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On the eve of World War I, the machine-loving Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their big steam-powered Clankers. Inspired by Darwin, the British have fabricated animals into warships. Their mothership is called "Leviathan," and she is a whale-dirigible. The first book in a brand-new trilogy by the author of the "New York Times"-bestselling Uglies series.

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Sep 4, 2010

A steampunk novel based in the 1910s and revolving around the viewpoints of the two main characters, Aleksandar Ferdinand and Deryn Sharp. The first book of a trilogy that I have been obsessing about since I first saw the artwork for it on Keith Thompson?s website.

Alek?s story begins in the dead of night, dragged from his bed to learn how to pilot a Walker ? a two-legged machines of war ? while his parents are away, but as he is instructed to move the Walker away from his home he soon becomes suspicious. As the son of the heir of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, his father has many enemies, including the Emperor himself. Sure enough, when he tries to escape he is overpowered and drugged.

Deryn?s side of things start with her preparing for the admission test into the British Air Service. The test luckily doesn?t include a physical examination, as women were not permitted to sign up. Unluckily, the test includes going aloft in a hydrogen filled live jellyfish called a Huxley. A storm blows in and Deryn is soon in trouble, the Huxley panicking and going into a steep dive. To save herself and the Huxley, she unties the anchor line and is dragged into the storm, blown towards France.

Their stories continue separately for a good portion of the book, showing how the characters develop with their new responsibilities, showing brilliantly the two factions ? the Clankers who believe in mechanical superiority and the Darwinists who tamper with animal DNA to create fabricated animals (or Fabs). When they come together, each stays true to character and interact wonderfully.

The plot is simplistic yet elegant, the characters interesting yet lacking in depth, the world building sheer brilliance. A very enjoyable and light read.

Characters: 6/10
Setting: 9/10
Plot: 6/10
Dialogue: 8/10
Overall: 7.5/10

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