Sever

Spoilers ahead! If you haven’t read the first two books in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy (Wither and Fever), do so now! This post will focus on Sever, the third and final book in the series.

Nearly two years ago, I began reading Wither, the first book in The Chemical Garden series, a dystopian trilogy by Lauren DeStefano. From the start, I was mesmerized–and often horrified–by the world presented in this series. Fever, book two, only increased my horror at the world that Rhine, our protagonist, is forced to navigate. And now, I’ve finally made my way to book three, Sever. In this book, Rhine continues on her quest to save herself and those around her, but, as they so often do, circumstances seem to conspire against her.

As Sever begins, Rhine continues to struggle with the experiments Vaughn, her vile father-in-law, has done on her. She is trying to cope with the knowledge that he has killed others before her, and she knows that he’s not done with her.  Rhine is also eager to find her twin brother, Rowan, and get back to Gabriel, the boy she left behind in Manhattan.

With the help of Linden, her former husband, Cecily, her sister wife, and Reed, Vaughn’s estranged brother, Rhine is, at the very least, able to avoid Vaughn’s clutches for a while. Rhine also learns a bit more about her brother’s activities. He believes her to be dead, and he has become the leader of what can only be called a terrorist group. He is blowing up scientific research facilities. He appears to believe that they are wasting their time experimenting on young people and looking for a cure that just doesn’t exist.

(You may recall that young people are doomed to die early in this world. Young men don’t live past age twenty-five, and women die at age twenty. Vaughn, Rhine’s father-in-law and Linden’s father, has become something of a mad scientist in his quest for a cure.)

Everything, though, is not as it seems. Vaughn has far-reaching power that follows Rhine wherever she goes. But Vaughn’s many deceptions will soon be uncovered in a very unlikely place. In Rhine’s quest to find her brother, she returns to the hellacious carnival that was once her prison. Secrets are revealed here that will not only lead Rhine to her brother but may also lead to Vaughn’s undoing.

As Rhine learns more and more about Vaughn’s research, her parents’ work, her brother’s supposed rebellion, and her own place in the world, she realizes that everything is much more complicated than she ever believed. And when she factors in her tumultuous relationships with Linden, Cecily, Rowan, and others around her, Rhine is more befuddled than ever.

How can Rhine hope to make sense of what’s going on around her when she can’t seem to come to terms with what’s happened to her and those she cares about? Lives have been lost and promises broken in this mysterious quest for a cure, but is it worth it? Why is Rhine so important to this search, and, if a cure is found, what then? Is Rhine doomed to be a prisoner forever? Or is there a way out? A way that not even Rhine would dare to dream of?

Questions will be answered and secrets revealed soon, but is anyone prepared for what will be uncovered? Unravel the mystery when you read Sever, the gripping conclusion to The Chemical Garden trilogy.

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Now that I’ve read the entirety of this series, I must confess something. I’m still not quite sure what a chemical garden is. It was sort of explained in Sever but not to my satisfaction. I know it had something to do with the genetic experimentation done by Rhine’s parents, but why were their experiments referred to as a chemical garden? I may have to do my own brand of research to figure this out. (Not a problem, really. I’m a librarian. Research is kind of my thing.)

I do think that the action in Sever was a bit slow at times, but I still found myself enthralled by the story. I do wish, however, that we had seen more of Gabriel and Rhine’s relationship with him. Even with the way the book ended, that story feels kind of unfinished.

When I first started this series, I couldn’t stand the character of Cecily. In Sever, however, she definitely showed an inner strength that most women–never mind fourteen-year-old girls–don’t possess. She survived so much and grew into a young woman with a core of steel. Even Rhine was surprised by how much her sister wife had matured in such a short time. Cecily grew from an annoying little girl into a young woman capable of enduring unimaginable grief and tribulations. Out of all the characters in this series, I think she changed the most. She went from an easily manipulated pawn into a queen taking charge of her own destiny.

If you want a rather disturbing view of what the future could hold, I suggest you give Wither, Fever, and Sever a try. You may like this trilogy; you may not. Every reader has his/her own taste, and that’s okay. (I say this because another blogger called me out for daring to give Fever a positive review. She’s entitled to her opinion, but I stand by my view that this is definitely a series worth reading.) This series does deal with some mature themes, so I would caution you before recommending it to middle grade readers.

If you enjoyed series like Delirium, Matched, or The Selection, then The Chemical Garden may be right up your alley.

For more information on this series or other books by Lauren DeStefano, check out the author’s website, FacebookTumblr, and Twitter. You may also want to take a quick look at the Sever book trailer below. Enjoy!

Fever

Spoiler alert!  Read Lauren DeStefano’s Wither before proceeding.  You will be all kinds of confused if you don’t heed my warning!

So, it’s been a while since I’ve posted something here on Knight Reader, and I promise I have a very good excuse.  School started.  That’s right.  I went from nearly two months of doing almost nothing but reading and sleeping to working in an elementary school five days a week (and being so exhausted when I get home that I either nap or stare blankly at the walls).  It’s a difficult adjustment, and I simply haven’t had the time or energy to devote to blogging…or even reading (which is kind of sad for a school librarian to say).  Hopefully, things are sort of getting back to normal, and I’ll be able to post at least a couple of times a week.  We shall see.

Moving on…

Last night, I was finally able to finish reading Fever, the second book in Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy.  (If the spoiler alert above didn’t clue you in, the first book in this series is Wither.)  I absolutely adored the first book, so I had really high hopes for Fever.  I’m happy to report that Fever lived up to my expectations.  It freaked me out even more than Wither did.  I’ll go ahead and tell you that this is not a “happy” book.  It will not leave you with the warm fuzzies.  It will make you uncomfortable.  It will make you cringe.  It will make you fear for the future of humanity and society.  Most importantly, it will make you think.

In Fever, Rhine has finally escaped her life as a wife of Linden Ashby.  She is joined by Gabriel, a former servant in the mansion they used to call home.  Despite all the hope that Rhine has for the future, she’s almost immediately swept into situations that are even worse than the one she left. 

Even when Rhine and Gabriel find a way out of yet another life of servitude, their journey is treacherous and filled with uncertainty.  Will they ever make it to Rhine’s home in Manhattan?  If they do, will they find her twin brother Rowan?  What then?  Time is running out, and Rhine is growing weaker by the minute.  What will she have to do to save herself?  And is saving herself even worth the price she would have to pay?

As Rhine and Gabriel look for ways to escape their current predicaments, they are faced with the possibility that things may never get better…and they may never escape Rhine’s evil father-in-law, Vaughn, who seems to be on their heels no matter where they go.  What will Rhine and Gabriel have to do or sacrifice to finally be truly free?  Is freedom even possible at this point? 

This book is INTENSE!  I’m still mulling things over, but I might like Fever even more than I liked Wither.  This book is the perfect “second book” in a series.  Yes, it was a bridge between books one and three, but it wasn’t just filler.  Stuff happened.  (I wanted to use another word for “stuff,” but this blog is kind of kid-friendly.)  There were some pretty major events that will have a huge impact in the final book in this series (which I’m pretty sure will be freakin’ awesome).  Book three, Sever, is scheduled for a February 12th release, so we don’t have a terribly long amount of time to wait to see what happens.  I’m still on pins and needles, though.  This series has me totally enthralled.

If you’d like to learn more about the Chemical Garden trilogy or author Lauren DeStefano, visit http://www.laurendestefano.com/.  Also, you simply must follow the author on Twitter @LaurenDeStefano.  She’s pretty hilarious.  I’m convinced we’d be BFFs if we ever met.

Still not convinced to give Fever (and Wither) a try?  Well, check out this book trailer.  That should do it.

*Note: This series deals with some mature themes and is not recommended for middle grade readers.*

Wither

People who really know me have realized that I have a mild case of paranoia.  I’ve been known to utter the phrase “until the machines rise up” in casual conversations.  (And yes, I do think the machines will eventually take over.  I can see the Matrix.)  It’s odd, then, that dystopian fiction is my favorite genre.  (I became a fan when I read Fahrenheit 451 in the eighth grade.)  Well, my latest read, Wither by Lauren DeStefano, is an all-too-believable view of the near future.  No, the machines have not risen up yet, but society’s desire to wipe out all disease and have perfect, healthy children has backfired in a major way.  The science presented in this book is totally plausible, and I fear that some of it may cross the divide between science fiction and science fact if we’re not careful.

In mankind’s quest for physical perfection, time has become the ultimate scarce resource.  Yes, the world is virtually disease-free, but the side-effect of such health is the untimely death of all people born in the new generations.  No male lives past the age of twenty-five, and no female lives past the age of twenty.  In essence, people are ticking time-bombs from the moment of birth.  First generation doctors and scientists (who kind of started this whole mess) are trying to find an antidote for the virus killing their children and grandchildren, but time is always working against them.  Humans are quickly becoming an endangered species, and some will go to any lengths—including kidnapping young girls and forcing them to be “breeders”—to keep the population from dying out.  That’s where sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery’s story begins…

Rhine, along with about a dozen other girls, is taken from her home—and her twin brother—in Manhattan.  She’s transported hundreds of miles so that a wealthy young man, Linden Ashby, can choose those he desires to be his wives.  That’s right…wives…as in plural.  Both Linden and his father are struck by Rhine’s unique features, so she is chosen as a bride.  She is joined by two sister wives:  Jenna, a girl who has less than two years until her twentieth birthday and who makes her disgust of this situation very clear, and Cecily, a thirteen-year-old girl who was seemingly groomed for this life in an orphanage and is weirdly excited about everything that awaits her.  Rhine, like Jenna, is also disgusted with her fate, but unlike Jenna, who is just counting down the days until her death, Rhine plans to do something about it.

Almost immediately upon arriving at the mansion that is to be her new home, Rhine begins to think of escape plans.  While there appear to be no immediate solutions, Rhine is sure that an opportunity will eventually present itself.  Rhine bides her time, gets to know her new husband, and grows closer to her sister wives.  She also forms an attachment to Gabriel, a servant in her new home who may have his own reasons for wanting to escape.

As Rhine looks for ways to escape this life she never wanted, she also becomes a participant in it.  She grows closer to Linden and realizes he’s not the monster she’s made him out to be in her head.  She develops real bonds with her sister wives and worries about their fates should her quest for freedom prove successful.  She discovers horrifying things about her father-in-law Vaughn, the dictatorial and terrifying Housemaster, that make her want to expose him for the liar and murderer he is.  Through all this, though, Rhine’s primary goal remains the same—to escape to freedom, get back to her brother, and, possibly, start a new life with someone who is coming to mean a lot to her.  Will she find a way out, or will she remain a prisoner and spend the rest of her short life withering away?  Read Wither, the first book in the Chemical Garden trilogy by Lauren DeStefano, to learn the truth.

I was engrossed in this book from page one, and I highly recommend it to teen readers who enjoy dystopian fiction.  (Some of the subject matter is probably a little too mature for middle-grade readers.)  Wither presents an interesting and eye-opening look at polygamous relationships, and it shows readers that science may not be the ultimate answer for all of the world’s problems.  The “solutions” to these problems may be more dangerous and life-threatening that the problems themselves.  For those who often contemplate what the future may hold, Wither provides a conceivable glimpse into life for generations to come.  Join me in the paranoia, won’t you?

The second book in this trilogy, Fever, is already out, and I plan to read it once I’ve fully processed what happened in Wither.  The third book is currently untitled, and it is scheduled for an April 2013 release.  You can also check out an eBook, Seeds of Wither, which contains details of the world Lauren DeStefano created in Wither, a new short story titled “The First Bride,” a map of the wives floor, and more!

For those who would like more information about Wither, the rest of the Chemical Garden trilogy, and author Lauren DeStefano, visit  http://laurendestefano.com/ and http://thechemicalgardenbooks.com/wither/.  You can also follow Lauren on Twitter @laurenDeStefano, on Tumblr at http://laurendestefano.tumblr.com/, and become a fan on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/LaurenDeStefanoFan

Still not enough?  Well, check out this awesome Wither book trailer produced by Simon & Schuster Videos.  Enjoy!

Prized

If you haven’t already read Birthmarked by Caragh M. O’Brien, do that before proceeding with this post.  Prized is the amazing sequel, and you definitely need to read these books in order!

I just finished reading a book that I’ve been looking forward to for a while. I loved the first book, Birthmarked, and I had a feeling I would feel the same about the second, Prized. In many ways, I was not disappointed. Like Birthmarked, Prized is set in a dystopian society and follows Gaia, a strong female character. Two big pluses in my book. Prized also made me think about topics that any society tends to have issues with–abortion, oppression, equal rights, etc. Another plus.  The only problem I had with this book was the convoluted love story.  Gaia is torn in three different directions, and, while this does add some tension to the book, I felt it took away from the strength of Gaia’s character.  I also wasn’t crazy about how she knuckled under when things got rough.  (She later redeemed herself, but it still bothered me that she kowtowed in the first place.)  Would I have done things differently in Gaia’s position?  Probably not, as I am a wuss of the highest order.  (Honestly, I would have given in much faster.)  The question is:  would Gaia have done things differently had she known what the outcome would be?

After fleeing into the wastelands with her baby sister, Gaia is certain that death is imminent for both of them.  When nearly all hope is lost, salvation appears in the form of a rider from Sylum, the society that was once ruled by Gaia’s grandmother.  When Gaia arrives in Sylum, however, she fears that she’s escaped one corrupt society only to become part of another.  Sylum is ruled by women–who are largely outnumbered by men–and child-bearing is the most important thing in this world.  Women who cannot or choose not to have children are considered second-class citizens.  (Doesn’t sound too different from our society, does it?)  Men have virtually no rights at all, and kissing a woman out of wedlock is enough to have a man convicted of attempted rape…whether the woman wanted the kiss or not.

After Gaia’s sister is taken from her, and someone from her past is imprisoned without cause, Gaia resists the new rules placed upon her.  Eventually, however, she comes to believe that she must submit to the Matrarc, the ruler of Sylum, if she has any hope of seeing her sister or having anything resembling a happy life.  And for a while, Gaia thinks she could be happy in Sylum.  Two very handsome brothers are vying for her attention, she’s a highly valued midwife once again, and, whereas she was shunned in the Enclave, she’s prized in Sylum.  It’s a new and heady feeling for Gaia, one she’s not sure she wants to give up…

…until Leon, the boy who helped her escape the Enclave, makes it clear that he misses the old Gaia, the one who fought like a woman possessed for what she believed in.  He wonders where that Gaia has gone, and, after a while, Gaia wonders the same thing.  How could she possibly so concerned with her own happiness at the expense of those around her?  She sees what’s going on in Sylum, even when those in power would turn a blind eye.  But what could she possibly do to turn things around?  Is she willing to sacrifice relationships, both old and new, for the sake of justice?  Will it be enough?  Read Prized, the captivating sequel to Caragh M. O’Brien’s Birthmarked, to find out!

Prized is a fairly intense read, and, like I said before, it definitely makes you think.  It made me examine my own views on reproductive rights, gender equality, environmental impact on human growth and development, criminal justice, and what gives one group the right to impose laws on another.  Prized is a very timely book that I think will raise some discussions about issues that are facing us today.

Birthmarked and Prized are, you guessed it, part of a trilogy.  The third book, Promised is due out in the Fall of 2012.  Personally, I can hardly wait to see where Gaia’s story is going, especially considering the way it ended in Prized.  I have a feeling things are going to get a lot more complicated. 

If you’d like more information about this trilogy and author Caragh M. O’Brien, visit http://www.caraghobrien.com/.  Enjoy.

Goliath

Danger, danger!  If you haven’t already read Leviathan and Behemoth, the first two books in this amazing series, retreat now before proceeding with this post on the final installment in the Leviathan trilogy, Goliath.  You must read the first two books to understand what’s happening in this final book.  Read on at your own risk!

Early this year, I began reading an amazing series that would introduce me to an alternate history of World War One–a world filled with fabricated beasts and technologies as dangerous as they are awe-inspiring.  This series began with Leviathan, a phenomenal book that made be seek out more steampunk fiction.  I continued this series with Behemoth, a book that, in my opinion, was even better than its predecessor.  It was action-packed, tense, and, again, presented an alternate view of history had certain beasts and machines been present.  Well, today I finally finished the highly anticipated third and final book in this series, Goliath.  This book was–at least to this reader–the best book of the Leviathan trilogy (and one of the best books I’ve read this year).  I am sad that this journey is over, but I am very satisfied with how it ended.  I hope you will be, too.

Goliath opens with Alek and Deryn once again aboard the Leviathan.  Deryn is still keeping her true identity a secret, and Alek is lamenting his uselessness aboard the airbeast.  Both of them, however, are about to have their worlds shaken once again.  When the Leviathan is ordered to Siberia to pick up a mysterious package and a maniacal scientist, secrets begin to unravel.  Who is this madman the Leviathan has rescued, and what is his endgame?

While Deryn works with Dr. Barlow to uncover what the scientist–one Nikola Tesla–is really up to, Alek is confronted with the alarming truth about his best friend.  The boy he believed to be Dylan Sharp is actually a girl named Deryn.  She’s been masquerading as a male soldier the entire time they’ve known each other.  He’s trusted her with all of his secrets, and she’s been lying to him this whole time.  How can he trust her now?  Can their friendship recover from this?  If it can, will things be different between Alek and Deryn now that the truth is out?

Life is tense onboard the Leviathan.  With a mad scientist, a prince, a girl masquerading as a boy, reporters, and various beasties on board, how could it not be?  Well, thanks to Mr. Tesla, things are about to get even more tense.  His invention, a machine called Goliath, may have the power to end this war for good.  It is up to the crew of the Leviathan to get Tesla to New York for a demonstration of this weapon’s capabilities.  This journey takes them through Russia, Japan, Mexico, and across the expanse of the United States–a neutral power in this global war.  The airbeast encounters danger at every turn.  What dangers will it encounter once it arrives in New York, and will they be enough to bring the U.S. into this war?  Or will Tesla’s weapon stop the tide of war in its tracks?

As the Leviathan gets closer to completing its mission, Alek and Deryn are forced to face the truth of their new relationship.  But how can they possibly be together when war is tearing them apart?  Can they find a way to end this war and preserve their young love in the process?  Or will the machinations of a madman end everything for good?  Read Goliath, the trilling conclusion to the Leviathan trilogy, to learn how two young people can change the world around them.

As is often the case when I read a book as awesome as this one, this post doesn’t even come close to depicting how amazing Goliath–and the whole Leviathan series–is.  Words fail me, and that is saying something for someone as verbose as I am.  I adore this series, and I think Goliath is the best of the trilogy.  I am totally satisfied with the ending.  It tied things up nicely, but it still left room for readers to use their imaginations in determining how the future plays out for Alek and Deryn. 

As with Leviathan and Behemoth, there is an afterword that gives information about the true events that were the basis for Goliath.  It is amazing to me that Nikola Tesla was actually working on a Goliath-like machine before he ran out of money.  Just imagine what the world would be like now if he had succeeded.

If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you waiting for?  It’s wonderful, and I think readers from upper elementary grades through adulthood will find something to enjoy.  If you’d like more information on the world of Leviathan and author Scott Westerfeld, visit http://scottwesterfeld.com/.  As for me, I will now mourn the end of this series, and move on to my next book.  Happy reading.

Vesper

I really identified with the main character in my latest read, Vesper by Jeff Sampson.  Emily Webb is a sixteen-year-old geek who gets way too engrossed in books and movies, doesn’t have many friends, stays at home most of the time, and never tries anything new for fear of rocking the boat or looking like an idiot.  I feel like I’ve just written a short autobiography.  I’m just like Emily (except, you know, twice her age), and, like Emily, I often have the urge to jump out of my shell and go a little crazy.  (I never do.)  Well, Emily is about to do what I’ve never had the guts to do.  She’s becoming an adventurous party girl, but she’s not all that thrilled about it…

By day, Emily Webb is still the same geeky, unassuming, often forgotten, run-of-the mill teenager who is simply counting down the days until the next superhero movie.  (Wow.  The similarities never stop.)  By night, however, Emily morphs into a fearless, reckless thrill seeker who lets nothing stand in her way.  What caused this sudden change?  Why does Emily let go of her inhibitions only at night?  And why does this weird transformation begin on the night that a girl is mysteriously killed just blocks from Emily’s house?

Emily knows she should be worried about her sudden personality shifts, but, at the same time, she kind of likes Nighttime Emily.  She likes not worrying about what people think of her.  She likes dressing to impress instead of hiding her figure behind oversized hoodies.  She likes being the daring girl she’s always wanted to be.  But when her transformation takes an unexpected turn, Emily realizes that something is seriously wrong with her.  She doesn’t know why this is happening to her, but she knows that there are others out there like her.  She just has to find them.

After doing a little research, Emily soon figures out that her freaky new self is somehow connected to the death of the other girl, also named Emily, and the attempted murder of another classmate.  What is happening with the teenagers in her small Washington town?  Will Emily be able to reconcile her daytime and nighttime selves long enough to figure out what’s going on?  And can she do it before becoming a killer’s next target?  Read Vesper by Jeff Sampson to find out!

I’ve left a lot about Vesper out of this post, and that was completely intentional.  I don’t want to ruin this book for anyone because, quite honestly, it went places I wasn’t completely prepared for.  At first, I wasn’t thrilled about these unexpected turns, but, as the story progressed, I accepted them and grew to anticipate where the story was taking me.  I look forward to reading more of Emily’s story in the second book of this Deviants series.  That book is Havoc and is scheduled for release January of 2012.  In the meantime, I encourage you to visit the author’s website at http://jeffsampsonbooks.com/ for more information on this exciting new series!

Behemoth

Warning!!  Read Leviathan before continuing with this post.  Behemoth is the second book in this amazing series.

As you’ve mostly likely determined, I just finished reading Behemoth, the second book in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy.  If you follow this blog at all, you know that I loved Leviathan.  It was weird, and it combined historical fiction (which I typically don’t prefer) with science fiction, creating an alternate World War One.  Behemoth picks up where Leviathan ended, and I think this second installment is more action-packed and anxiety-inducing that the first book.  I really enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to see where the third book, Goliath, will take us.

Alek and Dylan have grown closer during their time on the Leviathan, but the two friends are still harboring some big secrets.  Alek has told no one that he is the true heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and Dylan–or should I say Deryn–is hiding the fact that she is a girl.  Those secrets, although important, might just be taking a back seat to the war around them.  The Leviathan is headed for the seemingly neutral city of Constantinople (Istanbul), but it soon becomes clear that they are not the only visitors to this all-important city.

After a rough encounter with some German warships, the Leviathan and crew enter Constantinople only to discover that the Germans, or Clankers, have arrived ahead of them.   The Clankers have essentially taken over the city, making it into a hub of Clanker engineering and weaponry.  Neither Alek nor Deryn were prepared for what they were sailing into, but circumstances caused them to face the coming conflict head-on…

Alek, after learning that he will soon be considered a prisoner-of-war aboard the Leviathan, escapes the air beast into the streets of Constantinople.  There he faces his own enemies and makes the acquaintances of certain people who would fight the German encroachment in their fair city.

Deryn, still hiding her true identity, is given an important mission that will make possible the arrival of the British Empire’s most fearsome weapon, the behemoth.  When complications arise, Deryn is forced to seek help from Alek and his new comrades.  But can she, or Alek, trust these revolutionaries?  And what will they do when it becomes clear that the Clankers have a powerful weapon that can stop the Leviathan, and any other beast accompanying it, in its tracks?  Are they strong enough to fight the Clanker powers?  Only time will tell.  But can Alek and Deryn possibly keep their secrets when a war keeps bringing them closer together, or will these secrets only serve to drive them apart?  Read Behemoth to find out how Alek and Deryn fare in a war neither of them truly understand.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this book (maybe even more than I liked Leviathan), and I think any fans of action, danger, and suspense will find something to love in Behemoth.  I’m really intrigued by the relationship between Alek and Deryn and where it could possibly lead in the future.  I also appreciate the illustrations by Keith Thompson.  Like those in Leviathan, these pictures help me to visualize the various beasts and contraptions in this alternate world.  There is also an extremely helpful afterword at the end of the book which explains how the events in Behemoth were similar to or different than the actuality of World War One.

I look forward to finishing this trilogy in October with the third and final book, Goliath.  If Behemoth is any indication, we can expect a lot of action and conflict in this book (with hopefully a bit of resolution).  If you’d like more information about this series or any other by Scott Westerfeld, visit http://scottwesterfeld.com/.

Leviathan

I’ve been meaning to read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld for a while now, and I finally got around to it.  I wish I had read this one sooner.  It was absolutely wonderful.  Westerfeld seems to excel in whatever genre he chooses to write in, and his foray into steampunk is no exception.  (If you don’t know what “steampunk” is, check out this link from Wikipedia.  This is an amazing complete definition.)  Leviathan combines actual events that led up to World War I with Darwinist ideas and sophisticated technologies.  As Westerfeld stated in the novel’s afterword, “That’s the nature of steampunk, blending future and past.”  The world depicted in this book is at once familiar and terrifying, and it raises some ethical and philosophical questions that we struggle to answer today.

Alek is in the middle of a war.  Actually, he is one of the reasons for the war.  With the death of his parents, the world seemingly goes into a tailspin.  Were Alek’s parents killed by enemies of the Austro-Hungarian empire, or did their allies, the Germans, betray them to start a war?  Alek is really not sure, so he goes on the run to ensure his safety.  A couple of soldiers, two trusted advisors, and a military Stormwalker are all that stand between Alek and certain discovery.  If he is discovered, by either the Germans or their enemies, he knows he could share the same fate as his parents.

Deryn dreams of serving in the British Air Service.  There is just one problem–she’s a girl.  With the help of her brother and a rather convincing disguise, however, Deryn–or should I say Dylan–is able to join up, and she, somewhat unwittingly, becomes a midshipman on the airship Leviathan.  But the Leviathan is not just any airship.  It is a biological ecosystem.  The ship is made up of many different fabricated species working together to keep the “ship” aloft and on course.  Deryn is thrilled to serve on this mighty beast.  She gets to fly and be a part of something great.

Things don’t stay great for long.  War is coming to Europe, and both Deryn and Alek are right in the middle of it.  When the two meet, it becomes clear that they will have to work together to survive what is coming.  Can both of them keep their secrets in the midst of everything going on around them?  Can the Leviathan prevail against the Germans’ war machines, or Clankers?  And how will these two young people impact the world as they know it?  Read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and imagine the possibilities.

I really, really, really enjoyed this book.  For one thing, not many young adult novels are written about WWI, so that was a nice change of pace.  For another thing, I like weird stuff, and Leviathan had a lot of weird stuff in it, especially the fabricated animals.  (By the way, Keith Johnson’s illustrations were especially helpful in bringing these beings to life.  I don’t think my imagination could do any better.)  I urge readers to take a look at the book’s afterword so that they can learn how much of the book is based on actual events.

I can’t wait to see where Westerfeld takes us in the next book, Behemoth (which is already out), and the third book, Goliath (out in October).  For more information on the Leviathan series and other books by Scott Westerfeld, visit http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/.  It’s an awesome site!