The world is on the edge of a battle between the Clankers and the Darwinists, two sides with very different weapons. Prince Alek, the son of the Archduke, is forced to flee from his own people after an assassination leaves him orphaned. Deryn, a British midshipman aboard the famous Darwinist airship Leviathan, is actually a girl in disguise. These two people must navigate their way through the ugly outbreak of war that will eventually lead them together.
The idea of Leviathan, that in an alternate reality, World War One was fought between the Clankers (those who use machines) and the Darwinists (those who've evolved several ‘fabricated’ living creatures to replace machinery). It’s an unlikely premise and a wonderful idea, one that I would say was underutilised in the book itself. The idea of members of these two opposing sides colliding is creatively executed, resulting in neither a ‘good side’ or a ‘bad side,’ but an exciting mix of the two.
Alek was an interesting hero, confined by the lack of experience that often comes alongside privilege. I sometimes felt he was a little inconsistent as his voice is one of an intelligent youth, yet occasionally he would behave very stupidly, giving himself away by revealing his upbringing. Despite this conflict, I generally found him an interesting character, though perhaps he wasn’t as developed as he could have been. Deryn was a wonderful heroine, incredibly active and energetic. She was down-to-earth, very smart, and always entertaining to read about.
The ending was unusual. Now that I think about it, this part of the story had reached its conclusion, so the timing was perfect. Usually you get the sense of winding down towards the end or alternatively, a build-up of tension for a cliff-hanger. Leviathan did neither of these – it simply finished when the words ran out. Just to clarify, it had me surprised, but it wasn’t a disappointment, and it certainly has me second-guessing the next book. Leviathan was a really entertaining read, well-written and cleverly executed. For me, it didn’t have that indefinable sparkle-factor, but it had almost everything else.