“Behemoth” by By Scott Westerfeld
“The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.
Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan’s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.
Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.”
Joel’s Thoughts (my BIL read this book)-
The long awaited sequel to “Leviathan” picks up right where Westerfeld left his main characters: on the verge of Constantinople/Istanbul. It is this ‘jumping-in’ that makes “Behemoth” a novel that should only be read after the first in the series. Westerfeld expects the reader to have a certain amount of familiarity with this world so he does not need to spend many sentences re-explaining facts/events.
If you are reading this review and know nothing regarding the mythology that Westerfeld has created, here is a brief (spoiler-free) initiation.
Although the world of “Behemoth” has many parallels to our own, its differences are striking. Like our own history, 1914 Europe is on the eve of The Great War. The power is divided between the alliances of Germany/Austria-Hungary and that of England/France/Russia. The war is ignited after the murder of Archduke Franz Ferdinand. This is the kind of history we learn in our first year of secondary school. It is at this point that Westerfeld takes a leave from fact and delves into fiction.
Germany and Austria-Hungary are populated by people dependant on machines and mechanization. These masters of technology are the so called, Clankers. Their engineers have perfected huge mechanized battle walkers, capable of impressive large scale assaults. The people of England/France/Russia have become devoted to a different form of technology, namely bio-tech. Known as Darwinists, these engineers have learned to manipulate DNA, creating new species capable of amazing things: metal devouring bats, message repeating lizards, giant floating whale-like airships, etc.
The story of “Behemoth” follows Deryn and Alec as they do their best to both blend-in and stay alive. Their respective heritage (Darwinist and Clanker) provides the classic ‘odd-couple’ backdrop, but does not fall into the realm of cliché. Westerfeld gives his characters their own voice and motives which do not feel forced, but rather flows naturally. His description of the great city of Constantinople/Istanbul is rich with detail. In fact, Westerfeld’s style allows the reader to become instantly comfortable with the varying history, to the point that it feels natural and accurate.
Readers of “Leviathan” will be delighted with this addition to the series and will wait with anticipation for the third book, “Goliath” (Oct 2011). If you have not read “Leviathan”, I highly recommend it. Steampunk history books are becoming hotter by the month and Westerfeld’s series is a great introduction into this genre.
Simon and Schuster Canada
Disclaimer- I received a FREE copy of this book in order to write my review. All reviews are my honest opinion. I did not receive money for my review. I was not expected to write a positive review.