Book Review: Leviathan, by Scott Westerfeld

leviathan_coverThis book review is part of series of reviews written by students at St. Margaret’s Episcopal School for their 7th grade English classes.

I wasn’t alive during World War One but Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan (the first book in his trilogy) made me feel as if I was. Titled after the British whale airships, most of the story takes place on one of these Leviathans. The novel was fast paced and action packed, so it seemed like I was living each moment along with the characters. Scott Westerfeld is clearly an expert at building suspense, as seen in the first three pages of the book: “The war was coming after all. Everyone said so” (3). As I read on, I felt like a part of the story when an Austrian-Hungarian prince named Alek fled from his home. He fled from all his riches and tutors because the Germans killed his parents to start war. “Maybe this was how you stayed sane in wartime: a handful of noble deeds amid the chaos” (360). Alek was accompanied by Count Volger, his fencing tutor, Otto Klop, the engineer and a few other servants. Together they formed a devoted group as they tried to flee to Switzerland. About the same time in England, a brave girl named Deryn tries to join the Air Force posing as a boy. Deryn always wanted to be in the Air Force because her dad took her flying in hot air balloons. Deryn refers to the air forces ships as “beasties” because of the living creature mixed in with the air ship. Deryn doesn’t like guys too much because she thinks they are total unaware of what is going on around them, “Most man’s awareness doesn’t extend past their dinner plates” (279).

Having these two main characters made the book interesting to read because of the different perspectives that it was written in. Since the two characters were different genders, the war could be understood from two points of view. This also makes it appeal to a wider audience of both girls and boys. Further, the two perspectives were not just different but they were actually in opposition due to their countries fighting against each other in the war. Ironically, the two separate story lines merge into one by the end of the novel as the two characters find each other. Throughout the story, Scott Westerfeld taught a valuable lesson of humanity in the way these characters came together and helped each other rather than fight one another. These lessons hit home with a reader because they cause faith in humankind to be restored even despite a violent war.

Scott Westerfeld’s writing is amazing at catching readers attention and keeping them interested because he keeps switching perspectives between Alek and Deryn and keeps you wondering how or when they will meet up. Scott Westerfeld is a very established author, having written 18 different books. His writing style is educational, in the sense that he included historical accuracy in his description of scenes. I think this is a very good book and I would recommend it to all young readers who have an interest in war history novels.

-Dylan C., 7th grade

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