Title: Behemoth
Author: Scott Westerfeld
Illustrator: Keith Thompson
Narrator: Alan Cumming
ISBN: 9781442334106
Pages: 485 pages
Dics/CDs: 8 CDS, 9.5 hours
Publisher/Date: Simon Pulse, c2011. (Audio: Taped Editions)

His words faded as a metal groan filled the air, the world tilting beneath them. Deryn’s dress boots skidded sideways on the silk carpet, and everyone went stumbling toward the howdah’s starboard side. The railing caught Deryn at stomach level, and her body pitched halfway over before she righted herself.
She stared down–the foreleg pilot below had toppled from his perch, and lay sprawled in a circle of protesters. They looked as surprised as the pilot did, and were bending down to offer help.
Why had the man fallen from his saddle?
As the machine stumbled to a halt, something flickered in the corner of Deryn’s vision. A lasso flew up from the crowd and landed around the shoulders of the rear-leg pilot, then he, too, was yanked from his seat. A man in a blue uniform was scrambling up the front leg.
“We’re being boarded!” (115)

In this sequel to Leviathan and predecessor to Goliath, Deryn (still assuming the identity of a boy on the airship Leviathan) and his crew have arrived to Istanbul to deliver Dr. Barlow’s mysterious packages. On the way there, Alek and his guard are involved in a misunderstanding that portrays them as treasonous. It doesn’t help when war is officially called against Austria-Hungary, and Alek is forced to flee certain imprisonment. Both Deryn and Alek find themselves enlisting the help of an American reporter there to cover the war, but can they really trust a man whose goal is to publish the secrets that he uncovers? As resistance against Istanbul’s government increases, Deryn and Alek might have gotten in over their heads.

I couldn’t believe that it had been over a year since I had read Leviathan! The plot just stays with you so strongly, I was able to pick up right where the story left off like I had read it yesterday. Just as fast paced as the first one, Scot Westerfeld keeps the action high with attacks on whale ships, mechanical vehicles that remind me of Star Wars ATAT and ATST walkers (even if they are described as resembling animals), and the characters themselves. We see Deryn engage in some unique hand-to-hand combat as well as some destructive espionage and spy maneuvers. The politics are described extremely well, although they still might prove confusing to some readers. The only quibble I have is that the genetically modified animals appear less unique to me in this book, with quite a few displaying mimicry skills. However, this could easily be accounted for as a skill that is most desired during war-time.

I listened to the audiobook this time, and Alan Cummings did an amazing narration job. But I found myself craving Thompson’s drawings and requesting the print copy just to better visualize what was being described. Once again, Thompson’s drawings bring everything to life and allow readers a glimpse into this fantastical world that Westerfeld has created. Either listening or reading the book, the one supplements the other and you get an amazing experience no matter which method you prefer.

I had this book on the public desk beside me just waiting to be checked in, and one 13-year-old immediately turned it around and was flipping through the pages. When I told him it was the second one but we had the first one in, off he happily trotted, leaving a very satisfied camper who was excited to start the series. I hope he is every bit as involved in it as I am, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the third one. But, alas, I do have to wait a few more days until it’s returned by the current borrower. A fine middle novel with a satisfying ending but an ending that also sets the scene for a much-anticipated sequel, which is already available. Recommend this genre bending book to advanced readers who aren’t quite ready for the guts, gore, or romance of the older teen materials.