Review Blog

Jan 13 2011

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

cover image

Viking, 2010. ISBN 978 067907394.
(Ages 11+) Recommended. Pursued by the German ironclads, the beastie powered Leviathan's captain must make some brave decisions to avoid capture. He knows that Alek is more than he seems, and although Austrian, has saved them twice, despite his pre Darwinian philosophy. Unbeknownst to the British captain and crew, Alek is indeed the son of the assassinated archduke and his wife, and their murders have set in train a series of events which will spiral the world into World War 1. But this is an imagined past, Westerfeld has taken a significant time in history and given it a Steampunk twist, with animal powered airships, the Darwinians and their knowledge of evolutionary change set against the Clankers, those who hold on to the past, abhorring the evolution of animal powered machines. (Check out the message lizards on page 82 or the Clanker walkers on page110! Wow!)
Sumptuously illustrated with adventure piled on adventure, Behemoth is fascinating reading with its array of mesmerising machines with animal behaviours, and the continued sparring between the Clanker Alek and the Darwinist Deryn, a commoner he meets on the ship who is more than he seems. Alek and, Derryn must fight for their lives against the German foe intent on killing Alek even though they are not on the same side. One night Alek and his entourage escape from the Leviathan, but in so doing, Alek takes one of the newly hatched beasties, because it has bonded with him and will not be quiet if Alek leaves it. The boffin, Dr Barlow will not be pleased, or will she?
Now in Istanbul, the group is aware that the Germans are exerting a hold over the Ottomans, and so the stage is set for Alek and his men, along with the Darwinists and Deryn to cause some significant damage to their designs.
Sub plot and counter plot, subterfuge and strategies impel the reader's brain to work enjoyably overtime following the deeds and misdeeds of all the protagonists. The groundwork of history makes for an ultra exciting read with its overlay of fantasy drawing the reader into this mind-boggling but wholly credible world, so well written and illustrated that you feel you can step into it at any time. This is the second in this new series by Westerfeld, following on from Leviathan.
Fran Knight

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