RogerBW's Blog

Behemoth, Scott Westerfeld 03 October 2018

2010 young adult steampunk SF, second of a trilogy. As an alternate Great War is beginning, the airship Leviathan visits Istanbul to give a British bribe to the Ottoman Sultan. But much more is going on behind the scenes.

Certainly it's not worth starting the series here; there's some minor catching-up and orientation, but mostly it's on with the action, as Alek (hidden heir to the Austro-Hungarian Empire) and Deryn (girl-disguised-as-a-boy midshipman) have various adventures in Constantinople (or Istanbul, as the locals would prefer they call it). Without the slow start telling us who people are and how the technology works, there's rather more happening in this book, though it's largely episodic rather than forming a single overall narrative.

Deryn groaned, her stomach winding into the same tight coils it always did when she was contemplating treason.

More to the point, the principals (and indeed some of the secondary characters) do some significant growing up; this time I could believe in them as adolescents, rather than the children they felt like in the first book. There's still nothing one could really call deep characterisation, but it does its job.

There's a certain amount of middle-volume blah here, especially with the introduction of the Perspicacious Loris which on the basis of its appearance here exists primarily to dispense plot tokens at the appropriate moment. This may improve later; other people find it charming.

There are still elements of real history here, with a varient pursuit of Goeben and Breslau (plus Tesla cannon!), and a somewhat delayed revolution by the Young Turks among others, but they're combined with various fantasy-naval activities round the Bosporus and a moderately gratuitous mention of Gallipoli.

It's still nothing mind-boggling, but it's good workmanlike stuff and an improvement on the first volume. Followed by Goliath.

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