Steampunk is based on the belief that if you take any story, and add futuristic Victorian machinery and yellow-brownish colors to it, it becomes twice as awesome. This belief is correct. Michael Moorcock, one of my favorite authors, is miffed at steampunk because he contributed to its invention, and he didn’t intend it to be awesome. He intended it to be used to satirize British imperialism. And now everybody’s embracing steampunk chic, just because it looks good. Philistines.
I guess he has a point. But it’s a boring point, which I choose to ignore. Otherwise, you couldn’t, say, retell World War I as a war between the bioengineering Allies, whose Darwinist teachings enable them to design living war beasts, and the Central powers, who rely on walking fortresses and other mechanical contraptions.
Which is what Scott Westerfeld does in Leviathan, and the result is absolutely delightful. Leviathan is a light adventure where the son of the murdered Archduke of Austria-Hungary escapes the clutches of the warmongering Kaiser in an AT-AT, and an enterprising Scottish girl pretends to be a boy so she can join the crew of a flying whale.
A flying whale! With its own ecosystem! And a tentacle monster called the Huxley!
This is about as good as that sort of thing gets. Also, further proof of how much good writing is being done for the YA market.