Book Review: Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

cover image for Behemoth
Click here for the Amazon page

Overall Rating: 5 stars (Loved It!)

Behemoth is Book 2 of the Leviathan Trilogy.

Behemoth picks up on a cheerful front with Aleksandyr giving Daryn his (her) first fencing lesson. I liked that the book had me laughing from page 1, and looking forward to the kind of high-adventure I’ve come to expect from the series. The fabricated beasts and large, clunky diesel engines give the world a distinct flavor that I love returning to. It’s a feeling that I hadn’t realized I’d missed, and one only a fantastic series can provide.

One of the things I love about this series is the real history we are getting, attached to a fantastical world of flying whale-ships and steam-punk mechas. Westerfeld ends each installment with an afterword that explains the differences between what happened in World War I and his alternate-history take. I really appreciate that he clarifies the changes he made for the purpose of fiction.

This has been fascinating to me, since honestly I don’t know much about World War I. It seems like history class, the discovery channel, and the book shelves are all preoccupied with World War II, and the two are very different. I love how Westerfeld conveys a complex mixture of thoughts and beliefs by Europeans at that time, giving readers the beginnings of a broad outlook which we can apply to our study, if we so desire to learn more about the war.

If you’ve read any of Westerfeld’s other books (I read Peeps after this one, and am getting ready to start on the Pretties), you might come to expect a certain sexual tension from his them. However, the Leviathan series reads a little more innocently, like a higher-aged middle-grade book.

I’ve had a few favorites so far, with “I Don’t Want to Kill You” being my favorite read of the year, and “The Graveyard Book” becoming one of my favorite reads of all-time. This has become one of my favorite series, starting with Leviathan in January and with Goliath (the last installment of the series) coming out on September 20th.


Steampunk and Leviathan

Just a few months ago, I found myself lamenting that Steam Punk was not considered a valid genre for novel publishing. I held on to a hope that this, the genre where I first cracked my teeth on Role-Playing Games and Anime, would make a move into literature, and that I might be a part of it.

Oh, little did I know.

cover for leviathan
Amazon Page for Leviathan

Thing is, Steam Punk IS publishing. Take as a recent example Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, my new #1 book of the year. It’s an alternative history steampunk novel in which the French and British are called “Darwinists”, fabricating war machines out of genetically engineered animals. The Germans and Soviets, called “Clankers”, go to war with big, loud, armored walking machines.

This is a book for young adults, and so the two main protagonists are adolescents – one being the exiled son of the Austrian Archduke, the other a girl posing as a boy so she can join the British Air Force.

And how would a book taking place in an alternate 1920’s be complete without some black-and-white illustrations? Without a doubt, they add a lot to the experience, which makes me wonder why we gave up illustrations in the first place. They didn’t used to be a “kids-books-only” thing.

Because it is January, I can’t guarantee that Leviathan will stay at the top of the charts, but I will guarantee it as a fun read if you’re looking for some steampunk to enjoy.