by Scott Westerfeld
New York : Simon Pulse, 2009.
In an alternate 1914 several European nations, such as Germany, are primed for a fight. In this case, the dividing line is between the Clankers (those who build mechanikal marvels) and Darwinists (those who have used Darwin's findings of evolution and DNA to create new life forms). The story moves between the points of view of Alek, the fourteen-year-old son of the archduke of Serbia, and Deryn, a girl who masquerades as a boy to get a job on a flying "beastie."
I really enjoy teen fiction, and my recent discovery of steampunk led me to add this title to my reading list. I loved the blend of historical fact and inventive world-building. The detail with which Westerfeld creates his alternate history lends credibility to his story. I thought the book had more potential than it truly lives up to, however. I never really felt connected to the characters - despite the points of view changes, I never had a sense of why Alek or Deryn behave the way they do, or why they make the decisions they do. There is neither character growth or change, just their decisions and the consequences. Still, I am intrigued enough - and annoyed enough by a tricksy cliffhanger - to seek out the sequel.