Westerfeld’s follow-up to “Leviathan“, doesn’t disappoint. Mechanical golem, revolutionary Armenians, voice recording toads and acid oozing barnacles are just some of the fun this time around.
The British warship “Leviathan” is now heading toward Istantbul with an offering to appease the sultan who is a bit peeved at Winston Churchill for seizing his previously purchased and yet to be delivered British built warships. Britain has not declared war on German “Clankers” yet, but the British “Darwinists” are not sure how deeply the clankerish loyalties of Istanbul lie.
When the peace keeping machinations of Dr. Barlow go awry and Alek, the heir to the Austro-Hungarian empire, and his entourage decide to jump ship rather than becoming prisoners of war, it’s every man (or woman) for themselves in the spicy capital of Istanbul.
Chased by exotic “Clanker” elephants, dodged by a pesky American war reporter and recruited by a group of Armenian revolutionaries, Alek and Midshipman Sharp try to stop the war and take down the Clanker’s newest weapon-a mammoth Tesla Cannon. The “Darwinists” have something up their sleeve, however. A Krakken-like beastie that can swallow ships whole.
The sub plots round out the action packed story with some human pathos: Alek’s struggle to deal with the execution of his parents while beginning to assume the mantle of leadership and Mr. Sharp’s battle with her feelings for Alek and what would happen if her real gender is discovered.
A mention of the illustrations should be made here as well. Keith Thompson’s maps and beautifully detailed drawings help to imagine Westerfeld’s world. I also respect the afterwords of both books, particularly since they are geared for a YA audience, where Westerfeld briefly comments on the fictional license he has taken with the alternative history of WWI. It makes me wish that I knew a bit more than the basics of the real history.