Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld. il Keith Thompson.
Simon Pulse/Simon & Schuster: NY, 2010.

Behemoth carries on where Leviathan left off, with the airship en route to Istanbul (Constantinople). An unfortunate occurrence sours the relations between the British officers and Austrian visitors, and Prince Alek is forced to escape with his men. After a failed diplomatic attempt in Istanbul, Deryn (Dylan) is given a secret mission of sabotage. Both of them end up stranded in Istanbul, joining forces with local revolutionaries, with a common goal of limiting Germany's power.

The story focuses on a part of WWI that is less often told. The Ottoman Empire has been weakened, and locals are trying to replace the sultan with a democratic government. German and British diplomats have both attempted to gain the backing of the Ottoman Empire in the European war. In the end, the Germans are more successful. Also at this time, Austria joins Germany in their war against Britain. Prince Alek, holding a letter from the Pope confirming him as heir to the Austrian throne, is weighed down by the knowledge that perhaps his existence could end the war. Of course, that is why he is being pursued by the Germans, and in this book his identity will be revealed. Deryn's secret identity is also being threatened. Both are bribed for different purposes.

This 2nd book is much more exciting than the 1st. It is adventurous, fast paced, more historical, and more complex. Both the Clankers and the Darwinists have new technology up their sleeves. If it was not clear during the 1st book that there is spying involved, it definitely is now. Despite knowing how WWI plays out, the story (as an alternate history novel) holds out the hope that Alek, Deryn, and Dr. Barlow (on a diplomatic/military intelligence mission) can shift the direction of the impending war. Dr. Barlow is still a mysterious character. Her purpose is not fully revealed, though it seems that she has great influence in the British hierarchy.

No disappointment this time. Behemoth is excellent. Unusually creative, and anticipation is flowing. Looking forward to the next, which it appears will have a Japanese setting.

related-science fiction, imaginary creatures, genetic engineering, World War I, princes
RL=6th and up

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