Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Leviathan combines alternate history with steampunk. It is a young adult novel which can easily reach a more general audience. It is 1914, the Britsh are Darwinists manipulators of life threads, the dna which Darwin discovered. The Austrians are Clankers masters of steam driven clockwork machinery. The world is tilting towards war between the two factions. It is a story of extremely different worldviews.
The setting alternates between a giant hydrogen filled whale airship, the Leviathan which is British and a young Austrian noble, Aleksandar Ferdinand who is on the run.
The book is beautifully illustrated with finely detailed black and white drawings. Many are full page with pictures of steam driven mecha, ladies in bowler hats, airships, and other images. The images convey a mix of the future and the past. Keith Thompson did the artwork.
The two teenage main characters are very likable, Deryn Sharp, a teenage girl disguises herself so she can be an airship cadet. When Aleksandar and Deryn Sharp meet we get an interesting clash of cultures.
The historical details mesh well with the fantasy details. There is an afterword in the book which explains what is historical and what is fantasy.
There is very wide spacing between lines, wide margins, and a non-standard font Hoefler Text. Even the chapter headings look nice. This makes the book a pleasure to read.
Scott Westerfeld wrote the Ugly series which was a New York Times bestseller. Leviathan is on the current Locus Magazine bestseller list.
I am looking forward to reading the next book in the series when it comes out.