Forgotten Fridays: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

Posted December 27, 2013 by Kara in book review, forgotten fridays, Kara, Lyn / 3 Comments

forgotten fridays
It’s three days after Christmas and I would venture a guess that hardly anyone is reading blogs right now. They are playing with their new gifts, eating yummy leftovers, and reading, reading all the new books they are going to get. Which is great but not such a good thing for this post. The show must go on, however, and this week we are chatting about Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, a book that I (Kara) chose. I had high expectations for this one because a lot of people love it, and well, it was just so-so for me.

Forgotten Fridays: Leviathan by Scott WesterfeldLeviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Series: Leviathan #1
Published by Simon Pulse on October 6th, 2009
Genres: fantasy, steampunk, young adult
Pages: 440
Buy on Amazon

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.


Kara: Hidey ho.

Lyn: Go. Speak.

Kara: Boo, you whore. Okay, so Leviathan. Let’s get this started. Did you like it or not?

Lyn: My rating stands at three stars. It was very interesting, and it was something new and I did love the steampunk value. However, I felt that the lingo drove me insane and the pacing killed me. You?

Kara: My rating is actually the same. I didn’t so much have an issue with pacing as I felt the book lacked a focus. I don’t believe there actually was a plot, and it just seemed to move from one event to the next without any real motivation. Yes, I agree about the steampunk value. I liked it. I thought the world-building was excellent, however, I’ve never been into war books, regardless of setting. So this one was kind of a snoozer for me, which makes me a bit sad as I have been looking forward to this from some time. I also had a feeling you would have an issue with the lingo. It didn’t really bother me, but only because once you have read The Maze Runner series, there is nothing worse than that.

Lyn: Why would you ACCUSE me of not liking the lingo before you would allow me to complain! Profiling! And that is WRONG.

Kara: Hahahaha. Well, it was something I thought while I was reading. I was like, “I have a feeling Lyn is going to be bothered by this.” But by all means, complain away!

Lyn: Like I said, profiling. I feel violated.

I ended up picking up some of it, but I think it was way overused. If I saw “barking” one more time, I was going to pop my eyeballs out of my head. Can I also insert into the record that I HATE the word “fart”? This comes from a person who uses whore and the f-bomb on Twitter like it is life or death, but I really highly dislike seeing that word in fiction.

Kara: Hahaha. Yeah, they did use barking a lot, didn’t they? I’d prefer they just drop the f-bomb actually. As for fart, LOL, it doesn’t bother me, but that’s because I live with a gross pig of a man. 😀

Lyn: Yeah, I suppose that is my lady-like behavior. It tends to pop up like acne from time to time.

Okay, back on track, I like that you pointed out that the book kinda wandered. At first, I was really unclear about the direction and the purpose of the story.

Kara: Yeah, because the blurb gives you absolutely no freaking clue what the book is about, so you kind of go into it in the dark, which some people like, but not me. I like to have a little background information, and I had none, and then like I said, I just feel the book didn’t really know what it wanted to be. It DID wander, and then to top it all off, I really didn’t feel one way or another about the characters. There were distinct differences between them, but I did feel they were sort of cardboard. I didn’t feel like I knew anything about them.

Lyn: Okay, yes. It is weird how both characters used exclusive POV for the alternating chapters, yet I felt like I never really KNEW them. Alek also “grew up” way too fast. He was either a dejected unwanted heir or a military savant. That really irked me. Alek’s character was EVERYWHERE.

Kara: Yeah, you are right. With those POV switches, the characters really should have come to life but they didn’t. I think maybe it’s because SO MUCH focus was placed on the world-building and plot that the characters did kind of get left behind. I’d also like to note that for the voices of the characters, I really feel like this book was more of a middle grade than a YA book. I really did love the illustrations though. And for the most part, I also loved the writing mechanics.

Lyn: This was labeled YA? It is very much a middle grade. Side note on those illustrations: buy a physical copy. You can hardly see them on the Kindle version. From what I could see, they were brilliant.

I did like the connection to actual history and events. I really believed that the information in the back of the book was highly interesting. I never knew Darwin had a scientifically advanced granddaughter, and I think it is sad that she is overlooked.

Kara: Yeah, it was. It’s in the young adult section at the bookstore as well. You are right about having a physical copy. I imagine it was tough to see those on an e-reader. Mine was a paperback and they were lovely illustrations. 

I agree with you. I think the retelling/alternate history part of the book was fascinating and inventive on the author’s part. I loved seeing WWI from a steampunk perspective. I also truly enjoyed the Leviathan itself, though I couldn’t help but think how cruel it was to manufacture animals that way. So I want to warn readers that there is a bit of animal cruelty in that the ship is actually a real live WHALE and I found parts of it disturbing but never graphic. Animal lovers might be a bit bothered though.

Lyn: Yeah, it did strike a nerve as well. The book never pointed out whether or not the fabrications could feel pain. I think it is VERY IMPORTANT to include that when using hybrids for objects. I think that might be something that seemed to unnerve me, but I could never put my finger on it. Also, I worried about the animals used as weapons and the poor lizards that fell during the crash. It made me sad.

Kara: Yes, and the bats they just sacrificed during that one battle scene. I LOVE BATS. This really bothered me! So yeah, I feel like there was a lot of disregard shown to animals, which if you are not an animal lover, is not going to bother you. But I am, and it did. Poor lizards. 🙁 But you know, as disturbing as some of that was to my brain, I did think it was incredibly creative as well, so I am conflicted. But in the end, this book was just decent for me and I am on the fence about whether or not I am going to continue the series. I have heard books two and three are much better than the first, so I am debating.

Lyn: I’d be lying if I said I didn’t think it was highly creative and somewhat new. I’m not sure if I want to continue. In a way, I just don’t care enough about Alek or his issues to pick up the next one. However, it would be nice to see the world building continue.

I’m really shocked that you rated this as a three. I was betting that you were ready to slap four stars on it.

Kara: Nope. It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of excellent world-building, but if I can’t connect to the characters and the plot is just so-so for me, I really can’t justify rating it higher. I liked it but it isn’t going to be a particularly memorable read for me, and at this time I will probably pass on continuing the trilogy. BUT, I do like the author’s writing quite a bit, so I might try some of his other books.

Lyn: Ditto.

What’s next? Howl’s Moving Castle?

Kara: Yes. And I bought it for Kindle. 🙂 Looking forward to this one. I think you may finally have a winner here. Muahaha.

Lyn: I have a paper copy. I’m so torn about my feelings. I hope so. I keep bombing. Also, I hope you watch the anime after reading the book. I know that isn’t your thing, but the movie is beautiful. A lot of people say the book is better. So I have some very nervous and exciting feelings.

Kara: Well, this will be super exciting when we meet to chat that one. Someone that saw the movie first, and someone that read the book first. We will both be approaching it from a different perspective. And I totally am willing to watch the anime if I enjoy the book. I’m not opposed to anime, I’m just super picky about films and TV shows, and even more picky about the animated ones. But if I enjoy it, I’m definitely going to want to watch it.

Lyn: Yah! I like watching the movie tie in. I thought it was neat to follow up Memoirs of a Geisha with the film. Maybe that can lead to a discussion one day.

Kara: Sure! I think that would be a fun thing to do. 🙂 Until next time. DUN, DUN, DUN.

Lyn: 3 Stars
Kara: 3 Stars


3 responses to “Forgotten Fridays: Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

  1. Heh. I’m one of the few people still reading blogs over the holiday period. 😉 It’s good to get both of your thoughts on this book! I’ve had a copy for a long time now, but I haven’t had a chance to pick it up yet. I can see the language probably irritating me – as these things usually do – but I like the sound of the steampunk world-building. It’s a shame that it wasn’t a particularly outstanding read for either of you though. I hope Howl’s Moving Castle works better. I’ve heard such great things about that one.

    Hope you both had a good Christmas!

    • Yes! There are a lot of people that love this series and I totally get it! It really just depends on personal preference. I definitely want to read more Westerfeld though because I do really enjoy his writing!

  2. Boo, you whore. BAHAHAHA. That’s awesome. This was a solid 3.5-4 star series for me, but I don’t love it enough that I want to attack anyone with machinery for daring to give it 3 stars. I loved the setting, both time period and the whole alternative history angle.

    Hahaha, profiling. That’s what my parents said about the series too. Westerfeld has a bad habit of stupid slang. It’s even worse in Uglies.

    “Yeah, I suppose that is my lady-like behavior. It tends to pop up like acne from time to time.” *craughs* *is grossed out*

    The characters definitely didn’t come to life. But gender bending and crazy animals and WWII! (These are the sum total of my arguments. Good day.)

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