Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Book Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

I'm sort of annoyed with myself for checking the second installment of Scott Westerfeld's new series, Behemoth, out of the library so quickly. I had other stuff to read (mainly from certain neglected challenges) and the final novel, Goliath, won't be published until October, and depending on how long it takes the library to obtain a copy, I may or may not be reading it until November or December. Meanwhile, I'm sort of dying to know how it ends.

I was torn on how to review this book, as the series is relatively new and I can't talk about the second book without spoiling the ending of the first (and I don't like doing that). So, in the interest of not being That Jackass who posts spoilers of new-ish books in their review, I'm going to use blogger's handy page-break feature to hide the rest of this review. Spoilers behind it, click at your own risk.

(I intend on doing this when I review the next installments in The Hunger Games series and for any other books in a series.)

Behemoth picks up where Leviathan left off: Alek and Deryn aboard the Leviathan, on an emergency diplomatic mission to the Ottoman Empire that is meant to mend the rift that has erupted between Darwinist England and the neutral Empire (in an incident nearly identical to what precipitated the Ottoman Empire's involvement in the real WWI, the British military "borrowed" a ship promised to the Empire). When they arrive, however, they discover that they came too late: the Ottoman Empire has been overrun by German Clankers, and their sultan is hostile to the diplomatic party. Meanwhile, Alek, afraid that the Leviathan's captain and crew will discover his true identity, flees the ship with his men and hides out in Istanbul. Deryn is tasked with a secret mission designed to sabotage Istanbul's defenses. When her men are captured, she, too, flees to the city. Both are stranded, and must find a way to reunite with the Leviathan.

Overall, I enjoyed Behemoth far more than I did Leviathan. So much of Leviathan was devoted to explaining the characters' backstories and establishing the world that not much happened, plot-wise, and it dragged in parts. Behemoth, on the other hand, was mostly action, and therefore much more enjoyable. The characters spend more time focusing on what's ahead of them rather than themselves, thereby making the novel a lot more interesting. A whole new raft of interesting characters was introduced as well, which was a refreshing change from the stereotypical nature of many of the characters who figured prominently in Leviathan. Many of the elements that made Leviathan enjoyable are still present: Westerfeld's ability to meld history and fiction, the interesting nature of the world, and, of course, the engrossing, fast-paced nature of the plot. I tore through this book in about three hours.

I give it 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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