Who knew you could learn a bit about World War I through science fiction? That's what the Leviathan trilogy, composed of the three books 'Leviathan', 'Behemoth', and 'Goliath' kind of do. I remember when this trilogy came out, back when I was in middle school. I decided to reread it a while back, and saw it being better than I remember.
What's it about? Set in an alternate 1914, the world is divided into two ideologically opposing superpowers. There are the 'Clankers', countries that use heavy machinery, and the 'Darwinists', who use fabricated beasts and creatures as tools and weapons. And in case you're wondering, the Darwinists are the Alled Powers, and the Clankers are the Central Powers.
Anyway, we follow two different characters. One of them is Alek Ferdinand, the fifteen year-old son of the then deceased Archduke Franz Ferdinand of the Austrian Empire. He's on the run from those who murdered his family, quite possibly by his uncle who is Emperor, and must come to grips with this new world.
While in hiding, he meets unexpectedly with Deryn Sharp, a fifteen year-old British girl pretending to be a boy to serve in the Royal Air Navy. From book one, they have adventures, help each other out, learn some secrets, and learn off their opposing ideologies.
This is an extremely interesting trilogy, with extremely interesting characters, fantastic designs, a good writing style, historically accurate dialogue, and even an interesting dive into politics at some points. I'd be lying though if the big historical inaccuracies didn't get in the way sometimes though. But much like the movie Balto, if you got past that, then it would be brilliant on it's own, maybe because the story is very good.
I really like the characters in these books. We have Alek, a prince sometimes full of himself, but is willing to stand up for those he cares about. He's only skilled at fencing, but is very intelligent and knows about the politics in the world. As for Deryn, or 'Dylan' as her boy name, she is very strong at heart and will do anything for her country much like Alek would. She is caring for her friends, and will do anything to keep Alek's heritage a secret, even if it meant confessing her own.
Later on in Behemoth and Goliath, we see a surprisingly believable form of chemistry brew between Alek and Deryn, but only after her true self is revealed. By the way, Alek's reaction to it is just perfect, you really feel the trust between him and Deryn break. That, and the novels take advantage of the fact they're from different world, and it leads to very entertaining arguments of if the Clankers are better than the Darwinists and vice-versa.
The books also show how much weight Alek holds on his shoulders, and that once his uncle dies, he has the responsibility of a nation. I like it when a book, or books, dives into a character's responsibility and how he or she has to make the right choice.
The side characters are very good too. My favorite one would have to be Dr. Barlow, and how her attitude can be sometimes very British strict sometimes, but that doesn't mean she isn't very caring about her comrades. Besides that, there's too many to talk about in this review.
The designs and interior illustrations in this are so creative and well-drawn. I don't know how Scott Westerfield came up with these designs, but give him an award! It looks futuristic, but feels like it came from the time period. The interior drawings are well-made too. Is it me, or do the illustrations look very anime influenced?
If I had one problem with it, is that it sometimes drags on too much, mostly in some parts of Behemoth and Goliath. It doesn't get that boring, but you do wish for there to be any kind of better entertainment. Still that's nitpicking, I'm trying to find anything wrong with it.
What's my verdict on it? If you're not into the type of science fiction literature that references history, then this might not be your cup of tea. But if you can pass that and are looking for a trilogy with good designs, nice character development, and fast-paced action, then I say this is really worth checking out.
What else can I ask for anyone? 'Do you oil your war machines? Or do you feed them?'