82 pages 2 hours read

Scott Westerfeld


Fiction | Novel | YA | Published in 2009

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Chapters 1-8Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 1 Summary

The story opens with Prince Aleksandar (Alek) of the Austro-Hungarian Empire playing out a war strategy on his desk when he should be in bed. In the game, his empire’s mechanical wonders will defeat the British and French forces. He hears someone outside and worries before remembering that his parents are in Sarajevo watching military maneuvers. He wanted to go and prepare for the coming war, but his parents refused.

Someone begins to enter his room, and Alek lunges into bed. A figure rummages through Alek’s dresser, and Alek prepares to attack him with the hunting knife under his pillow until Otto Klopp, the master of mechanics, enters. Alek recognizes the first man as Wildcount Volger, the fencing master. Klopp tells Alek that his father left instructions for Alek to complete his night piloting lesson in a stormwalker.

Alek leaps out of bed, but the two men tell him to be quiet. Alek wonders why they’re doing a dangerous exercise now and why Volger is involved since he typically fights with swords, not machines. When Alek asks, Volger treats him rudely, which is common: Alek’s mother is a commoner, so the nobles often disrespect him.