As you can tell from the title, this trilogy is good. Really, really good.
See, only two of the books are out so far. It’s theoretically possible that the final book in the series will RUIN EVERYTHING. But, to be honest, I don’t think so.
Before I get distracted: The books are stunningly illustrated by Keith Thompson, so make sure you don’t get gypped by a cheapo version – just check the inside cover for the maps, and you’ll know instantly if it’s sheer awesome or not. (CJ insisted we buy them in hardcover, and I have to admit it’s justified.)
Scott Westerfeld has written quite a few books – the “Uglies” series is excellent – but this series is something else.
Those who know me will know that I love Garth Nix’s “Old Kingdom” trilogy with a passion bordering on the pathological. So you’ll understand what I mean when I say that this trilogy might – might – be even better.
It all depends on the last book.
Also, it’s mildly annoying that you really need to read the whole trilogy (whereas Nix’s “Sabriel” can easily stand alone).
Sorry, what’s that? You’d like to actually hear something about the books?
The books are YA steampunk (technically dieselpunk, since they’re set in the early 1900s during the leadup – and desperate attempts at the prevention of – World War 1). They have the feel of steampunk, with fantastical machines that are works of art and fantasy combined with functionality. But they go so much further than that.
The central conflict of the alternate world is “clankers” (those with mechanical machines) versus “Darwinists” (those with living ecosystems as their machines). The clankers have zeppelins. . . the Darwinists have “Leviathan”, which is sort of a giant flying whale, but it’s much more complicated (and brilliant) than that.
As far as world-building goes, this series is sublime. Breathtakingly original, fascinating, and it all makes sense too.
There are two main characters – one a high-class clanker boy, the other an ordinary Darwinist midshipman (except that she is secretly a midshipwoman, which is most certainly not allowed). Both are quite young, and very likeable. I liked them even more in the second book. There’s also a lady boffin, a Tasmanian tiger, a devious Count, and many more.
The action is fast and dramatic, and often funny.
Rating: PG for violence.
“Load the cannon!” Master Klopp cried to the men below.
Alek found himself deposited into the commander’s chair as the machine began to move. He struggled with the seat straps, but a terrible thought took hold of his mind, freezing his fingers.
If they’re trying to kill me. . . it’s all true.
Count Volger crouched beside him, yelling over the rumble of engines and gunfire.
“Take heart at this impoliteness, Alek. It proves that you are still a threat to the throne.”
PS Mark (who commented below) has a great steampunk/writing blog (and links) so I’m inserting it into this post because (a) it’s related and (b) more people should know about it. As far as I can tell, it’s G-rated.
PPS The third book is reviewed here.