Note: Originally posted on Manic Expression on January 4, 2013.

Instead of doing a video game review like I usually do, I will instead be reviewing a trilogy of young adults novels. No, it’s not the ones your thinking about like The Hunger Games or the Mortal Instruments. The trilogy I’m talking about is actually quite under-appreciated and deserves to be talked about more than it is. That being the Leviathan trilogy by Scott Westerfeld.

Westerfeld is most known for the best selling Uglies series. He mainly writes YA science fiction such as the aforementioned Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy and stand alone novels like So Yesterday and so forth. He also wrote a manga spin-off of the Uglies series called Shay’s Story and a duo of science fiction books known as Succession series which consists of The Risen Empire and The Killing of Worlds. He is currently writing his latest novel with nothing information available of what is it or the genre of the book.


A few of his books have even been optioned for movies with So Yesterday being optioned by one of the producers of Fahrenheit 9/11 and Bowling for Columbine before the option “slowly died” to quote Westerfeld himself. The Uglies series has been optioned by 20th Century Fox back in 2006, with a script having recently been written.

This brings us to the subject of this review, the Leviathan trilogy which consists of Leviathan, Behemoth, and Goliath. The story takes place in an alternate history version of World War I where the war is being fought between Clankers, countries that use stream powered iron machines as weaponry and Darwinists, countries that use fabricated animals as their weaponry.

The main characters are Prince Aleksandar Ferdinand, the prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and Deryn Sharp, a girl disguise as a boy in the British Air Force and is in constant danger of having her secret discovered. Alek has to go on the run after his parents are assassinated and his title becomes worthless. All he has left is a loyal crew of men and a battle-torn Stormwalker. Alek eventually comes across the Leviathan, where he meets a young airmen around his age named Dylan Sharp(name being used by Deryn in her boy disguise). Circumstances force Alek’s group to hide on the Leviathan and go on a globe-trotting adventure with the group of Darwinists with both Alek’s and Deryn’s secrets in danger of being exposed to the other.

Without spoiling anything else about the story, the trilogy does introduce a colorful cast of characters, some of which is based on real historical figures like Nikola Tesla and Dr. Nora Barlow. As you can tell from the premise, this trilogy has no pretenses of being historically accurate. Westerfeld even puts a section at the end of each book in the series to point out how the events of the series differ from what happened in real life at the time.


One of the best things about the series is that it does a great job of showing the various uses of the fabricated animals by the Darwinists. Things like message lizards, giant jellyfish-like creatures called Huxleys used to scout ahead of airships, the Leviathan itself, and other sorts of fabricated animals are really fascinating in how they work and are used by the Darwinists. This goes for the setting as a whole as they way historical effects are reinvented in the more steam punk setting is really clever and enjoyable.

Another great element of the series is the interesting conflict with Deryn having to dress as a boy. Not just because she need to conceal her secret to stay in the Air Force but also because she is afraid of how Alek will think of her if he ever finds out. Considering what times were like during the early part of the 1900s for women, this conflict makes sense, especially in context of the story.

Not that Alek’s own inner conflict should be ignored either. He is forced on the run after his own title becomes meaningless and is told to keep is identity a secret for his own safety. This really puts a strain on Alek as tries to hide the secret from Dylan and grows a strong friendship with him. The friendship between Alek and Deryn is the lynchpin of the series and is what ultimately holds the story together.

In the books themselves, each chapter has an illustration based on what is going on in the current chapter. These illustrations where drawn by Keith Thompson, a very talented illustrator whose drawings give more life to a series that was already engaging to begin with. The illustrations themselves are really fun to look it for all of the little details put into them and have a memorable and distinct art style to them as well.

If, by any chance, a film adaptation of this trilogy is done, I would like animatronics and puppetry to be used whenever possible. While I am personally not anti-CGI, I would still appreciate if that is avoided if possible as I feel that certain elements could only be done justice on the big screen with more practical effects as CGI can run the risk of taking me out of a movie if it is done really badly.

It’s a shame that the Leviathan trilogy is sinking under the radar compared to best sellers like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey because I do feel that the series does deserve more attention than it gets. The setting is very creative and enjoyable, the character are likable and memorable, the illustrations are fun to look at and are very well done, and the story is a very well done example of the alternate history sub-genre. If you interested in alternate history and stories like this, I can safely recommend this really underrated trilogy of books.

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