In an alternate 1914 Europe, fifteen-year-old Austrian Prince Alek, on the run from the Clanker Powers who are attempting to take over the globe using mechanical machinery, forms an uneasy alliance with Deryn who, disguised as a boy to join the British Air Service, is learning to fly genetically-engineered beasts.
I wasn't really sure what to make of this book. It's pretty much my first foray into the elusive steampunk genre (please don't ask me to define it, the extent of my knowledge is Victorian-ish London and clockwork stuff) but I was drawn by the fact that I adore Westerfeld's Uglies series. I've been wanting to try a steampunk novel for a while now, and so this seemed like the logical choice.
It was okay. That sounds mean. I didn't have strong feelings about it, but it wasn't bad either. There were parts that I enjoyed, just not quite enough of them to sustain it. I think part of the problem is that it's the first book in a trilogy, and so there's an awful lot of stuff to set up before the story can really get going. Westerfeld's built an interesting and multi-faceted world here, one that I do want to spend more time in, I just didn't feel a strong connection to the characters and the story in this first instalment.
This may be because of the links between the story and the first world war, since war is something I have precisely zero interest in reading about. I knew what the book was about before I started it and the war stuff isn't a massive shadow over the rest of it, there was enough other stuff going on - like me really needing to know what is inside those damn eggs! - to keep my interest.
I am going to read the second book, and most likely the third, and I think I would recommend it to people with an interest in the steampunk genre or even people who just don't find war stories to be as interminably boring as I do. I can't end this review without mentioning the illustrations, though. They were a surprise to me, although the cover does name an illustrator, and they were beautiful. They were also incredibly helpful in cementing my mental picture of certain things, and they really did lift the book up.