Book Reviews

Impostors: A Review

“Freedom has a way of destroying things.”

cover art for Impostors by Scott WesterfeldFrey and Rafi are inseparable. They are sisters. They are a secret.

Raised by her father in the shadows, hidden from everyone, Frey is Rafi’s double–a decoy who stands in whenever her twin sister has to appear in public where she is vulnerable to threats. While Rafi is raised to be charming and poised, Frey is raised to be an assassin, a weapon.

Sent in her sister’s place as collateral for one of her father’s deals, Frey tries her best to inhabit a vapid world that is completely alien to her. Frey has never had to pretend for this long and she knows that Col, the son of her captor, is starting to catch on.

As her assignment drags on and the stakes climb higher, Frey realizes that her place in her family and in the larger world is changing. After living for so long in the shadows, Frey will have to step into the public eye if she wants to save her sister and herself in Impostors (2018) by Scott Westerfeld.

Find it on Bookshop.

Impostors is the first book in Westerfeld’s new series which is set in the world of his Uglies trilogy.

This series starts twenty-five years after Tally Youngblood changed the world forever but it’s been years since anyone has actually seen her. In the aftermath new leaders have stepped into the power vacuum creating their own mega cities and, in the case of Frey and Rafi’s father, their own dictatorships where advanced tech is used to police the population.

With no other frame of reference, Frey and Rafi can barely articulate the restrictions and horrors of their upbringing–something that becomes clearer to Frey only when she is left untethered with no way to return home to her sister.

Impostors is a high octane adventured filled with cool tech, calculating villains, and a ruthless protagonist prepared to do whatever it takes to protect the only person she’s ever cared about. Frey and Col’s reluctant alliance and evolving relationship remains compelling despite an initial lack of chemistry.

Although Impostors is stronger and faster, it falls short of being better than the original series instead often feeling like a story retold. Recommended for readers who like their science fiction filled with high speed chases and rich world building. Ideal for diehard fans of the series as well as those looking to enter the Ugliesverse for the first time.

Possible Pairings: Mirage by Somaiya Daud, The Tomorrow Code by Brian Falkner, The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid, The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, Scythe by Neal Shusterman, This Mortal Coil by Emily Suvada

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow: A (Blog Tour) Graphic Novel Review


cover art for Spill Zone: The Broken Vow by Scott Westerfeld and Alex PuvillandThree years ago something happened in Poughkeepsie, New York that left the town changed. Inside the Spill Zone nothing is quite right anymore. Dead bodies stand motionless, caught where they fell; strange creatures wander the zone; no one who goes into the zone comes out the same.

Addison thought she was done with the zone when she took one last job to retrieve something from inside. Except she got close enough to touch the spill and now she’s changed–just like Jae, a mysterious boy from North Korea’s own spill zone.

Addison’s little sister, Lexa, was changed the night of the spill herself. And now her doll, Vespertine tells them that something worse is trying to get out in Spill Zone: The Broken Vow (2018) by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland with color by Hilary Sycamore.

Find it on Bookshop.

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow is the conclusion to Westerfeld’s latest graphic novel duology which began with Spill Zone. You can find a copy at your local library, buy a copy, or you can read the entire comic online with neat blog posts from Scott and Alex talking about their process at thespillzone.com.

This concluding volume is even creepier than the first with higher stakes, scarier creatures, and a lot more suspense. While Addison tries to make sense of what happened the last time she went into the spill she also has to figure out how to protect her sister and her town from whatever is trying to get out.

The Broken Vow expands the world of the comics as readers learn more about Don Jae and North Korea’s own spill. The eerie illustrations and psychedelic colors from the first volume return in this installment and continue to evoke a world gone subtly (and sometimes not-so-subtly) wrong. The use of different speak bubbles for each character also adds another dimension to the story.

Spill Zone: The Broken Vow is fast-paced action and nail-biting suspense. A satisfying conclusion to a truly original duology.

*An advance copy of this title was provided by the publisher for review consideration*

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour stops for even more Spill Zone posts:

7/8 Novel Novice http://www.novelnovice.com/
7/8 Undeniably Book Nerdy http://booksandmakeup.blogspot.com/
7/9 Bookcrushin http://bookcrush.in/
7/9 Hit or Miss Books https://hitormissbooks.wordpress.com/
7/9 Bookling Critics https://booklingcritics.wordpress.com
7/10 Seeing Double in Neverland http://seeingdoubleinneverland.blogspot.com
7/10 WhoRuBlog http://www.whorublog.com
7/11 Here’s to Happy Endings http://www.herestohappyendings.com/
7/11 The Book Rat www.thebookrat.com
7/12 Miss Print https://missprint.wordpress.com/
7/12 Bookstore Finds Www.instagram.com/bookstorefinds
7/13 Teen Lit Rocks teenlitrocks.com
7/13 Adventures of a Book Junkie https://www.toofondofbooks.com/
7/14 Novel Reality http://novelreality.blogspot.com
7/14 Flavia the Bibliophile http://flaviathebibliophile.com/
7/15 Haku & Books https://www.hakuandbooks.com/
7/15 Emily Reads Everything www.emilyreadseverything.com
7/16 YA Book Nerd http://yabooknerd.blogspot.com/
7/17 Take Me Away to a Great Read https://takemeawaytoagreatread.com/
7/18 Bumbles and Fairy-Tales http://bumblesandfairytales.blogspot.com
7/18 Pink Polka Dot Books http://www.pinkpolkadotbooks.com/
7/19 Folded Pages Distillery www.foldedpagesdistillery.com
7/20 Book Nut Booklovingnut.com
7/21 The Life of a Booknerd Addict http://www.booknerdaddict.com/
Author Interviews

COMICS EXTRAVAGANZA: A Q&A with Scott Westerfeld

I’m excited to be part of First Second’s Comics Extravaganza Blog Tour!

All week you can follow the blog tour (click to see the full schedule) for interviews with authors talking about their own comics, what they love about the genre, and more.

Today I’m hosting a Q&A with Scott Westerfeld, author of Spill Zone. Scott Westerfeld is the author of the worldwide bestselling Uglies series and the Locus Award–winning Leviathan series, and is co-author of the Zeroes trilogy. His other novels include the New York Times bestseller AfterworldsThe Last Days,Peeps, So Yesterday, and the Midnighters trilogy.

Tell us your first memory of reading a comic or graphic novel.
Scott Westerfeld (ST): My first little-kid comics were Casper the Friendly Ghost. He’s the ultimate visual character, thanks to the weird physics of his incorporeal body. I don’t think you could do those gentle but highly disconcerting sight-gags in any other medium. (If you don’t know what I mean, google “Casper Ghost Physics.”)
What’s your favorite comic or graphic novel, and what do you love about it?
ST: I love all deconstructions of comics, so I was tempted to say The Boys or something gritty like that. But really, Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is the best self-aware meta-comic going right now. The writing and art are crisp and sharp, the perfect combination of sweet and knowing.
Tell us a little about your latest graphic novel. 
ST: Spill Zone is set three years after a strange event destroyed the hometown of 20-year-old Addison Merritt. Nobody knows what the Spill even was, but it took her parents and left her little sister silent. (Except for psychic conversations with a creepy doll.) Now Addison supports them both by sneaking into the Zone to take photographs, which sell as a mysterious, voyeuristic outsider art. And then one of her collectors offers her a million dollars to bring more than photographs out of the Zone. (My elevator pitch: Stranger Things with motorcycles.)
What comic or graphic novel are you reading now? 
ST: The Best We Could Do by Thi Bui. An amazing immigrant family memoir, stretching from the bloody division of Viet Nam to blue-sky California in only a few decades. An amazing look at how history imprints itself across generations.
Remember, check out the other tour stops for more interviews. I’ll leave you with some more information about Spill Zone:
SPILL ZONE
by Scott Westerfeld and Alex Puvilland

Three years ago an event destroyed the small city of Poughkeepsie, forever changing reality within its borders. Uncanny manifestations and lethal dangers now await anyone who enters the Spill Zone.

The Spill claimed Addison’s parents and scarred her little sister, Lexa, who hasn’t spoken since. Addison provides for her sister by photographing the Zone’s twisted attractions on illicit midnight rides. Art collectors pay top dollar for these bizarre images, but getting close enough for the perfect shot can mean death—or worse.

When an eccentric collector makes a million-dollar offer, Addison breaks her own hard-learned rules of survival and ventures farther than she has ever dared. Within the Spill Zone, Hell awaits—and it seems to be calling Addison’s name.

Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews

Spill Zone: A (Blog Tour) Graphic Novel Review

No entry. No photos. No survivors.

No one has been allowed in the Poughkeepsie Spill Zone since the night of the Spill. Addison Merrick was out of town and came back to a town she didn’t recognize, missing parents, and a sister who hasn’t spoken since.

With nowhere else to go she’s kept herself and her sister near the border of the Spill in their family home. From there it’s easy for Addison to periodically sneak into the Spill and snap photos of the weird aftermath to sell to art collectors.

No one knows what happened the night of the Spill but when Addison receives an offer to venture farther into the Zone than she ever has, she might be closer to finding out–whether she wants to or not in Spill Zone (2017) by Scott Westerfeld, illustrated by Alex Puvilland with color by Hilary Sycamore.

Find it on Bookshop.

Spill Zone is Westerfeld’s latest graphic novel and the start to a new series. You can find a copy at your local library, buy a copy, or you can read the entire comic online with neat blog posts from Scott and Alex talking about their process at thespillzone.com.

Spill Zone starts with Addison getting ready to venture into the Spill Zone to take another batch of photos. By this point Addison has the process down from sneaking through the border to how to get out of the Spill in one piece and protect herself and her sister while selling the highly illegal photos to art collectors like the owner of the Vandersloot Gallery (which you can find online). It’s risky but, thanks to Addison’s meticulous rules, it’s manageable.

Inside the Spill is dangerous and eerie. No one knows what happened. Time doesn’t seem to work the same way. Dangerous creatures are everywhere. Even colors are different. When Addison receives an offer she can’t refuse she’s forced to travel even further into the Spill Zone and confront dangerous truths about that night and the aftermath. The combination of Westerfeld’s story and Puvilland’s art keeps the tension taut throughout this volume as it builds to the dangerous climax and, of course, leaves readers with more questions.

Spill Zone is a fascinating and fast-paced story perfectly situated to appeal to both fans of speculative fiction and comics. Spill Zone is a deceptively fast read that packs a punch–guaranteed to reward multiple reads and close examination of each panel. Highly recommended.

As part of the Spill Zone Blog Tour I also have an exclusive photo from inside the Spill Zone!

This photo was taken by artist Alex Puvilland during his research for this book in Poughkeepsie. Spill Zone has had a lot of fun publicity that started well before its publication including the Spill Zone site where you can read the entire comic (and cool blog posts about Scott and Alex’s writing process) and also a web presence for the Vandersloot Gallery which displays some of Ms. Vandersloot’s impressive collection of Addison’s photos from inside the Spill.

Be sure to check out the rest of the blog tour for more exclusive photos. You can find the full schedule here: http://fiercereadsya.tumblr.com/post/160085874816/no-entry-no-photographs-no-survivors-three-years

Book Reviews

Afterworlds: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Afterworlds by Scott WesterfeldDarcy Patel has put everything on hold to be a writer. A real, published writer. She moves to New York City with a contract to publish her novel “Afterworlds” and its as yet unwritten and untitled sequel, part of her advance, and the dazzling title of soon-to-be debut author.

Darcy does not have plans for college. She does not have an apartment. She does not have any idea what happens next.

But somehow, in the world of writers–both seasoned and new–Darcy finds her people. Over the course of one tumultuous year in the city Darcy will learn about writing, publishing and even love. More than anything, she’ll learn if she has what it takes to really do this thing that she loves so much.

Interspersed with Darcy’s story is the story that brought her to New York in the first place: Afterworlds. After surviving an unthinkable attack, Lizzie realizes she has the ability to slip into the afterworld–somewhere that exists between life and death. With her new ability, Lizzie discovers that ghosts are everywhere as are other, darker things. Everyone seems to want something from Lizzie but even her new gifts might not be enough to keep those she loves safe.

Darcy and Lizzie’s worlds blend together in this story about facing your fears and finding yourself in Afterworlds (2014) by Scott Westerfeld.

Find it on Bookshop.

The first thing to know about Afterworlds is that it reads like two books. Odd numbered chapters focus on Darcy’s “real world” story of moving to New York and revising Afterworlds. Even numbered chapters detail the “story within the story” of Lizzie and her journey into the afterworld. While this book clocks in at over 600 pages (hardcover) really it’s two stories–two books even–in one both told to excellent effect.

In addition this book features a truly diverse cast in a casual/accepted way. While it’s important to the story, the diversity never becomes the story.

The premise sounds too lofty. It sounds highly un-writerly. A novel about writing a novel? With the full text of that self-same novel? Surely it can’t work. Yet Westerfeld pulls it off beautifully. Although the story is highly self-aware (and often very meta), every detail works here. Darcy’s new experiences feed into her revisions of Afterworlds. Her growth as a young woman and author mirrors Lizzie’s growth. Both girls, in their respective arcs, accomplish great things.

While not for everyone, Afterworlds is astonishingly successful on every level. Sure to have high appeal for all aspiring authors or sci-fi/fantasy fans. Highly recommended.

Possible Pairings: The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, Graffiti Moon by Cath Crowley, The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst, The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde, The Strange Maid by Tessa Gratton, Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey, The Truth Commission by Susan Juby, Undercover by Beth Kephart, Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, The Archived by Victoria Schwab, Or What You Will by Jo Walton, Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, The Book Thief by Markus Zusak

*This book was acquired for review consideration from the publisher at BEA14*

Book Reviews

So Yesterday: A Review

“We are all around you.

“You don’t think about us much because we are invisible. Well, not exactly invisible. A lot of us have hair dyed in four colors, or wear five-inch platform sneakers, or carry enough metal in our skin that it’s a hassle getting on an airplane. Quite visible, actually, come to think of it.

“But we don’t wear signs saying what we are. After all, if you knew what we were up to, we couldn’t work our magic. We have to observe carefully and push and prompt you in ways you don’t notice. Like good teachers, we let you think you discovered the truth on your own.

“And you need us. Someone has to guide you, to mold you, to make sure that today turns to yesterday on schedule. Because frankly, without us to monitor the situation, who knows what would get crammed down your throats?

“It’s not like you can just start making your own decisions, after all.”

So Yesterday by Scott WesterfeldHunter Braque is always on top of the latest trends. Mostly because he helps make sure they become trends. As a seventeen-year-old with his own background in the whirlwind world of innovation and style, Hunter knows exactly how to spot Innovators–the people who do something before it’s cool. The people who define cool.

When Hunter’s best client disappears it will take all of his connections to track her down as he teams up with an Innovator, uncovers a mystery surrounding the coolest sneakers he’s ever seen and gets to the bottom of the shadowy world that lurks behind all of the trends and innovations in So Yesterday (2004) by Scott Westerfeld.

Find it on Bookshop.

So Yesterday is generally grouped into Westerfeld’s New York Trilogy which is not actually a trilogy. It’s one of his earlier novels, set in New York City and also a rare non-fantasy title. (The other books in this “trilogy” are the vampire-apocalyptic books Peeps and The Last Days.)

Although this book is a departure for Westerfeld’s usual fare of science fiction and fantasy adventures, the prose is still decidedly his with the expected blend of wit and trivia along with excellent turns of phrase. (True story: One of my all-time favorite quotes is from this book!)

Hunter is understandably interested in trends so the book is filled with odd bits of information about the origins of ties, or more specifically cravats, among other things. And don’t let the realistic setting fool you–there is still tons of action to be had as Hunter chases down sneakers, avoids thugs and seeks help from shady figures with names like Futura Garamond (another true story: This book introduced me to both of those font faces which I now use all the time!).

So Yesterday is a fast, strange book that readers who enjoy sardonic humor, New York City, or the stories behind the latest It Thing (or all of those at the same time!) is sure to enjoy.

Possible Pairings: The Brokenhearted by Amelia Kahaney, New York City: A Short History by George J. Lankevich, Proxy by Alex London, Kiki Strike: Inside the Shadow City by Kirsten Miller, Vicious by V. E. Schwab

Chit Chat

Miss Print Book Club this January

As some of you might already know, I run an online book club where we read and discuss a new book every two months.

The book club is reading my favorite book from 2011 this January and February: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater. Discussion questions are already posted on the Scorpio Races discussion tab and waiting for your thoughts.

Our next two books will be:

Fracture by Megan Miranda (March/April)

and

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (May/June)

Hope to see you all in the discussion threads!

***If you would like to join the Miss Print Book Club go to http://missprint.wikispaces.com/ and click join now in the yellow bar near the top of the page. After that I’ll email you asking to confirm and then you’re in and ready to start talking books!

Book Reviews

Goliath: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Goliath by Scott WesterfeldAlek and Deryn have circumnavigated most of the globe aboard the Darwinist airship Leviathan as they try to end World War I. Along the way, perhaps Alek will be able to claim his position as the true heir to Clanker Austria’s throne. And perhaps Deryn will finally be able reveal her biggest secrets to Alek, namely that she is not just a girl but that she loves him.

But as the Leviathan flies first to Siberia and then over the United States and Mexico, bigger problems arise as Deryn’s secrets begin to unravel with alarming speed and Alek turns to a misguided lunatic in his continued efforts to end the War. The truth is supposed to set you free, but will it be enough to not just save Alek and Deryn but also end a war in Goliath (2011) by Scott Westerfeld (with illustrations by Keith Thompson)?

Find it on Bookshop.

Goliath is the phenomenal conclusion to Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy which began with Leviathan and continued in Behemoth. It is also the perfect end to what is essentially a perfect trilogy. Goliath truly exceeded my already very high expectations.

I worried about this book. What would happen to Deryn? Where would Alek end up? What about Alek and Deryn together? There were so many potential pitfalls and unfortunate conclusions. Westerfeld avoided all of them.

Goliath is a truly satisfying end to a trilogy that was filled with actions and surprises from the very first pages to the very last. The whole series is a must read for anyone interested in speculative fiction, alternate histories or, of course, steampunk. As its dedication suggests, Goliath is also the perfect book for readers who appreciate a long-secret love story finally revealed. Truly wonderful.

Possible Pairings: We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett, The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Jackaby by William Ritter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Firefly (television series) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel and movie), The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (television series), Serenity (movie)

 

Book Reviews

Behemoth: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Behemoth by Scott WesterfeldDeryn is a girl posing as a boy and serving in the British Air Services aboard the Leviathan as it heads to the capital of the Ottoman Empire on a secret mission.

Alek, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, is also aboard the Leviathan posing as a commoner among his men. Together these Clankers and Darwinists have forged an uneasy alliance born out of necessity. But when war comes to the airship, everything changes.

The year is 1914. The British Darwinists and their fabricated beasties have declared war against Austria-Hungary and their Clanker war machines. The rest of the world sits, waiting, on the brink of war.

As the threat of war looms closer, Alek finds himself running out of options. He can’t stay aboard the Leviathan any longer and risk becoming a prisoner of war. But can he ask his only friend, Dylan Sharp, to commit treason by helping him escape?

Deryn knows that Alek has to leave the airship. She knows the he should go. But no matter what she tells herself Deryn doesn’t want him to go. How can the one person who trusts her completely also be the one she can’t share her biggest secret with?

Alek and Deryn should be on opposite sides of this conflict but instead they have become fast friends. As the two make their way through the mysterious and dangerous city of Istanbul they just might find a way to stop this war in its tracks in Behemoth (2010) by Scott Westerfeld with illustrations by Keith Thompson.

Find it on Bookshop.

Behemoth is the sequel to Leviathan. It’s also the second book in Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy.

This book is filled with everything that made Leviathan great and then some. Westerfeld’s reimagined world is just as vivid and compelling as before. The action is just as exciting. There is alternate history. There is steampunk. There are beasties, walkers and a lot of people making insinuations by saying “Mr. Sharp” repeatedly.* There will be humor. Oh, and those mysterious eggs from Leviathan? They totally hatch in Behemoth.

Deryn’s secret continues to weigh heavily, especially when it comes to Alek. Meanwhile Alek, almost literally, has the weight of the world on his shoulders as he works to find a way to end the war. Westerfeld also spends more time on a lot of favorite secondary characters (including Dr. Barlow and Count Volger, my personal favorites) and world building as we see an Istanbul very unlike the one we know and learn more about familiar characters. The scope and detail Westerfeld brings to this book (and which Thompson brings to his delightful illustrations) is truly astounding.

Behemoth is an excellent addition to a wonderful trilogy, possibly even better than the first in the trilogy. This is a book that really exceeds all expectations and will leave readers eagerly waiting for Goliath, the forthcoming conclusion to a stunning trilogy.

Possible Pairings: We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett, The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Jackaby by William Ritter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Firefly (television series) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel and movie), The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (television series), Serenity (movie)

*Sometimes one line can really make a book. Believe it or not, “Mr. Sharp.” might be the line of this book.

Book Reviews

Leviathan: A (Linktastic) Review

Leviathan by Scott WesterfeldThe year is 1914 and Europe is preparing for war. Although the events leading to a world war are sudden, the lines have long been drawn between the Clanker and Darwinist nations. While Austria-Hungary and Germany put their faith in steam-driven iron machines and guns, the British Darwinists fabricate monstrous beasties as their weapons and ships.

At the center of the conflict is Alexsandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and son of the ill-fated Archduke Franz Ferdinand. With the death of assassination of his parents, Alek’s title is worthless; his own country ready to betray him. Only a battle-worn Stormwalker and a loyal crew stand between Alek and a fate similar to his parents as the young prince goes into hiding.

Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp is a girl hiding a monstrous secret to join the British Air Service. Disguised as boy, Deryn can hold her own as an airman. But the risk of discovery is as constant as the danger of battler as her airship flies nearer to battle.

Born in two different worlds, from different sides of the same war, everything will change when Alek and Deryn finally meet in Leviathan (2009) by Scott Westerfeld with illustrations by Keith Thompson. Until then, the only question is: Do you oil your war machines? Or do you feed them?

Find it on Bookshop.

Leviathan is the first book in Westerfeld’s new series (a projected trilogy, I’m almost certain). It is nothing like his vastly popular Uglies series or anything else he has written. The first thing readers need to know about this book is that it does not fit into the traditional science fiction niche that so comfortably houses Uglies (and Peeps). Instead, Leviathan is a steampunk* novel.

Instead of looking to the future as science fiction often does steampunk looks to the past creating an alternate history where it was not the modern era but the Victorian era who made all of the great technological advances. Instead of the technology we have today, steampunk suggests a world running on clockwork mechanisms, brass and steel, and in the case of Leviathan genetic engineering that we can still only imagine.

That is the world that Alek and Deryn inhabit–a world changing before their eyes as World War One begins in Europe. Westerfeld weaves the two teenagers’ stories together to create a seamless picture of both the Clanker and Darwinist lifestyle. Their two paths also converge as both characters realize that their futures lie far from their European homes.

Leviathan might be the book I was most excited to read in 2009. It was also one of the best. As usual, Westerfeld’s writing is pitch-perfect blending science, action, and brilliant characters to create a book made of pure magic. It hardly seemed possible, but for me this book has far surpassed all of Westerfeld’s previous (awesome) books.

Keith Thompson’s brilliant illustrations set the mood for the story and bring the world of the Clankers and Darwinists to life in intricate line drawings**. The American/Canadian and Australian editions of Leviathan also feature full color endpapers with an allegorical map of Europe as drawn by Thompson*** that only adds to the book’s charm.

The series will continue with Behemoth.

* You can read more about steampunk in “Steampunk: Reclaiming Tech for the Masses” by Lev Grossman in the December 14, 2009 issue of Time Magazine (Grossman quotes Westerfeld in the article)

**If you need even more reasons to read this book, be sure to watch the Leviathan Trailer on Youtube to see some of Thompson’s illustrations quite literally come to life.

***You can view The Grand Map on Westerfeld’s blog where Thompson also provides an in-depth commentary on the making of the map.

Possible Pairings: We Rule the Night by Claire Eliza Bartlett, The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Jackaby by William Ritter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Firefly (television series) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel and movie), The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (television series), Serenity (movie)