Prince Aleksander, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne in the year 1914, is woken up in the middle of the night by his tutor and his fencing master. At first, he thinks they're taking him out on another one of those midnight drills that he is expected to do whenever it is deemed necessary. However, this time it is not a drill. It is an escape. Alek's parents have been killed, poisoned by German sympathizers, and the prince is next on their hit list.
Alek's escape coincides with the escapades of Deryn Sharp, a young girl who has joined the British Air Service disguised as a boy. Deryn, a midshipman aboard the Darwinian airship Leviathan, is a brilliant airman. Her love of flying makes the danger of her deception a worthwhile venture. During an intense air battle, theLeviathan is heavily wounded and forced to crash land in the freezing Swiss terrain, coincidentally near a secret castle where Prince Alek and his men have taken refuge.
This story ends on an unexpected cliffhanger, leaving you open and ready for the second book in the trilogy, Behemoth.
This story, set in a steampunk World War I, grabs hold of the reader from the first paragraph. Scott Westerfield writes an imaginative alternate world about how history could have been. Peopled by Clankers -- men who put their faith in machines of metal -- and Darwinists -- men who command genetically engineered vehicles such as the Leviathan. an enormous whale-like air ship with it's own ecosystem --Leviathan is a must-read for the avid steampunk reader.
This book was a masterpiece of storytelling. Perhaps my only complaint about it was the Darwin element. I am NOT a fan of Darwin, nor do I believe any of the theories he came up with. However, Scott Westerfield manages to take the theory of Darwinism just far enough to explain his biological air ships. Aside from that one element, this was a fantastic story.