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Scott Westerfeld – Behemoth

November 3, 2010

129. Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (2010)
Leviathan, Book 2

Read my review of book:
1. Leviathan

Read By: Alan Cumming
Length: 9h 27min (496 pages)

Genre: Young Adult, Steampunk Sci-Fi, Alternate History

Started: 16 October 2010
Finished: 19 October 2010

Where did it come from? The library.
Why do I have it? I really enjoyed the first book in the series, and Scott Westerfeld’s work in general.

Istanbul’s the crux
of the war between Clankers
and the Darwinists.

Summary: During the early days of World War I, the Leviathan, the Darwinist airship genetically engineered from a whale, has made its repairs and is once again underway. Aboard are the fugitive Hungarian prince Alek and his men, who occupy an uneasy position somewhere between guests and prisoners of war, and Deryn, a girl who has been disguising herself as a boy in order to continue serving as a midshipman. The Leviathan is bound for Constantinople on a vital diplomatic mission, since the Ottoman Empire is officially neutral, but looks to be siding with the Clankers… and if they joined officially, it could swing the balance of power away from the British. Once in the city, negotiations go decidedly poorly for the Darwinists, and Alek and his men take the opportunity to make good their escape. However, once Alek is loose in the city, he uncovers a whole pot of trouble – the kind that he’ll only be able to get out of with the help of Deryn.

Review: This series is so good, and so different from anything I’ve read before. That’s quite a trick, considering the current landscape of cookie-cutter YA paranormal romance out there, but Westerfeld does it again and again, each time coming up with a concept and a world that’s fresh, unique, and unlike anything that’s come before.

I said in my review of Leviathan that I appreciated how it wasn’t in your face with its steampunkiness. After reading Behemoth, I have to wonder how much of that is true, and how much of that is because Leviathan was primarily set aboard a Darwinist airship. Because Behemoth is set almost exclusively in a heavily Clanker-ified Istanbul, and its steampunk roots are hugely evident: clockwork machines and steam engines everywhere. It all feels like a natural part of the worldbuilding, though – like, of course that’s how they’d use x or y technology – rather than like it was just thrown in as set dressing. Westerfeld’s world is incredibly detailed and well-built, and I really appreciated getting to see more of it. I also appreciate how closely he’s tied his story to the actual events of World War I – it made me want to go read more about it, which is the true mark of good historical fiction – and I especially appreciate that he provides an author’s note detailing how (and why) his story deviates from historical fact.

The story itself was really good, too. Plenty of action and excitement, some plotting and scheming and politics nicely worked in, some nice character moments, quite a few giggle-inducing funny bits, and a few deft touches of romance that are an integral part of the plot, but aren’t the characters’ sole defining qualities. This was also a great audiobook to listen to; although it does mean missing out on the illustrations, Alan Cumming does such a nice job with the dialogue and acting and various accents that it’s worth it.

So, I am now eagerly awaiting the publication of Goliath next year… and I am totally adding a Perspicacious Loris to my Christmas wishlist. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: Westerfeld does a really nice job of making this book relatively self-contained without getting repetitive, so it could theoretically be read as a stand-alone… but Leviathan‘s so good I can’t see why you’d want to. The series as a whole is highly recommended to fans of alternate history, steampunky sci-fi, world war i historical fiction, and anyone who’s looking for something unique and fun to read.

This Review on LibraryThing | This Book on LibraryThing | This Book on Amazon

Other Reviews: Bart’s Bookshelf, Bookish Blather, One Librarian’s Book Reviews, Reading Rants!, Young Adult Literature Review
Have you reviewed this book? Leave a comment with the link and I’ll add it in.

First Line: Alek raised his sword.

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20 Comments leave one →
  1. November 3, 2010 8:29 am

    My husband loved Leviathan and is anxious to get his hands on this one. He’ll be glad to see you liked it so much.

    • November 3, 2010 9:57 am

      bermudaonion – I hope he likes it too! It’s just as good as the first one without being a carbon copy, which I appreciated.

  2. November 3, 2010 8:54 am

    I have got to get my hands on Leviathan and Behemoth! I’m hearing nothing but good things about Westerfeld.

    I’ve got to go to the library anyways this week. . . .

    • November 3, 2010 10:00 am

      Redhead – Westerfeld’s great! My favorite of his so far has been Peeps, but I’ve really liked everything of his that I’ve read (with the exception of Peeps‘s sequel, The Last Days), so whatever you can find in the library will hopefully be a good choice!

  3. Livy Parker permalink
    November 3, 2010 10:10 am

    Oh, I just finished the book – it was SO good. Have you read anything else from Westerfeld? I highly recommend Uglies series, and of course Midnighters trilogy, and if you’ve got the time, the So yesterday books. One of my favorite YA authors for sure, he doesn’t ‘simplify’ for his readers, he respects them. I just love him! And I, too, want a Loris for xmas…

    • November 5, 2010 10:06 am

      Livy – I’ve read almost everything Westerfeld’s published, with the exception of his two earliest books. I read Peeps, The Last Days, and the Uglies Trilogy before I started blogging, though!

  4. November 4, 2010 3:29 pm

    I haven’t read Behemoth yet and it’s driving me crazy! I should just stop being so cheap and buy it. I find it hard to believe that of the eighteen libraries in our consortium not a single one has ordered it (even though some have the first book).

    If I don’t give in before Christmas it’s definitely going on my wish list.

    • November 5, 2010 10:07 am

      Alyce – Oh, no, that’s tragic! Does your library have a “suggestion for purchase” form?

  5. November 4, 2010 4:16 pm

    This one was so good! Really enjoyed it when I read it in eARC form a month or two back, now I just need to get my hands on a “real” copy so I can properly appreciate the wonderful artwork! ;)

    • November 5, 2010 10:08 am

      Darren – I’ve really enjoyed listening to them, but like you, I want paper copies just for the artwork!

  6. November 8, 2010 2:07 pm

    Oh, I’m so happy you loved that one too! I received it, but haven’t gotten to it yet! I’m curious to hear more about the Clankers’ technology, so I’m looking forward to this.

    • November 10, 2010 11:29 am

      kay – It doesn’t really get into the tech-y side of the Clanker technology too much (which was a-okay by me), but it’s definitely a lot more present in this book vs. the previous. There’s a scene in the library that I particularly liked (and not just because it was in a library!) :)

  7. November 16, 2010 5:27 pm

    I loved this too, and for many of the same reasons. The more I think about it, the more I like it.

    And I’m totally going to copy you and add a Perspicacious Loris to my wishlist. Them things is almost too cute for words. (Also: helpful).

    • November 19, 2010 11:03 am

      Memory – Since I listened to this on audiobook, I missed out on all of the illustrations… and the perspicacious loris is even cuter than I was imagining it.

      Also, just walking up to me and saying “Meeeester Sharp!” is enough to set me giggling for minutes, now.

  8. Shelli permalink
    January 12, 2011 9:52 am

    I loved the book, very much actually, but…why does Scott Westerfeld change between Deryn and Dylan for the name of the heroine in the story. I’m I missing something? Driving me crazy.

    Thanks for responding.

    • January 12, 2011 10:00 am

      Shelli – Deryn’s (girl’s name) the character’s actual name, but Dylan (boy’s name) is what she calls herself in the military service where no one knows she’s actually a girl.

  9. hallereads permalink
    August 5, 2011 3:38 pm

    Great review! I’m listening to this now and love Alan Cumming’s narration. I didn’t realize there were illustrations in the book — I’ll have to get it from my library so I can see them. Now I have to see if I have the patience to wait for Goliath on audiobook (which usually takes my library several months after release to order) or if I’ll immediately read the print version. Barking spiders, it’s a tough decision! :)

    • August 5, 2011 3:43 pm

      Halle – You can see some (I don’t know if it’s all) of the illustrations at Keith Thompson’s website. They’re gorgeous!

      I’m going to stick it out with the audiobooks, since I don’t like changing formats in mid-series… but then my library’s pretty quick about processing audiobooks. I don’t know whether or not I’d stand by that decision if I had to wait!

      • hallereads permalink
        August 5, 2011 4:09 pm

        Thanks! Those illustrations are wonderful.

        Since I listened to Leviathan and am listening to Behemoth I’d really like to listen to Goliath as well. It might be worth a subscription to Audible for a month just to download it.

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  1. Behemoth | Susan Hated Literature

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