Here is the audiobook that I spent much of the 48 Hour Book Challenge listening to, though it took me another couple weeks to actually finish it. It’s also the last book in a series that I started two years ago and had missed the third book in waiting for it to come out.
Goliath by Scott Westerfeld. Read by Alan Cumming.
This is (as I was saying) the last book in the alternate-history Leviathan trilogy. Deryn and Dillon are travelling around the world in the Leviathan, trying to stop World War I. As they journey from the Ottoman Empire (where the second book, Behemoth, was set), they stop in Russia to take on board the mad inventor Tesla. Tesla claims to have invented a weapon so powerful that it will prevent all future wars, and the Leviathan is sent first to Japan and then to New York to help Tesla demonstrate the weapon. Along the way, Alek and Deryn have encounters with several more famous people, including Hearst, Pancho Villa, and a famous real-life lady reporter. There’s the steady tension of trying to prevent the war and the horrific damage that a real demonstration of Tesla’s weapon, Goliath, could cause, as well as regular exciting incidents throughout. Goliath follows the pattern set in the first book in making the characters and the setting as strong as the plot. Both of our main characters must look seriously at their future careers and personal lives. Deryn has been falling in love with Alek for a while, but it is only partway through this book that he finally learns that his best friend is a girl. And what future is there on the one hand for a prince in exile whose people don’t currently support him and whose potential throne is threatened by war? What future for a girl who will no longer be able to pretend that she is a boy when she is old enough to need to look like a man? The reflections on politics and the nature of love and friendship are never allowed to get depressing, and the presence of the Perspicacious Lorises, two adorable yet incredible intelligent engineered animals, lightens things still further. And while Alek is by nature a more serious person, Deryn is light-hearted and free-spirited, even when dealing with the serious issues that come up here. I tend to hear some of Deryn’s signature phrases, like “barking spiders,” spoken in a Scottish accent, frequently around the house whenever people are listening to this book.
So there is finally (spoiler!) some romance in this book, but nothing to offend or to turn off male readers. I’d written in my first review that it’s marketed as a teen title, but that I didn’t find anything to make it inappropriate to younger readers. I can now report that the series doesn’t get any worse in terms of violence or sex – there is some violence, more discussion of the implications of the large-scale casualties involved in war, and a very middle-grade appropriate romance. My eight-year-old (who seems to prefer older middle-grade to teen books for his listening) loved this series to the point that I’ve had to come in to his room at my bedtime to tell him to turn off the audiobook. It works very well as an audiobook. Alan Cumming is adept at doing different voices and accents for at least the main characters – officers of the same rank and nationality end up sounding a little similar, but I can live with that. While he’s good at European accents, I found his American accents a little grating – but as the American characters were also somewhat grating, that also didn’t spoil my enjoyment of the book. I am always on the look-out for books and series that will appeal to both genders, and this series does have strong cross-gender as well as multi-aspect (plot, character, and setting) appeal.