Reviewed by Andrew Zimmerman Jones
Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy is an epic about an alternate-history version of World War I … and a great example of how steampunk can really work well when it’s firing on all cylinders (both literally and figuratively). In this, the military conflict isn’t just political, but also centers around an ideological difference about technology. The British and Russians have embraced Charles Darwin’s biological insights to breed massive war beasts, while the German alliance put their faith in mechanical (frequently multi-legged) battle machines.
In addition to the global conflict, the major tension in the story centers around two young characters – one from each side of the battle – who are living with their own secrets in the midst of the war. One is a girl disguised as a boy so that she can serve in the British military upon the living zeppelin Leviathan. The other is a prince (and secret heir to the Austrian Empire) on the run from his own people.
On top of all of that, there’s also a romance … even though one of the participants doesn’t realize it for quite some time.