Thursday Review: Leviathan/Behemoth/Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

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Three in one book review because I have a ton of catching up to do!

I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t get steampunk. I loved Full Metal Alchemist, but to me the setting of a story is secondary to the plot. Still, I LOVE Scott Westerfeld. Ask any of my friends, I’ve made them all read Uglies. So I gave this series a chance.

Here are the blurbs

Leviathan:

Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.

Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She’s a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.

With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn’s paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

Behemoth:

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.

Goliath:

Goliath is a magnetic beam weapon to encourage peace in 1914 alternative WW1 (between German mechanical Clankers and British Darwinist genetic animal/plant fabricators) by Serbian inventor Nicolas Tesla rescued from remote Siberia by organic 1K’ British airship Leviathan midshipman Scottish Deryn Sharp, disguised as boy Daryl to join the Air Service, and her romantic interest, Prince Aleksander, secret heir to Austro-Hungarian throne. Grey-shaded sketches of fantastical contraptions, creative beasties, and impossibly slender characters adorn most of 44 chapters.

From Russia to Tokyo, California, and New York, the cast includes familiar mentors Dr Nora Barlow, London Zoological Society boffin (and Darwin granddaughter), and fencing master Count Vogel who warns Tesla may need to be assassinated. New faces are revolutionary leader Pancho Villa in Mexico, and newspaper and film mogul William Randolph Hearst showing first cliff-hanger episode from silent movie “Perils of Pauline”. Hungry giant bears, ocean storms, attacking forces from sky, land, and underwater – how can the penniless royal and brave commoner achieve world peace and personal happiness?

I didn’t like this series as much as Uglies (of course). I was a little underwhelmed and it took me a bit to get into, but once I got into it it kept me reading. The characters were interesting and the plot kept me guessing but it felt very gimmicky. I think it was maybe intended for the younger spectrum of the YA audience so that might have had something to do with it.

I was underwhelmed by this series, but I’d still be hard pressed to write something better. Westerfeld is a master of world building and pacing. His books are always fast paced, vivid, and make you feel like you’ve become immersed in a world to the point where you walk away feeling like you learned a new language. I kind of want to say barking spiders when something surprising happens much like I wanted to say bubbly for cool after reading Uglies. My goal is to one day be as good at setting and pacing as Westerfeld, so I can’t give any of his books less than five stars because he’s one of my idols. Read him. He’s amazing.

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