What a visually gorgeous book! Even the cover is luscious!
I have to admit that I was dubious about the book, given the hype, however once started, I fell into the book with a vengeance!
The story is told by two young protagonists from very different backgrounds. Alek is the only son of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. When the Archduke is murdered by Serbian rebels, Alek must run from the Germans, the Austrians and basically everything he has ever known as war breaks out across Europe. He must survive if he is to fulfill his father’s dream and claim the throne for himself. Dylan Sharp, whose real name is Deryn, is a young girl from Glasgow who is pretending to be a boy so she can join the Royal Navy as a midshipman, and follow her dream to take to the skies.
The two characters don’t meet until half way through the story, but as their backgrounds and beliefs are so different, the time taken to examine their back story is just as important as the battles and interaction once they do meet.
Alek comes from a ‘Clanker’ background – where they revere machines above all things, while Deryn comes from a ‘Darwinist’ country, where fabricated animals are used over machines at every turn. Two very different ideologies, often at odds with each other. Alek often refers to the fabricated animals he encounters as ‘Godless’, while Deryn cannot understand why anyone would prefer the noisy, dirty, smelly machines over the beauty and warmth of her animals, especially the leviathan, a methane breather fabricated from a whale.
War is responsible for Alek and Deryn meeting, and war is also responsible for the unusual solution they propose to the problem of a wounded and engine less Leviathan, attacking Germans, a curious diplomat and a determined female boffin.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and know many of my young students will love it as well!