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Put down your history books...

Leviathan is the first book in a series by Scott Westerfeld that takes place in an alternate version of World War I Europe. Some of the differences are that Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife are assassinated in the evening, as opposed to the afternoon, they have only one son... Oh, and Germans and Austrians use Giant Walkers to fight the British and French Fabricated Animals. Obviously, he took liberties with history.

In this version of history, when Charles Darwin came up with the theory of evolution, he also discovered the 'chains of life', or DNA - and, more importantly, how to manipulate them and construct new creatures. Fast forward 50 years, and you find London crawling with fabricated elephants and giant oxen instead of cars, and gecko/parrot hybrids are used to send messages.

The book follows two characters - the Archduke's son, Prince Aleksandar, who is whisked off on the night of his parents' assassination to a secret hideaway in the Alps before his enemies can assassinate him. The second character is a girl, Deryn Sharp, who poses as a boy in order to join the British Air Service and eventually finds herself aboard the Leviathan, a massive Flying Whale Airship that is bound for the Ottoman Empire with one Dr. Nora Barlow, a Boffin[1] and her very secretive cargo. As a war between the fabricated Animal using "Darwinists" (not like that) and Walker-using "Clankers" looms, Alek soon finds himself aboard the Leviathan as his enemies close in.

A second book, Behemoth, was released October 5, 2010. The last book in the trilogy, Goliath, was released on September 20th, 2011. Westerfeld also wrote a bonus "fanfiction" chapter on his blog and commissioned a new piece of art for Christmas 2011.

Provides examples of:

  • Ace Stormwalker Pilot: Master Otto Klopp, who is, according to Alek, "the best master of mechaniks in Austria". And Alek's quite the pilot, too - he's mastered night-walking.
  • Action Girl: Deryn and Lilit.
  • Alternate History: Armored vehicles pre-1916, the Archduke having only one child, the Archduke being assassinated at night, Darwin discovering genetics and DNA, etc.
  • Ambiguous Situation: The nature of Tesla's Goliath device Is implied to be a magnetic device weaponizing comets and meteors, but the characters don't give that explanation much thought. Likewise, Most characters believe Tesla was insane and his Goliath device completely bunk; the fact of the matter is that the Tunguska event happened right after Tesla tested the device and that the sky over England changed colors when he tested it again later. No hard evidence is put forth regarding whether those were atmospheric coincidences that Tesla shamelessly took credit for in his madness, or legitimate results of his experimentation. Because Tesla was killed and his device destroyed, those answers are forever lost In-Universe.
  • April Fools' Day: On April 1st, Scott Westerfeld "revealed" a piece of art from Goliath featuring Lilit and Deryn getting married, with Alek crashing through the wall on a giant mech. The art was part of a gag with the book's illustrator.
  • Attractive Bent Gender: Judging from the illustrations, Deryn makes a damn fine guy and girl.
  • Badass Bookworm: Nikola Tesla. How Badass? He takes on three fighting bears, at the same time, with an electrified walking stick he invented himself, and wins.
  • Beta Couple: Dr. Barlow and Volger, it seems.
  • Bi the Way: Lilit.Or lesbian.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Alek and Deryn atop the Leviathan.
    • With a followup in the bonus chapter, close up this time.
  • Bilingual Backfire: Played with. Dr. Barlow pretends not to speak German in the hopes of tricking Alek and Volger into thinking it is safe for them to discuss their secrets in German in her presence.
  • Bio Punk: Darwinists.
  • Body Horror: Great googly moogly! The story itself isn't quite so much in this category, the descriptions are not by any means disgusting. However, the book has pictures.
    • Special mention goes to Deryn's compress after she busts up her knee. It is some kind of fabricated beast that extends its tentacles into her knee to fix torn ligaments. And if she tries to put weight on her leg it sounds and feels like she has a swarm of angry wasps in her knee. One of the few places where the description in the text is worse than the pictures.
  • Cane Fu: Tesla's Weapon of Choice.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Every time Deryn comes close to admitting to Alek that she's a girl, either she cannot go on for fear that telling him the truth will upend their friendship (it does for a while after he finds out), or something conveniently ends the conversation. This behaviour is lampshaded by Alek himself.
  • Can Not Tell a Lie: Alek, up till the third book.
  • Catch Phrase: "Barking spiders!" might as well be one for Deryn, considering how much she says it. And Bovril has "Mr. Sharp!", usually followed by giggles.
    • "...a barking prince," is used quite a bit.
    • Dummkopf! (At least in Behemoth.)
  • Caught in the Rain: Goliath takes this to extremes when Alek and Deryn are stuck in a flood on top of the ship.
  • Celibate Hero: Alek started out as this because of his title.
  • Chekhov's Gun: Tesla's electric walking stick.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Nikola Tesla.
  • Concussions Get You High: Alek was a bit boggled after slipping and hitting his head on the topside of the Leviathan.
  • Cultured Badass: Alek. The "cultured" portion doesn't really come in handy much on the airship, much to his dismay.
  • Dashingly Dapper Derby: The boffins all wear bowler hats.
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance: Alek is rather sexist, much to Dylan/Deryn's chagrin.
  • Eldritch Abomination: Most Clankers see fabs as "godless abominations". The Behemoth counts as well.
  • Emo Teen: Volger Lampshades Alek's sulking.
  • Establishing Character Moment: When we first meet Tesla, he reveals that he killed his own airship and fed it to feral Russian fighting bears so that he could stay in Siberia to continue his research.
  • Everyone Can See It: Almost everyone who know about Deryn's true gender questions her relation to Alek.
  • Everything's Better with Dinosaurs: According to Alek, some of the fabs Darwinists use in battle contain the DNA of long-dead reptiles.
  • Everything's Worse with Bears: It's mentioned that Russia uses genetically-engineered bears. Russia is also drawn as a giant, rotting bear on the inside cover maps.
    • As of Goliath, we have seen the bears; not only are they huge, it also turns out everything's even worse with starving bears.
  • Evil Grand Uncle: Emperor Franz Joseph did not approve of Archduke Franz Ferdinand falling in love with Sophie Chotek, which is why they had to get a morganatic/left-handed marriage, which is why Alek isn't his father's heir.
  • Falling Into the Cockpit: Apparently Alek's mother would not have approved of him learning to pilot the Stormwalker unless it was such an emergency.
  • Fascinating Eyebrow: Volger and Deryn know how it's done.
  • Fate Drives Us Together

 Deryn: We're meant to be together.

  • Flechette Storm: The Darwinists have beasties designed to take down aircraft this way. They even call them flechette bats.

 Alek: Flechette? Like 'dart' in French?

Deryn: That sounds right. The bats gobble up these metal spikes, then release them over the enemy.

Alek: They eat spikes. And then...release them?

Deryn: *stifles laugh* Aye, in the usual way.


 Alek: How...alliterative.

  • Foreign Cuss Word: Alek often breaks off during conversations in English to swear in German.

 Alek: Dummkopf!

  • Future Slang: Future-past Steampunk, occasionally period-accurate slang. Blisters!
  • Getting Crap Past the Radar: Immediately after Deryn worries that Alek may have learned that she's a girl during fencing lessons, Alek instructs her to turn her chest to the side, so as to provide the "smallest possible target." Deryn then muses that her secret is safe.
    • "He leaned forward to kiss her. His lips were soft against hers, but they kindled something sharp and hard inside her, something that had waited impatiently all the months since this boy had come aboard." Reverse the genders in this sentence.
    • See also the Future Slang. "Clart-covered bum-rag" indeed.
  • Giant Robot Hands Save Lives: It's actually how Alek meets the Committee for Union and Progress - Zaven saves him from a long fall from a rooftop gutter. Justified because Zaven caught him before he'd fallen too far.
  • Gilligan Cut: Alek ends one chapter saying he'll be fine carrying Ms. Barlow as long as she doesn't bring her pet along. Next chapter:

 Tazza seemed to enjoy riding in the Stormwalker.

  • Green-Eyed Epiphany: Played With. Alek actually realizes that Deryn is in love with him through Deryn's own jealousy over Lilit.
  • Grey and Grey Morality
  • Grow Old with Me: Alek momentarily wants Deryn to live with him in New York away from the troubles of the war.
  • Harmony Versus Discipline: Played completely straight in the series. The Darwinists represent Harmony, harnessing nature for war and having a generally more organic aesthetic about them. The Clankers on the other hand represent Discipline, manufacturing whatever they use, with an aesthetic characterised by angularity and general disregard for nature.
    • In fact, the two main characters themselves embody this conflict very neatly. Deryn is very obviously set up as the harmonious one, defying Victorian social conventions (a very Discipline-esque system) by disguising herself as a boy and entering the British Air Service. As a person, she shows little inhibition and respect. Alek, who was raised surrounded by rules, obligations and restrictions, is almost exaggeratedly disciplined: controlled, virtuous and very formal, but unable to adapt and with a certain belief that everything must be planned and predictable.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Zaven, who electrocutes himself in his mech to bring down the Tesla cannon, thus saving Deryn, Alek, and everyone aboard the Leviathan.
  • Historical Domain Character: Emperor Franz Joseph, Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie, Charles Darwin, Winston Churchill, and The Pope (Pius X... unless it's someone different) all have varying degrees of impact on the plot, though do not/have yet to appear in person; Darwin's granddaughter Nora Barlow is a major character. Behemoth introduces Wilhelm Souchon and Dr. Barlow apparently knows a certain Serbian scientist called Tesla.
  • Ho Yay: Loads between Alek and "Dylan", mostly in Behemoth.
  • Holding Hands: Deryn grabs Alek's hands at the end of Goliath before he kisses her.
  • Horse of a Different Colour: The Darwinist beasties.
  • Hot Scientist: Dr. Barlow.
  • If You Ever Do Anything to Hurt Her...: Spoilers for Goliath ahead: After Alek finds out about Deryn's identity, and that Volger has been blackmailing her, Volger suggests that the blackmail continue. Alek doesn't take this well.

  Alek: If you threaten Deryn Sharp again, Volger - in any way at all - I'm done with you.

  • Improvised Zipline: Deryn is up in a scouting balloon and sees Alek's "family" coming to the shipwreck looking for him in their Stormwalker. The message lizard won't get down the cable in time, so she slings a leather strap over the tether and zips down to camp.
    • It is noted that the odds of one surviving this sort of escape are against you.
  • Insistent Terminology: It's not an iceberg, it's a glacier, Newkirk. Also, Is-tan-bul (not Constantinople).
  • Instant Sedation: The fighting bear experiences the tranquilliser dart's effects seconds after it is hit, highly improbable since the bears are described to be as large as houses.
  • Inter Class Romance: Alek (rich) and Deryn (poor).
  • It's All Junk: Spoilers for Goliath ahead: Alek flings his papal letter from the Leviathan into New York Harbor, choosing Deryn over Austria-Hungary.
  • Jackie Robinson Story: A mild case, all things considered, but Deryn.
  • Emperor Incognito: Alek, the heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary.
    • If Franz Ferdinand's wife was Countess (later Princess, later Duchess) Sophie Chotek as in actual history, this would be an example of Did Not Do the Research, because the children of a morganatic marriage would be ineligible for the Austro-Hungarian throne.
      • Did do the research: Franz Ferdinand goes on a top secret mission to Rome and gets Alek a papal dispensation, no less. Unfortunately, it can only be used after the Emperor, Alek's grandfather, dies. See Authors Note or That Other Wiki
  • Kraken and Leviathan: The eponymous Leviathan is not so much, but krakens, complete with Combat Tentacles, are part of the Darwinists' arsenal.
  • La Résistance: In Istanbul, there is the Committee of Union and Progress which wants to remove the Sultan of the Ottoman Empire and replace him with an elected government. They existed in real life too.
    • In real life, they were successful the first time they tried to overthrow the sultan.
  • The Ladette: Deryn's this to those who know she's a girl.
    • Lilit's a toned-down ladette.
  • Lady of Adventure: Dr. Barlow, during her time on the Leviathan.
  • Lego Genetics: The 'Darwinist' Nations can combine the DNA of species like whales and jelly fish. The eponymous Leviathan is supposedly composed of the DNA of hundreds of species, and is more of an ecosystem then a single animal.
  • Les Yay: Lilit. Her last line to Deryn before she leaves implies that she figured out that Deryn was actually a girl, and this is after she kissed Deryn full on the lips and said she was "just curious."
    • "I know you better than you think, Mr. Sharp." (Cue chuckling from Bovril.)
    • It's worth noting that Deryn doesn't seem too bothered by it, either.

 Alek: That girl is quite mad.

"Dylan": Aye. But she's not a bad kisser.

  • Living Weapon: Somewhere between this and an Attack Animal with the Fabricated Animals. There are examples of the later (like the flechette bats that you feed them fruits filled with metal needles, then scare them into pooping the needles on enemies) and examples of the former (the Leviathan, an airship that is alive).
  • Lonely Rich Kid: Alek, all over.
  • Love Across Battlelines: Deryn and Alek.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: How Alek feels about his actions during the climax of Goliath.
  • Love Epiphany: Alek realises that he loves Deryn when he kills Tesla not to save Berlin, but to save her.
  • Love Triangle: Type 5: Lilit has a crush on Deryn/Dylan, who likes Alek, who thinks Lilit is attractive but can't have any real feelings for her because she's a commoner. Deryn faces the same problem, with the added stumbling block that as far as Alek knows, she's a boy.
  • Love You and Everybody

  Alek: What I'm really trying to say, Dylan, is that I think I'm in love... with the ship.


 Dr. Barlow: "What the Clankers lack in finesse they make up for in blanket ruination."

  • Multinational Team: The Committee for Union and Progress. They're all living in Istanbul, but individually they are Greeks, Turks, Jews, and more, and they only became united under one purpose recently in Behemoth.
  • Mother Nature, Father Science: Dr. Barlow (a Darwinist boffin) and Nikola Tesla (a Clanker inventor).
  • Narrative Profanity Filter: Everyone seems to think Alek never curses, but when you count all the times it says, "Alek swore" or "Alek cursed softly in German," or anything like that, you can see that he's almost as bad as Deryn.
  • Ninja Pirate Zombie Robot: Flying whale battleships with electric (and later diesel) engines! Flying manta rays with Gatling guns! Robot elephants! Jewish mecha-golems! World War One battleships with Tesla cannons! Walking submersible warships!
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Heavily averted; all the real historical figures who appear (including Dr. Barlow, Nikola Tesla, William Randolph Hearst and Pancho Villa) or get mentioned (Emperor Joseph of Austria, Kaiser Wilhelm of Germany, Winston Churchill, etc.) are given their real names. And at least one celebrity gets most thoroughly harmed when Alek electrocutes Tesla with his own walking stick.
  • Non Sequitur Thud

 Alek:'re a girl, aren't you?

  • Not in Front of the Parrot: Volger in particular is leery of speaking in front of messenger lizards, which are bred to be talented mimics. The perspicacious loris is even better/worse.
  • Not Making This Up Disclaimer: Played with in the afterword of each book, where Westerfeld explains that the books are based off of actual events of World War One, and elaborates on which elements are kept mostly the same and which have been altered for the sake of atmosphere.
  • No Periods, Period: Something that hasn't slipped past the notice of the fanfic authors...
    • Somewhat justified in that Deryn is only fourteen, and is a very active girl which can make your period come later.
    • And in Deryn's time, girls didn't usually get their periods till they were fifteen/sixteen. It's only been recently that the average age has dropped to 11.75 years. Also, Scott Westerfeld is a guy; he would probably feel uncomfortable writing about a girl's period.
      • Doubtful. Considering the content of his first novel, Polymorph, it's unlikely that something as comparatively mundane as a girl's period would bother him. For instance, if memory serves, Polymorph makes use of Vagina Dentata. During a rape scene. The effects are described in detail.
    • Word of God Mr. Westerfeld said, "Women back then didn't menstruate as early, and women who pretended to be soldiers often stopped menstruating altogether. (Hard physical exercise and not a lot of food will do that.) So my guess is that she's not having any periods."
  • Oblivious to Love: Alek to Deryn, although justified in that he was under the impression she was a boy. Deryn to Lilit, too, until Alek tells her.
    • As of Goliath, Alek isn't so much, anymore....
  • Odd Name Out: The first two novels are named after beasts from Jewish mythology (Leviathan and Behemoth) representing sea and land respectively. The beast representing the sky, Ziz, won't be the name of the third book because it was deemed too obscure and too short. Instead, the third book will be named Goliath. Westerfeld also said on his blog that he thought 'Ziz' wasn't well known enough. Goliath was suggested by a fan.
    • The Goliath isn't a beastie, anyway, so this trope is entirely appropriate.
  • Older Than They Think: The cliff-hanger, in-universe.
  • One Head Taller: Deryn's two inches taller than Alek.
  • Organic Technology: Fabricated beasts.
  • Orient Express
  • Origin Story: The circumstances and ending of Goliath lead to Deryn and Alek becoming what are most likely secret agents in the employ of a politically active secret English society of scientists.
  • Parental Abandonment: Alek's parents are dead (of course) and so is Deryn's da.
  • Plucky Middie: Deryn, Newkirk and the other, briefly seen middies.
  • Pimped-Out Dress: Doctor Barlow shows up in several, leaving Deryn wondering where she gets them from.
  • Pursuing Parental Perils: The fact that her father died ballooning has done nothing to diminish Deryn's desire to fly.
  • Real Robot
  • Recursive Crossdressing: Discussed. After Dr. Barlow proposes that Deryn join her diplomatic (that is to say spy) organization, and after Deryn tells Dr. Barlow her big secret, Barlow jokes that Deryn could end up disguising herself as a girl.
    • In the bonus Christmas chapter on Westerfeld's blog, Deryn does disguise herself as a girl. As does Alek.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: Sweet Polly Oliver Deryn Sharp is the red to Blue Blood Prince Alek.
  • Rich in Dollars, Poor In Sense: Alek, again. He doesn't know how to buy a newspaper.
  • Ridiculously Cute Critter: Bovril and the other perspicacious loris.
  • Rule of Three: Tesla insists that all his silverware be arranged in sets of three.
  • Running Gag: Dummkopf! in Behemoth. In the same book, Mr. Sharp is Bovril's favorite phrase, using it try to point out something he (her/it?)is trying to explain... and poor Alek can't pick up the hint.
  • Samus Is a Girl: Alek's first meeting with Lilit, in which he assumes she is a man in a disguise.
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Dr. Barlow, at times. It takes roughly half the novel for Deryn to find out why Barlow called a certain fab the perspicacious loris, and Deryn thinks that "nascent fixation" sounds "a bit sinister, even if baby ducks [do] it too."
  • Shipper on Deck: Alek appears to be this for Dylan and Lilit, little realizing Dylan is actually a girl who has a crush on him.
    • Bovril, of all things, gets into this to some degree, for Alek and Deryn. It goes so far as to reveal "Dylan's" little secret...
  • Shout-Out: Nene claims the world is on a turtle resting on elephants all the way down.
  • Simultaneous Arcs: Alek and Deryn alternate usually every two chapters as the viewpoint character; sometimes they're off doing separate things, sometimes they're together. In those chapters, the main difference (since it's third person all the time) is that Deryn refers to herself as such, while Alek knows her exclusively as "Dylan."
    • Which gets really confusing in Goliath once Alek learns "Dylan's" real identity.
  • The Smurfette Principle: If we only count openly female characters, then Dr. Barlow has a very strong record of this in Leviathan, and for the majority of Goliath as well.
  • Spider Tank: The Clanker Land Frigates
  • Steampunk: The Clanker Nations, including Germany and Austria-Hungary
  • Stern Teacher: Volger, Alek's fencing master. Very stern, very no-nonsense, very dear to Alek.
  • Sweet Polly Oliver: Deryn disguising herself to work as an airman.
  • Sweet on Polly Oliver: Averted as of the end of the first book; Alek seems to have only comradely feelings towards "Dylan"/Deryn. There are hints of UST on her part, however.
      • He does admit "Dylan" is good-looking. Lilit also has a thing for "him." And it's implied she realizes the charade before they part ways, but she doesn't seem too put out about it at all.
        • Word of God says she knew very well Deryn was a girl. Also, when she and Deryn meet again in Goliath, Lilit lied when she said that kissing Deryn was just curiosity; Lilit really fell in love with Deryn.
      • Alek definitely gets into this in Goliath, going so far as to kill Nikola Tesla and abdicate the throne for her by the end.
  • Tangled Family Tree: Deryn told the crew of the Leviathan that Artemis Sharp was her uncle to prevent suspicion over the fact that Artemis Sharp only has one son and one daughter. However, Alek was told in confidence that Artemis Sharp is indeed her father.
  • The Un-Reveal: We never do find out what the perspicacious loris was supposed to do.
  • Tranquilizer Dart: The czar sends some of these in his package, along with numerous hunks of meat, which, the Leviathan crew members later work out, are meant to be used to hinder Tesla's hungry fighting bears while they rescue the inventor.
  • Translation Convention: Every conversation between Alek and his men is typed in English, though they really are speaking in German. When Deryn is narrating, though, their conversations are in German.
  • Unresolved Sexual Tension: There is a lot of this between Alek and Deryn in the second half of Goliath. Their unwillingness to advance is justified since both have their futures to consider, though both eventually overcome their fears of losing the things they once lived for, and find a new life together at the London Zoological Society.
  • Unusual Euphemism: "Bumrag" = "a__hole," "barking" = "f___ing," "clart" = "s___."
  • They Do: And the shippers rejoiced.
  • Tomboy: Deryn. She's One of the Boys, too.
  • Warrior Prince: Alek.
  • "Well Done, Son" Guy: Count Volger to Alek, who sees him as a father.
  • Whale Egg: The perspicacious loris is hatched from an egg and, judging from what Deryn says, many fabricated beasts are "born" this way.
  • The White Prince: Alek was this near the beginning of Leviathan when it came to non-Clanker situations.
  • Wholesome Crossdresser: Mr. Sharp.
  • Wham! Line: Warning: huge Goliath spoilers! "Can I trust you? Can I trust you, Deryn?" and "Deryn Sharp was in love with him."
  • Winston Churchill: Lord of the Admiralty.
  • Word of God: Alek and Deryn live happily ever after. Also, Newkirk's full name is Eugene William Newkirk. Poor guy.
  • You Just Told Me

 Alek: Can I trust you? Can I trust you, Deryn?

Deryn: Aye, of course you can.


Deryn: (Internally) Oh blisters.

  • Zeppelins from Another World: The Germans use zeppelins extensively, and the Leviathan for the Darwinists. It is also implied that they use other, smaller airship fabs too.