Behemoth: A Chick Lit Wednesday Review

Behemoth by Scott WesterfeldDeryn is a girl posing as a boy and serving in the British Air Services aboard the Leviathan as it heads to the capital of the Ottoman Empire on a secret mission.

Alek, heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, is also aboard the Leviathan posing as a commoner among his men. Together these Clankers and Darwinists have forged an uneasy alliance born out of necessity. But when war comes to the airship, everything changes.

The year is 1914. The British Darwinists and their fabricated beasties have declared war against Austria-Hungary and their Clanker war machines. The rest of the world sits, waiting, on the brink of war.

As the threat of war looms closer, Alek finds himself running out of options. He can’t stay aboard the Leviathan any longer and risk becoming a prisoner of war. But can he ask his only friend, Dylan Sharp, to commit treason by helping him escape?

Deryn knows that Alek has to leave the airship. She knows the he should go. But no matter what she tells herself Deryn doesn’t want him to go. How can the one person who trusts her completely also be the one she can’t share her biggest secret with?

Alek and Deryn should be on opposite sides of this conflict but instead they have become fast friends. As the two make their way through the mysterious and dangerous city of Istanbul they just might find a way to stop this war in its tracks in Behemoth (2010) by Scott Westerfeld with illustrations by Keith Thompson.

Behemoth is the sequel to Leviathan. It’s also the second book in Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy.

This book is filled with everything that made Leviathan great and then some. Westerfeld’s reimagined world is just as vivid and compelling as before. The action is just as exciting. There is alternate history. There is steampunk. There are beasties, walkers and a lot of people making insinuations by saying “Mr. Sharp” repeatedly.* There will be humor. Oh, and those mysterious eggs from Leviathan? They totally hatch in Behemoth.

Deryn’s secret continues to weigh heavily, especially when it comes to Alek. Meanwhile Alek, almost literally, has the weight of the world on his shoulders as he works to find a way to end the war. Westerfeld also spends more time on a lot of favorite secondary characters (including Dr. Barlow and Count Volger, my personal favorites) and world building as we see an Istanbul very unlike the one we know and learn more about familiar characters. The scope and detail Westerfeld brings to this book (and which Thompson brings to his delightful illustrations) is truly astounding.

Behemoth is an excellent addition to a wonderful trilogy, possibly even better than the first in the trilogy. This is a book that really exceeds all expectations and will leave readers eagerly waiting for Goliath, the forthcoming conclusion to a stunning trilogy.

Possible Pairings: The Spiderwick Chronicles by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi, Etiquette & Espionage by Gail Carriger, Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare, The Glass Sentence by S. E. Grove, The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg, Fire and Hemlock by Diana Wynne Jones, Dreamhunter by Elizabeth Knox, Nathaniel Fludd, Beastologist: Flight of the Phoenix by R. L. LaFevers with illustrations by Kelly Murphy, Boneshaker by Cherie Priest, Jackaby by William Ritter, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick, Everland by Wendy Spinale, The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater, The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud, Around the World in Eighty Days by Jules Verne, The Time Machine by H. G. Wells, Firefly (television series) The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (graphic novel and movie), The Secret Adventures of Jules Verne (television series), Serenity (movie)

*Sometimes one line can really make a book. Believe it or not, “Mr. Sharp.” might be the line of this book.

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