By: Scott Westerfield
What: In an alternate history of the outbreak of WWI, an orphan and a young navy officer are put on a collision course.
Recommended to those who like: Steampunk, Middle grade/young teen, Adventure
Shout-out to Victoria for recommending this book to me! I enjoyed it and look forward to picking up the rest of the series at some point in the near future.
Europe is divided between two sets of allies. On one hand are the “Darwinists”, headed by Britain and her allies, who make heavy use of genetically-engineered beasts of war. On the other are the “Clankers”, which include Germany and Austria, and who are diametrically opposed to the “godless beasts”. The “Clankers” are known for their great mechanical beasts and walking machines.
An orphaned prince and a young naval officer-in training find themselves on opposite sides of the conflict that’s coming to a head. Will they avoid war? And can they each keep their respective secrets?
This is really only the second steampunk novel I’ve read (the other being Tainted, by Morgan L. Busse), so I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. The worldbuilding was fantastic. I mean, how did Mr. Westerfield come up with a flying whale that has bats for weapons? Seriously awesome, especially when combined with the backdrop of the dawn of WWI. I also found the Clanker vs. Darwinist conflict an interesting way of providing an ideological divide between the European powers in a believable manner.
The plot was well written and, while predictable at some points, was interesting enough not to lag at all. Really, the only thing that prevented me from giving this story 5 stars was the characters. I really couldn’t connect to Deryn or Alek very much at all. I’ll also be honest that the girl-disguised-as-a-boy thing has to be played just right for me to like it. This one didn't quite fly for me.
The book is quite clean and would be suitable for readers as young as middle grade. Adults can probably enjoy the story as well, especially if they’re looking for some unique worldbuilding.
The Bottom Line: This clean book is a good pick for readers who are looking for a fast plot and some great worldbuilding.