It is the cusp of World War 1, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. The Leviathan is a living airship, the most formidable airbeast in the skies of Europe.
Aleksandar Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned against him. All he has is a small, loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Services. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With the Great War brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way...
'Barking spiders!' = very excellent
This is the first book in Westerfeld's steampunk retelling of World War I. The alternative history is brilliantly realised, with the help of Keith Thompson's illustrations (more novels should be illustrated, just saying). Alek and Deryn have a great spiky dynamic, and there is a cast full of memorable secondary characters (Count Volger is a highlight). I cannot get enough of this series.
I absolutely loved this book because when I started reading it I was having history lessons on the first world war and it entertained me to read a more exciting twist on the war and very often when I was reading it I wished that we really did have Clankers and Darwinists because it was just such a wonderful fantasy land that I certainly am going to enjoy going back to again and again.