Sunday, June 5, 2016

Book Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld


Alek and Deryn are finally about to reach Istanbul aboard the Leviathan, one of Britain's largest and most recognizable living airships. The Ottoman Empire is quite possibly the most valuable tactical position in the war, and it's currently holding out from declaring which side it's on.
Alek's position is still precarious. Among enemies, he's afraid his identity will be revealed. When one of the mysterious Darwinist eggs hatches at the worst possible time, he has no choice but to take the newborn creature with him while he escapes from the Leviathan. In the meantime, Deryn is assigned a mission that could turn the tide of the war.
Circumstances turn against both as they are separated from their people and end up alone in Istanbul. Can the revolutionaries there help them turn the war in their favor? And what are they going to do if they learn Alek's secret?

That's my summary. Here's the one I pulled from

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.


Like Leviathan, Behemoth is set right smack in WW(I?), with an alternate history that has spawned two schools of technology: Darwinists and Clankers. This is a wonderful alternative history, a big WHAT IF in Europe at wartime. The effects of these changes on the real events of the war (which aren't particularly gone into) make a lot of sense, how the world powers interact and gripe at one another. The fullness of culture and how it's built around the technological systems is amazing, creating a real, functioning world not too different from ours... until you look up and see a fabricated beast or Clanker machine.


I'm still very new to YA, but I've heard a lot of stigma around adults reading YA. I see nothing wrong with my being 30 and reading fiction intended for a younger crowd. It's always a point of pride for children to be reading above their "grade level" so why should't I read "below" mine, especially if there's a story I'm interested in?
Westerfeld writes some amazing YA. Sure, if we boil it down, the language may be a little simplified to my 30-year-old mind. I don't care. It makes for a quick read, and I'll tell you it's an enjoyable one. Westerfeld has a clear grasp of what it means to be a teenager of Darwinist or Clanker upbringing, and just the dialogue alone points out his true understanding of the world around him. he makes action scenes pop and move quickly, and his sense of place is exemplary. It's almost impossible to get truly lost in this world with such a brilliant author taking you through.

My Thoughts

I'm still enthralled with this alternate world Westerfeld has built. It is quite possibly one of my favorite adaptations of the world that is clearly different from the norm, and I have a feeling it will remain in my top favorite alternate worlds... period. If you pull in the scope of all fictional worlds I've read... it's in the top ten, at least. It's so easy to just fall into the setting that I could probably be hapy reading stories of everyday people just going about their business in a place like this. It's so intriguing and wonderful that I can't imagine anyone not liking it.
As for the characters and plot, both are great. The events in this book are logical and fulfilling, their progression makes sense, and I can't help but want to rave about it more. The characters, as I mentioned in my review of Leviathan, are all people. That should say enough about them. They are real people, as far as I'm concerned. Westerfeld clearly has a strong understanding and relationship with each character in his crew, and it shows in their actions and his writing. This is simply some exemplary wordcraft.

Would I Recommend This Book? To speak directly to Alek and the Clankers, Ja! I would! This is a continuation of the previous book that very much lives up to its predecessor. I don't know that I would say I like it better than Leviathan, but it is definitely a worthy follow-up. I give Behemoth a rebellious 4 out of 5 stars.

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