The Leviathan Trilogy by Scott Westerfeld
This is an incredibly stylish book, from the lucious hardback cover design to the invented vocabulary to the interesting take on alternative history. Unfortunately, form suffers a bit in the pursuit of that style.
Much of the fault lies in the characterization of the two lead characters. They’re pretty one-dimensional and therefore, their actions are predictable. Of course Dylan will make the rash adventuresome decision! Of course Alek will take the bullheaded-yet-morally-right path! There are no major surprises here or major character leaps forward.
Luckily the mythology of the book is engaging all by itself. It’s The Clankers (mecha-centric Germans) versus The Darwinists (DNA-manipulating, monster-fabricating English) set against the start of World War I! I’ll certainly be sticking with this series, just to see how that plays out.
The second in this series improved upon the first. It kept the good parts – imaginative mythology and inventive alternate history scenarios – and improved upon the weaker aspects – simplistic characterizations. The plot became more complicated, which allowed for Dylan and Alek’s decisions to grown in complexity too. Lots more people know both their secrets, avenues are being closed to them at the same time possibilities are opening up… In general, the stakes just feel higher.
The words of Wildcount Vogle also sum up my feelings upon starting the last in the Leviathan trilogy. The first two were so good, but also so big that they seemed to leave little room for a satisfying ending. First, there’s Alek’s destiny as the emperor of Austria. Then, there’s Deryn’s future in the Royal Air Force. Also, the romance between them. Oh, and I guess the whole “world war” thing too. There was a lot to cover in just one book.
I have to say, I’m impressed. Everything did work out and not in predictable Hollywood Happy Ending fashion either. Westerfeld continued to surprise and excite me. I mean, we got a bear-battling Tesla. Which was awesome.
I can definitely see more books, continuing Deryn and Alek’s adventures. And I would happily read them.