Behemoth – Scott Westerfeld

BehemothIllustrated by Keith Thompson

From 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.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.

Published: 2010

Why I Chose It: I’ve slowly been making my way through the Leviathan series, and this is book two!

Reviews of Other Books in The Series:


The Review:

After loving the first book I was super pumped to read the second one. Now that Alek and Deryn are together, I was interested to see how the narrative would develop throughout the book. The Point of View still switched between the two characters, which I was really happy about. It was also interesting that while they’re both aboard the Leviathan, they still encounter different things, and I was able to gain a much more rounded viewpoint from both of them.

While the book opens aboard the Leviathan, the majority of the action takes place in the city of Constantinople/Istanbul. I thought this was really interesting to do, because while the first book focused on the Darwinist way of living, this second book takes a close look at the Clankers way of living. I really liked the comparison to the first book and how this allowed us to get a good view of both sides.

I was a little disappointed with the setting, though. While the Clankers have a lot of really unique machines, and an interesting way of incorporating those machines into their every day lives, they’re still just machines. Yes, they are cool creations that are interesting to read about, but machines are a concept that I’m familiar with and I’ve read about before. They’re just not very hard to imagine. When I think about the first book and all of the Darwinist creations, there’s simply no comparison. All of the Darwinist creatures were challenging to the imagination and were so cool to picture. I was in love with all of the illustrations because I wanted to see all of the creatures. But in the Clanker world I was less interested, and I didn’t find the material as interesting or inspiring as in the first book.

My favourite part of this book by far is the Darwinist creation called Bovril. He’s a small creature (I pictured him kind of like a sloth) that grows attached to Alek and eventually Deryn. He can imitate any sound, including human voices, and manages to convey a lot of important information to the two. He was adorable and hilarious and by far the best part of this book.

This book was a really good step in the series, and did a really wonderful job of opposing the first book and giving me a clearer idea of both sides of the battle. It helped to world build and further the story along the lines of the alternative World War I. Unfortunately, I miss the charm of the Leviathan; how unique it was and how wonderful it was to read about working on the ship. In this novel we’re stuck in a Clanker city, and the machines don’t create an atmosphere like the Leviathan does. Still, I do think this worked really well as an installment in the series, and I’m definitely looking forward to the next book!

Overall Rating: 3 / 5

Inspiration: 2/5
Setting: 2/5
Secondary Characters: 2/5
Unique Creatures: 5/5
Series Installment: 4/5


“Deryn hefted her own weapon, studying Alek’s pose. His feet were splayed at right angles, his left arm sticking out behind like the handle of a teacup. His fencing armor made him look like a walking quilt. Even with his sword pointed straight at her, he looked barking silly.” p 1

“Alek found himself smiling as he wiped engine grease from his hands. This was the first time any of them had been invited to the bridge. Since coming aboard, he’d wondered how the officers controlled the airship’s interwoven complements of men, fabricated animals, and machines. Was is like a German land dreadnought, with the bridge crew directly controlling the engines and cannon? Or an oceangoing ship, with orders dispatched to the boiler rooms and weapon stations?” p 67

“The machine lumbered forward on huge legs, its tusks swaying back and forth as it moved. Four pilots in blue uniforms sat on saddles that stuck out from its haunches, one pilot working the controls for each leg. A mechanical trunk, divided into a dozen metal segments, swept slowly back and forth, like a sleeping cat’s tail.” p 101


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