Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan, book 3); young adult, alternate history, steampunk; 560 pages
I usually have problems fully immersing myself in historical fiction. I find myself getting too worried about what I know is going to happen next: "Yes, these characters are happy now, but what happens in five years when the Great Depression hits?" That kind of thing. The great thing about Scott Westerfeld is that his books are reliably awesome: awesome enough to keep me from worrying too much about the Next Great Disaster, and focus solely on the characters and the time at hand.
This is the third book in the Leviathan series, so if you haven't read the first two volumes, you should start there. Westerfeld's story is set in an alternate World War I, where Central and Allied powers have been replaced with rival factions defined by their adherence to one school of tech or another: Clanker (steam/mechanical) and Darwinist (genetic engineering), respectively. Our heroes are Alek, exiled prince of Austria, and Deryn, a British girl disguised as a boy, and serving on the living airship, Leviathan. At this point in the story, Leviathan has been sent halfway around the world on various missions, and now finds itself floating over Russia on a quest for a mad inventor whose latest discovery could stop the war.
I LOVED this book. If I was a little underwhelmed by Behemoth, Goliath more than makes up for it. Westerfeld wraps up the story beautifully, but still leaves it open enough that he could continue Alek and Deryn's adventures if he chose (and I really, really hope he chooses to! This world was too interesting to let it lie after only three books!). And while there are lots of liberties taken with history here, there were also a lot of cameo appearances from actual historical figures--including Nicola Tesla, who's fast becoming one of my favorite fictionalized people (seriously, is there a genre for Tesla fiction?). Westerfeld even addresses my Next Great Disaster issue, by introducing some allies that could prevent the second world war. Overall, this was a fun book, and I couldn't put it down. As always, I can't wait to read the next thing from this author.