Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld Australian YA author Westerfeld of Uglies fame takes a turn toward a steampunk alternate history with this first in a trilogy. The year is 1914. Prince Alek, son of the Archduke Ferdinand, is woken in the middle of the night by his tutor, who takes him for what he thinks is a midnight training ride in one of the two-legged walkers that Austria-Hungary is becoming famous for. Except that it turns out not to be training. His parents have just been assasinated, his people have turned against him, and Alek must run for his life. Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp is posing as a boy so that she can join the British Air Service, where genetically engineered ecosystems of animals create large dirigible-like ships that float through the air. Unlike Jacky Faber, Deryn finds the constant jockeying for position among the midshipmen wearing, but she is already experienced in the air, brilliant and courageous. She ends up serving on the Leviathan, a very large airship that is carrying Dr. Nora Darwin Barlow and some precious cargo on an urgent diplomatic mission to the Ottoman Empire. The world is on the brink of war between the Darwinists and the Clankers – can two young people from opposite sides prevent it? The action is non-stop, the characters a delight, and the technology intriguing. We have it in teen, but so far I haven’t seen anything in to make it inappropriate for middle graders, while it’s deep enough to work for adults as well. I’ve already devoured the first two books and am now waiting for book three to come out in September.
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