Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (Leviathan #2)

Title: Behemoth

Author: Scott Westerfeld

Illustrator: Keith Thompson

Publisher: Simon Pulse

Date Read: December 29-30, 2012

“A stolen throne. A secret mission. An epic adventure.

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.”

New Characters: 

Eddie Malone- Malone is a reporter for The New York World. He was mentioned in the first book in the series, but he really takes on a more important role in this installment. He is a very inquisitive man that carries around a bullfrog beastie on his shoulder that records conversations. Alek finds himself mixed up with Mr. Malone, a relationship that seems necessary but is not very pleasant.

Zaven. Lilit, and Nana- Zaven is the son of Nana, and his daughter is Lilit. These three are an integral part of Alek’s survival in Istanbul. They are leaders in a movement that opposes the current sultan of the Ottoman Empire, and Alek and Deryn both develop a relationship with the trio. Lilit is very clever, much to Deryn’s chagrin, and also teaches Alek a few things about himself.

Conflict: On a macro level, the conflict is centered around the neutrality of the Ottoman Empire. Both Darwinist and Clanker powers are trying their best to win the Ottomans over to their side. It’s really interesting to look at the Ottoman Empire in relation to the Clankers and Darwinists because they are a mix of both. Although it seems that there is a little more German influence in Istanbul, you really get the sense that there is very rich culture in the city.

On a micro level, the conflict involves Alek’s new secret. Alek struggles with the urge to share this secret with Deryn, but he is very worried about any possible ramifications- this is a pretty intense secret! Deryn still has problems sharing her secret with Alek, and the tension really builds in this book because both characters know the other is hiding something from them. Lilit adds a little spice to the Alek/Deryn pot by focusing her attentions on Deryn- or should I say Dylan.

Things I Liked: I really liked that there seemed to be a few more illustrations sprinkled throughout the book. When the characters are in Istanbul, there are a lot of descriptions of things that I don’t think would be fully understood without Thompson’s awesome illustrations. I’m not saying that Westerfeld didn’t do a good job with his descriptions, it’s just that there was so much going on and so much to take in, so the illustrations help you pick out what is important and really helps you keep a cohesive vision of the story in your head (or at least mine). I also liked that Deryn listens to her emotions a little more in this novel. With so many new things happening in Leviathan, Deryn didn’t have a lot of time to figure out how she feels about things. However, her foray into Istanbul helps her catch up emotional- even if she doesn’t like it.

Things I Didn’t Like: There were no illustrations of behemoth! I know that the beastie itself doesn’t really come into direct contact with the main characters per se, but the book is called Behemoth, and I really wanted to see what all the  hype was about! I guess that’s what you get for relying so heavily on pictures (me, not the author).

And as many times as Deryn calls Alek “daft” in this book, it is totally true. I didn’t really like that Alek seemed to be especially oblivious to the feelings and thoughts of the people around him. In the first book, he seemed really in tune with his emotions and also picked up on the emotions of others. But in Behemoth, Alek spends most of his time in his own head. But with a secret like that, I guess I would, too.

Overall View: Overall, I though that this one was very exciting. The brief split of Alek and Deryn’s story lines really spiced things up. The exotic location really helped, too! I loved the rich culture that was Istanbul and how the city, as well as the Ottoman Empire, became part of the politics of the War. This one tugged at your heart strings a little, and I think it adds to the story as a whole. This book really makes you look forward to Goliath!

Rating: 4 1/2 Stars

Other Works by Scott Westerfeld: The Uglies series, PeepsMidnight series, Risen Empire series, and So Yesterday.

And remember- it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople!

You can look at more of Keith Thompson’s art at http://www.keiththompsonart.com

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