Saturday, October 29, 2011
In case you missed the other books in the series, or my reviews of them, let me sum it all up for you. The story is set in an alternate version of World War I. In this universe, the Archduke Ferdinand has a son that is orphaned by his assassination. His son, Alek, goes into hiding after the death of his parents and hopes to gain his father's place in the royal family one day. Austria-Hungary is part of the Clanker powers (they've developed advanced machinery that mostly runs on steam power). While he is in hiding an English air ship crashes nearby, and he assists in their rescue. England and Austria-Hungary are on opposite sides of the war and a deep philosophical difference. England is a Darwinist nation, this means that they have developed their technology through altering animals genetic code to make them useful in a variety of ways. The airship is actually an altered whale and strongly resembles a zeppelin.
Our main protagonist is Dylan, a.k.a. Deryn, Sharp. She is a midshipman on the Leviathan and is pretending to be a boy in order to service in the military. She is quick, strong, and smart. Dylan and Alek form an unlikely friendship, and Dylan falls for Alek. In the latest volume, Dylan's secret is revealed to some, and almost given away completely. We also see a few true to life historical figures such as Nicolas Tesla, Pancho Villa, and William Hearst.
One of the things that I really enjoy about this series besides the characters and story is the wonderful art drawn by Keith Thompson. Unfortunately, my favorite creature design, the weaponized manta ray ship, was not available online. There was no way, I was going to break the spine of my signed edition by putting in on the scanner. But each picture in the book is as detailed and as beautiful on the one on the right. I really wish more adult books would get back to illustrated novels, it really adds a little something. It's sad that it has mostly become a dead art in the West.
I can't say that the story offers any surprises for experienced readers, but it is enjoyable and well told. The creatures and locations are brought to vivid life by Westerfeld's deft and eloquent descriptions, and complimented beautifully by Thompson's finely detailed illustrations.
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