Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld
This second book in the Leviathan trilogy continues the riveting steampunk story. Deryn, a girl masquerading as a boy in the British Air Service, serves aboard an immense living ship called the Leviathan. Alek, the heir to the Austrian-Hungarian empire, is masquerading as a commoner aboard the same airship. The two of them are fast friends, though both are hiding their true identity from one another. Now the Leviathan and her crew find themselves up against an amazing new weapon wielded by the German forces: a Tesla cannon that fires electricity. Driven to Istanbul to shelter and resupply, the Leviathan must finish its business in only 24 hours before she will be forced to leave. Alek and his protectors are desperate to leave the Leviathan while there, hoping to disappear to safety off of the ship. But things never go as planned, including Deryn’s covert mission to open an access way for the behemoth monster to attack. A brilliant setting for Westerfeld’s novel, Istanbul offers a spicy new space to further explore the wondrous world he has created in this series.
Westerfeld is one of those authors where readers can simply relax, knowing they are in good hands. He is a skilled world builder, where his vision is clear, detailed and beautifully rendered. I love the interplay of the steampunk with the Darwinist beasties, a natural tension that really works as a framework for war. He also excels at creating characters who are deeper than expected and richly drawn. Deryn is a strong female character who belays off of airships without hesitation, rescues others with ingenuity, and puts herself in harms way as only a hero can. Yet she is also bothered by regrets, first love, and the horrors of war. Alek too is a well-drawn hero, a great counterpart to Deryn. He is highly educated, very bright, and a natural problem-solver and mech driver. What a pleasure to have a book with two such heroes side-by-side.
Make sure that you have read Leviathan before picking up this second book. This is a trilogy in every sense of the word. Westerfeld does a find job of bringing readers who may have read Leviathan awhile ago up to speed with the world and the story again. It is handled in a subtle way so that readers enjoying them back-to-back will not be bothered at all.
Highly recommended, this book is a great second part of the trilogy. Get it into the hands of happy fans and convert new fans to this amazing blend of fantasy and science fiction. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from copy received from Simon Pulse.