Scott Westerfeld – Behemoth
Read my review of book:
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.
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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