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Editorial Reviews

Set during World War I, Behemoth tells a steampunk-esque alternate history. As in real life, the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand triggers the conflict, but in Behemoth, the archduke has a secret heir whose life must be preserved at all costs. That is not the only historical divergence from reality, however — not by a long shot. Behemoth features a familiar sociopolitical landscape but radically different scientific one. In this world, the British and other Allies are known as “Darwinists”, as their knowledge of biological sciences is super-advanced, to the point where instead of airplanes, they have giant, living airships (such as the eponymous Behemoth), and instead of something like walkie-talkies, they have messenger lizards. The Germans, meanwhile, are known as the “Clankers”, and they have eschewed the use of the biological creatures in favor of mechanical might; so where the Darwinists might have a giant, living airship, the Clankers would have giant mechs and other mechanical marvels.

Behemoth, the second book in the series (following 2009’s Leviathan), takes the protagonists — British midshipman Deryn Sharp, and Prince Alek, heir to the throne of Austria — to Constantinople, a city where the Darwinist and Clanker philosophies collide. There, the two are thrust into an explosive political machine that threatens to destroy all they’ve worked for, even as both Darwinist and Clanker factions attempt to sway the Ottoman Empire into joining their side in the conflict.

Every bit as full of a sense of wonder as its predecessor, Behemoth is a thrilling, masterful piece of fiction, a sterling example of what alternate history, steampunk, and speculative fiction is capable of. Peppered with enough details from real history to lend the book a rich authenticity, Westerfeld spins the story in wildly new directions at the same time. Although Behemoth is categorized as a young adult novel, it’s really a must-listen for anyone who enjoys speculative and/or historical fiction — no matter their age.

Veteran and highly regarded actor of the stage and screen Alan Cumming’s performance is nothing short of enthralling. His Scottish brogue lightly accents his narration, but disappears or transforms into something else entirely when voicing the dialogue of the Austrian Prince Alek and the German Clankers and the other characters. Likewise, he does an excellent job portraying the teenage Deryn, a girl passing herself off as a boy. Somewhat subdued, without much vocal trickery, Cumming’s narration is simply a pleasure to listen to.

A brilliant book plus brilliant narration equals a surefire contender for audiobook of the year. —John Joseph Adams

Publisher's Summary

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.

©2010 Scott Westerfeld (P)2010 Simon and Schuster Audio

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OUR MEETING IS PROVIDENCE

Fabricated beasts, poisonous barnacles and steam spewing mechanical monsters are all things I enjoy. BARKING SPIDERS, I should have enjoyed this. This is my third Westerfeld novel and I like the subjects he writes about. I just could not get into this book. When you write in this genre, you need to keep coming up with new monsters, new inventions, new wow stuff and or have well developed, well loved or hated characters. I found this book too be almost exactly the same as book one, only a different location.

In this book, I lost all respect for the main characters. Darren would rather climb a tree and tell a lie, then stand on the ground and tell the truth. Every time she turns around she commits treason. The British Military is not only oblivious to the fact that they have a girl masquerading as a boy, they never catch her in her many treasons. Every time she thinks she has been caught they promote her and give her more responsibilities. Alex's life and his nation depends upon his ability to keep a secret. The phrase, he couldn't keep a secret to save his life, is so apt here, but Westerfeld lets him get by with it. I know this is a YA novel, but that does not excuse making these characters so stupid or the British Military so ignorant.

16 of 20 people found this review helpful

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Exciting, sort of a hard listen though

I've been listening to this trilogy mainly because I love the main characters' relationship and want to see how it ends up, ya know with one of them being a girl acting as a boy in the English militia, scandalous! ;)

It's incredibly imaginative and well written and BEAUTIFULLY performed but overall it's not my favorite genre and thus didn't get a super high rating from me. It's also very very detail and description oriented so sometimes it's hard to get a good mental image of all the exotic creatures Westerfeld has created.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Arwen
  • BOISE, ID, United States
  • 10-26-11

The Adventure Continues!

Here continues the engaging adventure that began in Leviathan...Aleks, Deryn and the others are vivid and winning characters. The writing is intelligent and informative but does not forget a sense of humor! Superb narration by Alan Cumming

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Jack
  • Seattle, WA, United States
  • 10-13-11

A nice follow up to Leviathan

What made the experience of listening to Behemoth the most enjoyable?

The incredible characters were the best part of Behemoth. All the folks in Instanbul who Deryn and Alek meet are pretty cool, and the rebellion which they ferment is well brought off.

What other book might you compare Behemoth to and why?

It fits right into the rest of the trilogy. Since each ends on a bit of a cliff hanger, you will want to listen to each one!

Which character – as performed by Alan Cumming – was your favorite?

i rather liked Volger - he's rascally & pretty cool as narrated here.

Any additional comments?

On to book 3!

5 of 6 people found this review helpful

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Loved this story

Great story! I grabbed this as soon as I'd finished up Leviathan as that one ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. Half way through, and the story is carrying on grandly! Can't wait to see what the perspicacious loris turns out to be & where Deryn and Aleks go next.

6 of 8 people found this review helpful

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Great story

The narrator bring the book to life! Great follow from the first book of the series.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Amazing

This book was captivating. I loved it from start to finish. One of my favorite parts was when Deryn was kissed because she made a dashing boy. The narrator made it, at times, difficult to listen easily, because of the heavy accent. Other than that, I have no complaints.
The story follows our two main characters Alex and Deryn as they continue the amazing adventure on the airship Leviathan. Through dangerous diplomatic missions, daring escapes, and assisting a rebellion, these two have plenty in store for them! Alex collects a strange fabricated beastie, while Deryn has trouble with her secrets and the ones given to her by Alex. The strange but interesting relationship between the two characters deepens, as does the plot, in this thrilling sequel to the amazing Leviathan.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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A good continuation of book 1

Leviathan and Behemoth together make for a good story. Behemoth picks up right where Leviathan stopped and it seems to me that this is really one story that the publisher decided to break up into two separate books. Putting this aside I like the books and the whole Darwinist vs. Clankers theme is excellent.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • James
  • Driftwood, TX, United States
  • 05-06-12

More complications. More adventure. Well worth it!

In case you hadn't noticed this series revolves around a love story, but a bit of an odd one. No surprise there for a YA book. The friendship between Deryn and Alek that began in Leviathan has unleashed feelings of a more complicated nature... at least for one of them. Deryn still manages to keep her gender a secret from Alek, but not from all others. And despite the obvious direction her feelings are leading her she continues her ability to conceal that particular secret from even herself.

Oh, and the world is still at war too providing an opportunity for further excitement. This time around the Clankers and Darwinists vie for the allegiance of the Ottoman empire. Our intrepid heroes find themselves separated for a time pursuing their own paths as they try to find their own place in the world as anyone their age longs to. Inevitably their paths reunite them in Istanbul. Here Westerfeld decides to take a further detour from history and throw Deryn and Alek into a hotbed of revolution that just may lead the Ottomans down a different path from the one we read about in our history books. Ever the loyal midshipman, Deryn focuses on finding a way to use the events to fulfill her duty to king and country while staying loyal to her friends. Alek seeks an opportunity to use what resources are left to him to aid a cause he can believe in.

Their enterprises are exuberantly related yet again by Alan Cumming, still one of the best readers I have had the pleasure to listen to.

4 of 6 people found this review helpful

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An average story for an average day

Although I can't honestly point to any one or two specific elements where this story went wrong, I can say it just never grabbed me. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't that exciting either. The historical elements did help and the author did a great job on melding history with fiction. This however would be a great choice for when you are waiting for one of your favorite authors to come out with one of their books. I don't regret this book at all. It was good. It just wasn't great. This was just an average story for an average day.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful