Leviathan left off. Midshipman Dylan Sharp's true identity, as the female Deryn, is still a secret to the British military, and possibly more importantly still a secret to Alek. His true identity - Prince Aleksander of Austro-Hungary - is about to be revealed to more people than he had originally hoped.
The war between the Clankers and the Darwinists is growing and at the heart of it is the Ottoman Empire. Strong Clanker influence in Istanbul threatens to cut off the supplies to Darwinist Russia. Set mostly in and around this exotic city, the continuing story of Alek and Deryn unfolds. There are battles, new Darwinist "beasties" and Clanker machines, secret missions, and new characters.
Barking spiders, I loved this book! Westerfeld writes such a convincing story and Keith Thompson's illustrations are so beautiful, I feel like I've totally done a Mary Poppins and jumped right through the pages into the story. Even with all the stuff that Westerfeld makes up, it feels that real.
I do offer my apologies for the extremely short summary, but I didn't want to give anything away! (I'm not kidding - I had three paragraphs of summary typed out and deleted them all.) The size (485 pages, hardback) may seem daunting but the story moves at break-neck speed...I read it in about 8 hours total (spread out over three days, but still). Seriously, if you have not read either of these books yet set yourself a goal for your Christmas break, or at the very least make it your New Year's resolution. Seriously, I'm not kidding. Do it!