A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
The afterward separates what is historical fact -- such as the warship that Winston Churchill denied the Ottomans and the German ironclads that were gifted to the Ottoman navy -- and what is science fiction -- like the Telsa cannon, though the name is based on a real inventor. Readers may want to look up more about the Ottoman Empire, the Orient Express, and just how strong Turkish coffee really is. They should also try saying "perspicacious loris" 10 times, fast.
Bravery, diplomacy, cooperation, understanding, and risking everything to avoid the loss of life in wartime are major themes here.
Positive Role Models
Deryn is incredibly brave and always looking out for her friends, but doesn't trust her friends with the fact that she's really a midshipwoman. Alek is forced to leave his mentor Count Volger behind in the beginning of the book and then has to become the leader to his men. He chooses his own path even though he knows the Count won't approve, but it's meant to save other lives than just his own.
Violence & Scariness
Plenty of nail-biting escapes, captures, and near-misses. Ships are attacked by lightning and a hungry giant beast. Both Alek and Deryn are shot at and chased by German soldiers and giant walkers. The best weapon, though, is a less violent one: spices in the eyes to keep people from fighting.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
One kiss, meant to be funny, not romantic. Deryn is upset with herself for liking Alek despite the danger it puts her in. Discussions of how Deryn hides the fact that she's a woman with careful tailoring.
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Deryn swears like a sailor, but an old-timey one, so readers will only see expressions like "barking spiders!" and "blisters!" and the German word "Dummkopf," meaning "ninny."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Turkish coffee is a bigger draw than alcohol in Istanbul, but there are still a few mentions of booze. Deryn steals a bottle of brandy from the Orient Express to sell for food.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that this second book in the Leviathan Trilogy contains the same style of action as the first book with violence apparent (ships' crews are lost, main characters are shot at in nail-biting chase scenes) but never gory or excessive; It's actually rather mild for a young adult sci-fi adventure. Main characters are heroic and admirable and readers will learn a bit about the start of World War I -- to separate fact from science fiction see the author's Afterward.
Is It Any Good?
Definitely read the first book first -- you need to, in order to follow this fast-paced, convoluted story. That sets up the Leviathan's Middle Eastern stopover full of escapes, near-misses, giant weapons, Clanker machine chases, and even a stowaway ride on the Orient Express.
The pace occasionally slows for alliances to be made and broken and secret messages to be delivered, but those moments have touches of whimsy, like when the Darwinist creature Alek adopts keeps repeating "Mr. Sharp" and laughing. That also makes the wait for Deryn to finally tell Alek she's really a girl a little less tiresome.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.