Prince Aleksander, son of Archduke Ferdinand and Princess Sophie of Austria, is awoken in the middle of the night by Count Volger (his fencing tutor) and Otto Klopp, his father's master of mechaniks. His parents away on a diplomatic mission in Serbia, Alek is thrilled to be stealing out of the castle on a midnight practice mission. Until Volger and Klopp's insistence on remaining inconspicuous raises Alek's suspicions. Panicking, he believes he is being kidnapped, until his two advisors reveal that his parents were murdered that very night.
Deryn Sharp has one dream - to be a solider in Britain's Air Service. There's just one problem - she's a girl. But dressed in her brother's clothes, with a short haircut, and the name Dylan, she's betting nobody will look close, especially since she knows more about aeronautics than anyone else her age. When she ends up on a runaway Huxley (a sort of hot air balloon crossed with a jellyfish) on Air Service exam day and ends up getting picked up, mid-air, by the Leviathan, not even Deryn could have predicted the wild adventure ahead of her. An enormous, hydrogen-breathing airship created from the life threads of a blue whale, along with hundreds of other species, the Leviathan is on a top-secret scientific mission to Constantinople, and Deryn is fortunate (and clever) enough to be kept along for the ride.
As Alek travels by night through the Alps toward the neutral Swiss border, and Deryn and the crew of the Leviathan travel through the skies over the Alps, their paths seem destined to meet in the midst of the war growing around them. Before they do though, the pair of them will encounter zeppelins, dart-eating bats, a Tasmanian tiger, a hugely annoying and much too observant lady scientist, an eight-legged landship with some pretty intense cannons, talking lizards, mysterious eggs, and even the kraken.
Confused yet? Don't be! The author of Uglies brings you WWI, steampunk-style - it's history meets Star Wars, and it's awesome. Scott Westerfeld has reimagined the beginning days of the Great War as an all-out battle between the Darwinists (England and France, and the Clankers (Germany and Austria, masters of mechaniks). With action and adventure in the skies, on a glacier, over the ocean, and biology and technology to boggle your mind, Leviathan is not to be missed!
(now reading Project Sweet Life by Brent Hartinger)