanger. It felt more like he ran out of pages or got bored and wanted to be onto the next book. It left no worry in me for the characters, or no feeling of augh I must get the next book. It was more of a well geez that’s over now. It was pretty disappointing.
Overall thoughts? I enjoyed it. However, since I have been wanting to read this book for years I was disappointed in how little I enjoyed it. I thought I was going to be head over heels for this book. Will I read the next one? Probably. But I’ll borrow it instead of buying it.
Rating: 3 stars
Review can also be found on: http://brokeandbookish.blogspot.com/