Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan series: Book 2)

Behemoth is the second instalment in Westerfield’s Leviathan series, which was initially scheduled to be a trilogy concluding when Goliath is released in Oct 2011 but, according to a recent interview he gave, the series will now be a tetralogy concluding with an un-named as yet, fourth and final book. I was really looking forward to reading and reviewing this book having been sent this and it’s predecessor, Leviathan, which left me eagerly anticipating this instalment. The book features over 50 delightful illustrations provided by Keith Thompson and the audio book version is narrated by actor Alan Cumming.

Behemoth picks up where Leviathan left off with the main characters, Alek and Deryn arriving in the neutral territory of Constantinople on board the living airship Leviathan. Deryn has some tasks to attend to as assistant to Dr Nora Barlow, the first of these is to meet with the ruler in power, Sultan Mehmed V and deliver the mysterious egg cargo that they’ve carefully nutured on the voyage. All does not go well as their ceremonial procession is ambushed by some insurgents and aborted. Alek meanwhile alights the ship with his guardians, Otto Klopp and Wildcount Volger but becomes separated from them and he does not dare risk trying to get back on board the Leviathan as it seems the Ottoman empire is not as neutral as they would like when he finds evidence that the German Clankers have arrived ahead of them. Alek meets and allies himself with Zaven, one of the leaders of the local uprising, while Deryn attempts some increasingly daring, dangerous and top secret missions for

DrBarlow and the ship’s Captain, whilst trying to find Alek in the hopes she can sneak him back on board before he gets captured.

Behemoth was a really fast read, the chapters alternate in pairs between Deryn and Alek’s points of view but it doesn’t lose the reader along the way. It’s a speedily paced book with a twisting, turning plot set against the back drop of the early days of WW1 and the bartering and espionage that took place between nations. Westerfield’s mechanical creations are described in great detail and his descriptions of the living bio creations are superb. This book, like it’s predecessor, is dotted with stunning illustrations which make Behemoth a literary and visual delight. Westerfield takes good care in developing his characters and their surroundings, really placing the reader at the centre of the action. Although this book has a slightly more darker and sinister feel than Leviathan, there are several moments of levity and mirth to provide a nice overall balance and that prevents the story from becoming bleak.

The most enjoyable parts of this book for me was the character development, Westerfield gives them room to grow, and even though he introduced several new supporting characters he makes sure to give plenty of page space to the main characters so that you never lose sight of who the story is focused on, or what their goals are. Westerfield has a real knack with expressions, his characters declaring ‘try this for dinner, bum-rags!’ ‘barking stupid machines!’ ‘beasties!’ had me laughing regularly. I tip my hat to Mr Westerfield who manages to slip the word ‘perspicacious’ into the book in several places without it seeming out of place amongst the main dialogue, very slick!

And the bit I really wasn’t fond of? That would be leaving the appearance of the mighty Behemoth ship until so late in the book! With the book titled after this monstrous war ship, I really would have expected it to appear much earlier. By the time it appears and wades into battle, the fight is almost over before it started, and that I felt was a little bit anti climatic. The Behemoth was described in awesome detail and it seemed such a shame for it to feature so little and so late.

This book has a sound appeal to all genders and ages, Westerfield is very engaging writer, his characters are easy to warm to and I really couldn’t wait to see what would happen to them next. The plot moves along at a good pace and is complicated enough for older readers to enjoy, whilst being explained clearly enough for younger readers to follow. You could read this book without having read Leviathan, but I wouldn’t recommend doing that as you’ll be missing out on a great read that introduces you to the main characters and their various secrets and motivations.

It’s a great low-level introduction to some war time history points and also to some important people from history, all set in an engaging adventure plot with incredible creatures and machines that prevent it becoming a lecture.

I rate this book as 9/10 and look forward to reading Goliath when it’s released later this year.

9/10 This book has a sound appeal to all genders and ages.

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