I just finished Scott Westerfeld’s latest YA novel Behemoth. It was a lot of fun, just like the first volume, Leviathan. Westerfeld has created an amazing world where World War I is unfolding between the Darwinist nations and the Clanker nations. Darwinists like Great Britain breed fabulous “beasties” that do everything from drop bombs to record messages. The Clankers, like Germany, rely on pure steampunk contraptions taken to an extreme level. Heavy walkers and giant lightning rods and guns dominate the landscape. In case you have trouble picturing all this, there’s some fascinating interior artwork inside. I’ve heard a lot of praise for the illustrations. While the dark style isn’t entirely my cup of tea, they definitely enhance the reading experience for the book.
Like the previous volume, Behemoth shifts back and forth between the perspective of Deryn, a girl who has disguised herself as a boy to become a midshipman on the Leviathan, a huge British airship, and Alek, a young Austrian prince who must flee after his parents are assassinated. Deryn has lots of funny slang, like “barking spiders.” She has a growing crush on Alek, but can’t reveal it because he’s a prince and he thinks she’s a boy. However, the focus of the story isn’t romantic, it’s pure action and adventure as they encounter intrigue and battles in and around the Ottoman Empire.
As I said, this was a fun read. I dove into a number of YA steampunk titles over the last year, including Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series. However, this series is by far the one I’ve enjoyed the most. I’d also like to point out that while the books are being sold as YA, there’s absolutely nothing in the content to stop interested younger readers from enjoying them as well. The romance is pretty mild and while there’s lots of intrigue and fighting, the story is not especially dark.