BookBrowse Reviews Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Keith Thompson

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Keith Thompson X
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, Keith Thompson
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2009, 448 pages
    Aug 2010, 464 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Cindy Anderson

Buy This Book

About this Book



Young Adults: The author of the Uglies series returns with the first installment of a steampunk series

Scott Westerfeld, author of the popular Uglies series for young adults, tries his hand at steampunk in Leviathan, an imaginative alternate-reality story featuring two teenagers who must cope with personal loss and isolation, and who learn the meaning of friendship in a time of war. But this book is no downer. Westerfeld takes readers along for the wild adventures of the two young protagonists. Written for a YA audience, Leviathan is a fun read for adults as well.

Alek and Deryn are 15, on the cusp of adulthood, but still young enough to hold onto the idealism, rebelliousness, and naiveté of youth. Young readers will see something of themselves in these characters, traits that transcend gender, nationality, time period, and the sci-fi setting of the book. Adult readers will appreciate the realism that Westerfeld imbues them with.

Alek is a well-meaning but lonely boy who hasn't had much experience in the world, having been protected from it all of his princely life. Deryn, who is masquerading as a boy in the British air service, also feels she has much to prove. Although she is more streetwise than Alek, she is too often reckless and overconfident. However, when she takes risks, they pay off. She has an affinity for flying Huxleys - hydrogen breathing, fabricated creatures built for air travel - and isn’t afraid to rope-climb across the side of a giant air whale at 1000 feet in the air.

Once Deryn's British airship crashes in Switzerland (where Alek and his guardians are hiding out) and the two young people meet, they must learn to work together despite their differences. Because Leviathan is the first of a planned four-part series, Alek and Deryn's relationship doesn't have a chance to develop much by the end of this first volume. But Westerfeld makes it clear that learning to trust and respect each other is an important beginning for these two, if any kind of friendship (or romance?) is going to grow.

As much as I liked Alek and Deryn, I found Dr. Nora Barlow to be the most intriguing character. Her bowler hat, cool demeanor, and droll humor make her an ideal steampunk character (see "Steampunk for Beginners" by Cherie Priest), and for me, she brought to mind Miss Veronica Hobbs from George Mann's The Affinity Bridge, who possesses similar wit and intelligence. In Leviathan, Dr. Barlow's calm wisdom is a refreshing change of pace from Alek's lack of guile, and Deryn's tendency to leap directly into the path of danger. Barlow is frequently the voice of reason, keeping the adults in line, and seeing the big picture. Although the answer isn't revealed in the book, one wonders if her keen senses are even fooled by Deryn's disguise.

Last, but not least, this book's wonderful full-page, black and white illustrations by Keith Thompson (see sidebar), who also drew the caricature map on the inside front and back covers, are a fantastic and useful addition to the novel. As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. Younger readers will certainly find the black and white illustrations appealing, and I loved that they allowed me to visualize the many complex and wondrous machines and cross-bred creatures described in the text. I also found the jacket illustration by Sammy Yuen, Jr. to be quite captivating.

Leviathan is suitable for readers 12 and up.

Publishing Soon: Behemoth - the second volume in this four part series, publishing October 5, 2010.

Reviewed by Cindy Anderson

This review was originally published in November 2009, and has been updated for the August 2010 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Timekeepers
    by Simon Garfield
    If you can spare three minutes and 57 seconds, you can hear the driving, horse-gallop beat of Sade&#...
  • Book Jacket: How to Stop Time
    How to Stop Time
    by Matt Haig
    Tom Hazard, the protagonist of How to Stop Time, is afflicted with a condition of semi-immortality ...
  • Book Jacket: Mothers of Sparta
    Mothers of Sparta
    by Dawn Davies
    What it's about:
    The tagline on the back cover of Mothers of Sparta says it all: "Some women...
  • Book Jacket: Fortress America
    Fortress America
    by Elaine Tyler May
    In Fortress America, Elaine Tyler May presents a fascinating but alarming portrait of America's...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    As Bright as Heaven
    by Susan Meissner

    A story of a family reborn through loss and love in Philadelphia during the flu epidemic of 1918.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Next Year in Havana
    by Chanel Cleeton

    a Cuban-American woman travels to Havana, where she finds a family secret hidden since the revolution.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore

A gripping novel from the award-winning author of For Today I Am a Boy.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

G O T P, B The P, F T P

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.