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First in a trilogy

by Scott Westerfield


It is the eve of the First World War, but not quite as we know it. Since Stephen Hunt burst upon the speculative fiction scene steampunk has suddenly experienced a surge in popularity, and here is its latest incarnation. Young Prince Aleksander’s parents have just been assassinated at Sarajevo and he finds himself on the run with his old tutor and a few others. Meanwhile, Deryn Sharp has dressed herself up as a boy in order to sit the exams and become an airman in the British Air Service. They are destined to meet, and are about to have more adventures than they ever dreamed of.

If you, like this reviewer, are a steampunk fan then this will have plenty of appeal. Aleksander’s side is the "Clankers" who have perfected heavy machinery that walks instead of rolls while Deryn’s side is the "Darwinists" who have mastered genetics to such an extent that they can make weapons. Walking tanks lack the appeal of Hunt’s delightful steammen, but the live airships made from different creatures remain in the mind after the book was finished.

This won’t take you long either as there is barely a spare word and the action rips merrily along, leaving you wanting more. This is the first part of a trilogy and is destined to be very popular, I am sure, as it presses all the right buttons. It is even illustrated with drawings which suit the tone of the book and bring it all to life—although if Deryn looks quite as female as that she wouldn’t have fooled anybody! Imaginative and sure to appeal to a wider variety of ages than just the 12 and up recommended. One not to miss.

The Book

Simon Pulse (Simon and Schuster)
6 October 2009
1416971734 / 9781416971733
Teenage Fantasy /Steampunk / 1914 / Alternative version of England and Europe
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The Reviewer

Rachel A Hyde
Reviewed 2009
© 2009