It's the eve of World War I in an alternative steampunk world in which some surroundings and events are familiar, while others (diesel-powered robo walkers and genetically engineered war beasts) are not. This YA novel is the first in a planned series about Prince Alexsandar and Deryn Sharp, a girl who dresses as a boy to get into the British Air Service. Miss Sharp notwithstanding, this is very much a guy's adventure story with lots of action, machine gun fire, swordfights and aerial combat between biplanes and, uh, flying whales. Illustrations of the characters wearing cool uniforms (Spiked German helmets! Knee-high leather boots! Steampunk goggles!) help in imagining the story. There's even a trailer for this book on YouTube--yes, books have trailers now like movies--that invites readers to take sides between the machine-based German Clankers and the English Darwinists: "Do you feed your war machines, or oil them?" Get busy on Leviathan, because the sequel comes out this fall.
Recommended by David Healey