I resisted buying any of the Leviathan books for years. Steampunk always seemed just too kitschy for my tastes. Then I saw that one of my all-time favourite narrators, Alan Cumming, had voiced the audiobook. I thought, 'okay, well, one can't hurt.' Ha. I forked over the cash for additional credits because I didn't have the patience to wait for a month to listen to the next two books in the series.
Alan Cumming, as always, puts in an incredible performance. His natural Scots brogue gives life to Deryn Sharp, a girl disguised as a boy serving on the Darwinist air beast Leviathan, pride of the British Air Service. Just as easily, however, Mr Cumming switches to a German accent for the other main narrator, Alek, the Austro-Hungarian prince-in-exile. I'm not in a position to call it flawless (lacking the necessary ear for the language), but I certainly found it entirely believable. He even manages (in later books) to pull off a passable American accent, without going too far overboard, as is the wont of most Brits. But I digress. It is Mr Cumming's amazing vocal talents that truly bring this series to life. So much so that I couldn't imagine reading to books myself, not without his voice to waft me along in the telling. It is a rare narrator that can do that; I can't think of another one with that sort of compelling performance.
Now, I DID say that I avoided the books on principle due to the genre, right? Yes, I will likely get hate mail for saying this, but steampunk, to me, always seemed to be trying too hard - 'what can I make even more complicated by tossing in a few gears?' Mr Westerfeld, I am pleased to say, mostly skirts all that, instead devising two amazing forms of 'technology' - Darwinist (which is to say, biological) and clanker (technological) - and then goes on to examine the natural divisions and strange unifications of these technologies, and applies geopolitical and historical understanding of the WWI era to the examination. It's not a book about the _technology_ (though it features prominently enough that some might be excused for thinking so), it's a book about history and humanity, seen through a radically different lens. If Mr Westerfeld should ever decide to write another book (or series!) set in this same world, my name will be at the top of the waiting list. I only regret that I waited so long to read it.
Takes just a wee bit to take off (not long), but very well plotted, wonderfully read by Alan Cummings. You'll really like this a lot.
Fun Clean Interesting
nice to read a youth fiction book that isn't all about hormonal relationships
This is the first book in an excellent three-book series, telling a fantastical story of alternate history, set at the beginning of World War I. It's really about two unlikely heroes, a 14-year-old Austrian prince and a 14-year-old Scottish girl. They both harbor a deep secret, and the three books pair them as partners in one adventure after another. The story is fun, the alternate steampunk history engaging, but it's Alan Cumming's reading that makes these books so fantastic. As the sole reader, he nonetheless breathes life into the varied characters, with accents ranging from German (Austrian) to British (both aristocratic and workingman) to American to Russian to Arabic. I've listened to dozens of Audible books, literally, and Cumming may be the best reader yet!
Yes. It has a great alternate-history storyline. Fun setting and interesting take on Machine vs. nature.
I didn't have a favorite character. Maybe as the series progresses I'll find one that I'm attached to but not yet.
I loved his accents. The Scottish accent and the Austrian accent were great.
No. Sadly. It was good but had so much more potential.
The characters were often frustrating instead of endearing. I think that this will become less of a problem if the characters mature a bit. We'll see.
Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan is a wonderful book. I have read many books with alternative histories and 'Historical Fiction' - this one is one of the better ones. Throw in the steam (and diesel) punk alternative methods of powering technology and I find this book to be fascinating. I'm so excited by this that I'm already downloading the second book! The detail level is just right - believable but not over done. The performance, great. In short - if you like historical fiction, steam punk, or both, get this book!
Yes, I have friends that like other books by the same author that like alternate histories.
No, but I really enjoyed it.
Not strictly "Steampunk" this actually falls more inline with "Dieselpunk", both in function of the machines (using diesel as opposed to steam power) and in timeline. Steampunk is usually firmly in the Victorian era. The Great War and the Roaring 20's usually are Dieselpunk.
That being said, this was amazing alternate history that has quite a bit of science fiction. the characters are likeable and colorful.
The story is quite original. Scott Westerfeld has built an entire steampunk universe that is so interesting that my ten year old son now wants to study biologoy so he can be a Darwinist!
My favorite character is Deryn, the female lead.
I had never heard Alan Cumming previously do an audiobook, but he really makes the stroy and the characters come alive. Very nuanced and compelling voices for each of the characters. He even gets the American characters spot on.
In an alternate timeline, where animals are as man-made as machines, can one girl and one boy meet, fall in love and end World War I?
My California ears lost many of the German accented words especially when they were spoken softly. If it weren't for that I might have liked the story itself more.
Bought this book on sale and was not expecting too much. I was surprised. It was well written and very entertaining. The odd premiss was developed well and the characters were also well developed. I will definitely continue the series.