Summer Reading: Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan Series
Welcome to Summer Reading 2017! This year we’re taking advantage of the long summer days to read our way through some of our favorite series for children and young people.
In an alternate steampunk Europe on the brink of World War I, a young woman disguises herself as a boy so she can join the British Air Service and serve on their fleet of giant genetically-modified air beasts. Meanwhile, the Central Powers (or Clankers) are building up their army of steam-powered many-legged machines as the inevitable conflict approaches. You want to read these books already, don’t you? But wait, there’s more! All three books (pick up the hardback editions, if you can) have wonderful full-page illustrations by Keith Thompson, including some of the most gorgeous endpapers I’ve ever seen.
Many people are familiar with Scott Westerfeld’s YA science fiction series beginning with Uglies, but it seems that fewer have heard of this steampunk/biopunk alternate history. Marketed as YA, I’ve been recommending it for middle schoolers and up (including adults) ever since it first came out. It’s got adventure, flying whale-beasts, and a brave and resourceful heroine. The series also makes a great side-read for anyone studying World War I, since Westerfeld uses actual history as his jumping-off point and includes historical figures ranging from Archduke Franz Ferdinand to Nikola Tesla. As a bonus, after you’ve read the trilogy (including an extra final chapter and illustration on Westerfeld’s website) you can check out The Manual of Aeronautics, an illustrated guide (by the fabulous Keith Thompson) to the world and technology of Leviathan. What are you waiting for?
Young Scotswoman Deryn Sharp rejects the dresses that a “proper lady” should wear to disguise herself as a boy and study to be a midshipman on one of the great British air-beasts. Meanwhile, Prince Aleksander, son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand and heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire, must go on the run after his parents are killed. Will their paths cross when the ship Leviathan crash-lands in Switzerland? (SPOILER: Yes.)
War has broken out, though Alek (an Austrian Clanker) and Deryn (a British Darwinist) still want to work together for peace. After their mission goes awry, however, the friends are separated and their friendship will be tested as they end up on opposite sides of the conflict.
SUZANNE REZELMAN is home | school | life magazine’s Book Nerd. Subscribe to home/school/life to read her brilliant book recommendations and literary musings every issue. Your library list will thank you.