Before tackling his first steampunk series, Scott Westerfeld crafted a range of science fiction tales, including his other young adult series, Uglies, and Midnighters. Creating a world that stretches the bounds of real science, populated by interesting characters, and driven by events loosely based on actual history, is a skill he has honed over many years of writing. So it's no surprise that he transfers his skills seamlessly into the Leviathan series.
In the best steampunk style, the plot moves along at a rollicking pace, with danger -laden travel by land (in an armored metal Stormwalker) and air (in an airship genetically engineered from the DNA of a whale, and an ecosystem of support creatures). Westerfeld's excellent use of imagery brings these creations of science and engineering alive in the mind. Black and white illustrations augment the very visual text.
The characters feel credible as individuals, as products of their historical era (alternate in some events and technologies, but not in social mores) and cultures. Impending war gives the two adolescents in particular a chance to arc as characters, to be of their time and place but not wholly constrained by it.
Although the hardback version seems hefty at 434 pages, it makes a very quick read, engaging and fast-paced. You may find certain new words, like squick, clart, and barking, infiltrating your own vocabulary. Visions of amazing beasts and impressive machines will linger in your imagination; and you'll want to know what happens next to these two intrepid youngsters. Fortunately, book two - Behemoth, is already on the shelves.