Happily Ever After

It is highly recommended that you, at the very least, read the first three Selection novels (The Selection, The Elite, and The One) before reading the Happily Ever After collection. Most of the stories will be all kinds of confusing if you don’t. Get to it!

After finishing The Heir a couple of days ago, I just couldn’t let go of the world Kiera Cass created in her Selection series, so I decided to finish up the novellas included in Happily Ever After. These stories include a few I’d already read in ebook form, but I ended up rereading a couple because I forgot what happened (and because I neglected to write posts on them).

Like I indicated at the beginning of this post, each of these stories is best approached after already becoming familiar with what happens in the first three novels in the series. I’ll try to explain why as I we go along. Let’s get started…

The Queen (Selection #0.4)

I actually did manage to do a short write-up of this novella, and you can read that here. Even though The Queen serves as a prequel to the entire series, I would read it after finishing The One so that you can adequately compare the characters of Amberly, America, Clarkson, and Maxon. Each of the characters is very different, and they all approached hardships in varied–and not always positive–ways.

If you’re curious, I still think King Clarkson is a butt-faced jerk.

The Prince (Selection #0.5)

This is one of the stories I re-read so that I could remember exactly where it fit in the Selection timeline. The Prince, obviously, is told from Maxon’s perspective, and it takes place both immediately before and during the first days of his Selection. I would say that this story can be read after finishing The Selection.

The Prince provides an interesting look into Maxon’s rather tense dealings with his father, his feelings on the Selection as a whole, and his earliest interactions with America. In this story, Maxon also struggles with the very concept of love. If he can’t feel anything for a girl who he’s known forever and professes her love for him, how can he possibly grow to love one of the thirty-five girls chosen by his overbearing father, all in a matter of months? Luckily, his mind is somewhat eased fairly early on.

I think it’s clear to see in this story that, for Maxon, the winner of his Selection was decided before the competition even began.

The Guard (Selection #2.5)

The Guard, told from Aspen’s perspective, should be read after finishing The Elite.

If you’re at all familiar with this series (and by this point, you should be), you know that Aspen was America’s first love back in Carolina, and he’s now a palace guard. Both he and America are still very close, and Aspen is trying to envision a future where they can be together…even as he sees America winning the heart of the future king.

While Aspen is looking for any stolen moments with America that he can find, another guard and a Selection contestant are caught in a compromising situation. The consequences of their actions make him think about his relationship with America and how far he’ll go to keep her in his life. Is he willing to risk everything? Is she? (If you’ve already read the first three books, you know the answers to these questions, but it’s still fun to see things from Aspen’s point of view.)

The Favorite (Selection #2.6)

This story, which I read for the very first time this morning, might be my favorite (Ha!) of these short stories. It focuses on Marlee, America’s closest friend in the competion. This girl managed to make it to the Elite round of competition for Maxon’s hand…before she threw it all away for love.

The Favorite begins immediately after the Halloween party (seen first in The Elite) that changed everything. Marlee and Carter, a palace guard, were discovered with each other, and they’re now in the palace cells awaiting their punishment. Marlee is certain they’ll be sentenced to death, but they are to be publicly caned and virtually exiled instead. As long as she and Carter can be together, Marlee is willing to take whatever punishment the King dishes out.

Marlee is unprepared, though, for just how vicious this caning actually is. The fact that her family is forced to watch doesn’t help the situation. Through it all, though, Carter is there with her, professing his love. And, even though she doesn’t realize it at the time, her friend America–and even Prince Maxon–are there for her at what seems to be her lowest point. With Carter by her side and good friends who’ll move heaven and earth to help her, Marlee feels like she’s won something more precious than a crown.

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Okay…so those are the four major short stories in this collection. But wait, there’s more! Happily Ever After also includes several extras that are worth a mention:

  • Endpapers that feature a map of Illéa. This map clarifies a few things for me. Also, I really like geography, so I enjoyed comparing this map to the current map of North America and figuring out why places were redrawn and renamed the way they were. (Yes, I know this makes me even more of a nerd than some of you probably thought. I’m okay with that.)
  • Lovely illustrations peppered within each story.
  • Several scenes from Celeste’s perspective. These were particularly enlightening, given that I loathed Celeste for most of the series. She really grew from the spoiled, entitled girl we first met into someone who would do whatever she could to redeem herself.
  • The Maid. Told from Lucy’s point of view, this story gives readers a look into this girl’s budding romance with Aspen. Lucy, who serves as one of America’s maids, is worried that Aspen can never let go of his first love. It’s up to Aspen to convince Lucy that she’s truly the one for him.
  • After the One. This story is an epilogue for The One and, obviously, should be read after finishing that book. It is very sweet and serves as a great lead-in to The Heir.
  • “Where Are They Now?” Updates on three of the Selection candidates and what happened to them after this huge chapter in their lives came to an end.

All in all, Happily Ever After is a must-read if you’re a Selection fan. I thoroughly enjoyed it, and I’m glad I spent this last day of 2015 immersed in this world. For more on all things Selection, visit Kiera Cass’ website.

With that, I bid you adieu. I hope everyone has a fantastic New Year’s Eve. Be safe out there, and be sure to come back here tomorrow for my year in review, my reading resolutions, and the books I’m most looking forward to in 2016. Happy New Year!

The Queen

Note: If you plan to read The Queen, a Selection novella by Kiera Cass, you really must read the books and novellas that preceded it…even though The Queen really serves as a prequel to all of them. Check out my posts on The Selection, The Elite, and The One if you’re curious about this series. You also may want to read The Prince and The Guard, two more novellas that I didn’t get around to posting on (probably because I’m lazy). All of this reading will help to put The Queen and its main characters in context.

Before she was the Queen and mother to Prince Maxon, she was just a girl named Amberly…

When Amberly was chosen to take part in the Selection, she somehow knew destiny was at work. She’d been in love with Prince Clarkson for most of her life, and now she would have the chance–however slim–to become his wife. But could he look past her work-roughened hands, her near-constant headaches, and her caste? Could a prince possibly care about someone like her?

Somehow, Amberly manages to catch Clarkson’s eye, and she’s sure that he is at least beginning to return her feelings. She makes it clear that the Prince is the absolute center of her world, but is that enough to make her a future Queen?

Forces are working to keep Clarkson and Amberly apart–Clarkson’s mother, the increasing threat of rebellion in Illéa, and a crisis that will jeopardize all of Amberly’s plans for her future–but these two young people are nothing if not determined.

Clarkson will be the future King of Illéa, and he wants Amberly by his side. How will everything unfold? Read The Queen to find out!

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So…if you haven’t read The Selection series (and the obviousness of the novella’s title escapes you), I’ve just spoiled this story for you. Yes, Amberly does become the Queen of Illéa, but it is interesting to read just how that happened.

This story also goes a long way in explaining why Amberly stayed with Clarkson when he was being such a butt-faced jerk in The Selection. When I read The Selection trilogy, I admit that I judged Amberly for sticking by Clarkson when he was acting like an asshole. (Sorry for the cursing, but that word is the most accurate one I could think of.) While I still judge her a bit for appearing to be a doormat, I at least understand her reasoning a little better. I don’t approve, but I do understand.

To those who have read the entire Selection series, I think you’ll be interested in how Amberly handled her place in the Selection versus how America dealt with things. Each girl had her own way of doing things, and each one faced their own set of unique circumstances, but there were some parallels in their backgrounds and in the way they interacted with their princes. Which girl had the better approach? I can’t really say, so I’ll leave that for you to ponder.

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If you still haven’t gotten enough of The Selection, have no fear! Kiera Cass is gracing us with more from this captivating world. The Favorite, another novella, will be released on March 3rd (my birthday!), and this one gives readers a glimpse at Marlee and her life with Carter.

Also–*insert fangirl squeal here*–The Heir, a whole new Selection novel, will be out on May 5th! Let’s take a look at the absolutely gorgeous cover, shall we?

Pretty, pretty, pretty. Apparently, this book revolves around Princess Eadlyn, the daughter of America and Maxon, and her own Selection for a prince. If The Selection was The Bachelor on steroids, I guess now we’re giving The Bachelorette her turn. I can hardly wait!

For more information on The Selection saga and author Kiera Cass, check out her website, Twitter, and the Selection Facebook page.

 

The One

Stop right now if you haven’t already read The Selection, The Elite, The Prince, and The Guard by Kiera Cass. I finished The One, the final book in this series, last night, and I’d hate to give anything away if you haven’t read any of the previous books yet! (FYI: The Prince and The Guard are Selection short stories. It’s not totally necessary to read them before reading The One, but it does help to put certain elements of the series in perspective.)

What can I say about The One without giving too much away? I honestly don’t know. I’m kind of flying by the seat of my pants here. I started reading this highly-anticipated book two nights ago, and I proceeded to devour it. I finished it last night, so I’ve had just a little while to process things. (I did dream about it last night. That was kind of weird.) Anyhoo, I’m not entirely sure how I feel about what transpired in this book. Did it end the way I expected it to? Partially. Were some curveballs thrown my way? Um, yeah.

In The One, readers are once again swept away into the world of America Singer. America is now in the top four of the Selection, and, though she knows the king despises her and would be glad to see her leave, Maxon, the prince and heir to the throne, wants to keep her around. Does he love her? Well, he’s never said so…but, then again, neither has America. America is never quite sure where she stands with Maxon, and she’s hesitant to give her heart to him if he’s considering choosing someone else to be his future queen.

America is also holding on to her past. Her former boyfriend, Aspen, is still in her thoughts. With Aspen being a guard at the palace, it’s hard to separate from her past and look toward a possible future with Maxon. And what if Maxon doesn’t choose her? Should she throw Aspen aside when he could be the one she needs when the Selection is over? Is that thought even fair to Aspen, Maxon, or herself?

Added to the pressures of the Selection and her own confusing feelings, America and Maxon have also become embroiled in a quest to change things in the kingdom of Illéa. The Northern rebels seek to form an alliance with Maxon and America, but that could mean thwarting the king…and possibly ensuring that America win this competition for the crown. America is also about to realize just how deep the rebellion against the tyrannical King Clarkson goes…

Turmoil reigns in Illéa, and soon everyone has to decide what side they’re on. Secrets are revealed, lives are lost, and everything is about to change. Will the rebels succeed in their mission? Will the caste system in Illéa finally see its end? What could that mean for Maxon and the girl chosen to be his future queen? Will that queen be America, or will circumstances–both in the rebellion and of America’s own making–endanger her chances of becoming the Selection winner…and claiming Maxon’s heart forever? Does America really have a chance to be the One?

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Before I get to any issues I had with this series finale, let me say that I did enjoy this book. Most of it was fairly satisfying. (It must have been, or I wouldn’t have zoomed my way through it in less than 24 hours.) I found myself anxious, mad at times, and hopeful for a happy ending. And while all of the ending wasn’t exactly happy, I think the series ended the way it was supposed to.

All that being said, I did feel like things were a little rushed at the end of The One. I had about 30 pages to go, and I thought there was no way things could be resolved before the book’s conclusion. I was wrong, but it seemed like there could have been a little more explanation of what happened during the events in those last pages. (I won’t tell you what happened in those pages, but I will say that Kiera Cass packed A LOT of action into a small fraction of the book.)

Also, if you found America to be kind of wishy-washy in The Elite, you’re in for more of that in The One. I wanted to scream at her to get over herself sometimes, but I also kind of got why she was so back and forth. She was under immense amounts of pressure, and things definitely didn’t get easier for her in this book. If anything, her life was much more complicated, and that included her love life. I think a certain amount of confusion is understandable.

All things considered, I found The One to be a fitting conclusion to this wonderful series. (And I’m not even talking about the addition to the series’ stellar covers.) It was an emotional read, and I think fans of the series will be happy with the way things ultimately ended…if not the path taken to get there.

For more information on The One, the entire Selection series, or author Kiera Cass, visit the author’s website, Twitter, or Facebook. Also, if you missed the book trailer for The One, you can check that out below. I hope you’ve enjoyed America Singer’s journey as much as I have!

The False Prince

I’m a kind of ashamed by how little I’ve managed to read this weekend. (It’s been a four-day weekend for me. Under normal circumstances, I might have finished at least four books.) Thanks to a doctor’s appointment, spending time with family, napping, cleaning, worrying about blood test results (which turned out fine, by the way), and watching way too much TV, I just didn’t have it in me to read much this weekend. It didn’t help that I was finding it hard to get into the book I had chosen to read, so, last night, I picked up a different book. I’d been meaning to read Jennifer A. Nielsen’s The False Prince for a while, and I decided that this book would be the one to get me out of my slump. How right I was! This book was totally engrossing, surprising, and it kept me guessing until the very end. I finished it just a few minutes ago, roughly sixteen hours after I started reading it (and that was with breaks for things like sleeping, eating, and trekking to the pharmacy). The False Prince delivers on adventure, humor, and mystery and is an excellent book for readers from upper elementary grades through adulthood. This is one book (of many I’ve read) that can’t be limited to just one age group.

The kingdom of Carthya is on the verge of war. The king, queen, and crown prince have all been murdered, and one man, Conner, has a plan to place a “false prince” on the throne–a boy who will take the place of Prince Jaron, the long-lost second son of the king and queen. He just needs to find the right boy. He searches local orphanages, and four boys are initially chosen to vie for the title of future king. One of those boys is Sage. From the beginning, Sage is hard to control. He wants nothing to do with Conner’s plan…until he realizes that failure means certain death.

It’s not always easy for sage to toe the line with Conner. He gets into considerable trouble and is punished severely. Eventually, though, Sage does what he must to convince Conner that he is the boy who should be prince, but he wonders what Conner isn’t telling him and the other boys. Why is he so sure that Prince Jaron is dead when his body was never found? What does Conner have to gain by placing an imposter on the throne? What will really happen to the boys who are not chosen for this role? Yes, Conner definitely has his secrets–some of them deadly–but he’s not the only one who’s keeping secrets. Sage knows that someone else has secrets that could turn Conner’s many plans into nothing but ash…

As Sage attempts to learn all he can to pass for the missing prince, he’s also on a quest to discover just what is going on around him. Is there anyone he can truly trust? And how will Conner, the other boys, and those he’s grown close to react when Sage’s many secrets are revealed? How will the revelation impact Conner’s plans for the throne? Discover the truth when you read The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen!

I haven’t even hinted how wonderful this book is…even though I may have hinted at a couple of major plot points. 🙂 The False Prince is an extraordinary beginning in what is sure to be a brilliant trilogy. (Book two in The Ascendance Trilogy, The Runaway King, is supposed to be released on March 1st. Happy early birthday to me!) Sage’s voice is at once humorous, vulnerable, and sarcastic…everything a reader like me enjoys. This is a book that will appeal equally to male and female readers and should be marketed to everyone in upper elementary, middle, and high schools. Adult readers will also find something to love.

I heard a rumor recently that The False Prince has been optioned for the big screen, and an editor for Game of Thrones is adapting the novel. I just went to the author’s website, and, as luck would have it, the rumor is true! Oh, happy day. I think this is awesome, and if anyone can do justice to this story, I’m hoping that someone with a hand in Game of Thrones can live up to the task.

To learn more about The False Prince and other works by Jennifer A. Nielsen, visit the author’s website, follow her on Twitter, or like her on Facebook. For your viewing pleasure, I’m also including here a short book trailer for The False Prince (produced by Scholastic) that I found on YouTube. It’s short but powerful. Enjoy!

The Selection

Before I started reading The Selection by Kiera Cass, a friend of mine related it to watching The Bachelor.  Now, I have never (and will never) watch this horrible excuse for entertainment, but I must admit that I kind of liked the premise as it applied in this book.  Maybe adding a dose of political intrigue would make “reality television” more palatable…or maybe it would make it even worse than it already is.  Who knows?  But the combination of a competition to win the heart of a prince and a “dystopian-lite” society at war was definitely enough to pique and keep my interest when it came to The Selection.  The gorgeous cover didn’t hurt, either.  (I am a sucker for pretty book cover.)

America Singer lives in the young nation of Illéa (made up of what used to be the countries of North America).  The world she lives in is based on castes, and America’s status as a musician places her closer to the bottom than the top.  Life is not always easy, but her love for Aspen, a young man in a caste lower than hers, gets her through the hard times and gives her some measure of hope for the future.  That hope, however, is about to be tested by circumstances well beyond America’s control…

In Illéa, a monarchy reigns supreme, and it is time for the young Prince Maxon to choose a bride.  But he does not choose from other royal families.  No, Prince Maxon must choose a true daughter of Illéa, a “commoner” with ties to this young country…and he must make his choice a public spectacle.  Thirty-five girls from around the country are selected to compete for the heart of the Prince—and a chance to one day be Queen.  They will live in the palace for the duration of the Selection, their castes will be elevated, and their families will be well paid.  For most girls, this would be the chance of a lifetime.  But America Singer is not most girls…

America does not want to be a part of the Selection, but her family and even Aspen convince her to at least submit an application.  After all, what are the odds that she’ll even be chosen?  Well, as it turns out, pretty good.  When America’s name is called for the Selection, her entire world changes.  She becomes an instant celebrity (something she’s not exactly comfortable with), and she’s forced to leave her family and the only boy she’s ever loved…all to compete for the hand of a man she knows will never hold her heart.

But life in the palace isn’t exactly what America expected.  Sure, it’s more glamorous and extravagant than anything she’s ever experienced—and the food is truly spectacular—but America is surprised by how quickly she adapts, makes friends, and even grows closer to Prince Maxon.  She realizes that his life isn’t quite as easy as it is portrayed on television—what with invading rebels from the north and south, trying to keep a young country intact, war as a constant threat, and choosing a future wife in front of a national audience.  No pressure there at all.  Maybe America was too quick to judge Maxon as a poor-little-rich-boy who never had to work to survive.  Maybe she could grow to love this young man who is becoming such a dear friend to her.  And maybe events will unfold that throw Illéa, America, Maxon, the Selection, and everything else into even more of a tailspin.

The Selection is an excellent book for readers who like their dystopian literature with a heavy dose of romance, especially a juicy love triangle (or, in this case, whatever type of polygon has 30+ sides).  Give this book to fans of Ally Condie’s Matched trilogy, Lauren Oliver’s Delirium trilogy, and, yes, even Suzanne Collins’ Hunger Games trilogy.

I, for one, was more intrigued by the historical and political aspects of this book than I was the romance.  (We can probably blame that political science degree that I’ve never really used.)  I loved the lessons on the history of Illéa, and I hope to learn much more about how this young monarchy came about in the next book.  Based on what little we learned about what led to the breakup of the United States in The Selection, I would say the events are entirely plausible, so I’m eager to see what the author does with the mysterious history of the U.S. and how it relates to Illéa’s current circumstances.

The next book in this series, The Elite, will be published sometime in 2013, and there’s not a lot of information available yet on the plot of this book, but I have no doubt that it will be just as gripping as The Selection.

In the meantime, you can find out more about this series and author Kiera Cass at http://www.kieracass.com/, or you can follow the author on Twitter @kieracass.  FYI, according to the author’s webpage, The Selection is being turned into a TV show by the CW network.  It won’t be out this fall, but it could be out as early as this coming spring.  I don’t quite know how I feel about that, but I’ve got plenty of time to think about it.

If you’re still not convinced to give The Selection a try, check out this book trailer from HarperTeen, and enjoy!

Goliath

Danger, danger!  If you haven’t already read Leviathan and Behemoth, the first two books in this amazing series, retreat now before proceeding with this post on the final installment in the Leviathan trilogy, Goliath.  You must read the first two books to understand what’s happening in this final book.  Read on at your own risk!

Early this year, I began reading an amazing series that would introduce me to an alternate history of World War One–a world filled with fabricated beasts and technologies as dangerous as they are awe-inspiring.  This series began with Leviathan, a phenomenal book that made be seek out more steampunk fiction.  I continued this series with Behemoth, a book that, in my opinion, was even better than its predecessor.  It was action-packed, tense, and, again, presented an alternate view of history had certain beasts and machines been present.  Well, today I finally finished the highly anticipated third and final book in this series, Goliath.  This book was–at least to this reader–the best book of the Leviathan trilogy (and one of the best books I’ve read this year).  I am sad that this journey is over, but I am very satisfied with how it ended.  I hope you will be, too.

Goliath opens with Alek and Deryn once again aboard the Leviathan.  Deryn is still keeping her true identity a secret, and Alek is lamenting his uselessness aboard the airbeast.  Both of them, however, are about to have their worlds shaken once again.  When the Leviathan is ordered to Siberia to pick up a mysterious package and a maniacal scientist, secrets begin to unravel.  Who is this madman the Leviathan has rescued, and what is his endgame?

While Deryn works with Dr. Barlow to uncover what the scientist–one Nikola Tesla–is really up to, Alek is confronted with the alarming truth about his best friend.  The boy he believed to be Dylan Sharp is actually a girl named Deryn.  She’s been masquerading as a male soldier the entire time they’ve known each other.  He’s trusted her with all of his secrets, and she’s been lying to him this whole time.  How can he trust her now?  Can their friendship recover from this?  If it can, will things be different between Alek and Deryn now that the truth is out?

Life is tense onboard the Leviathan.  With a mad scientist, a prince, a girl masquerading as a boy, reporters, and various beasties on board, how could it not be?  Well, thanks to Mr. Tesla, things are about to get even more tense.  His invention, a machine called Goliath, may have the power to end this war for good.  It is up to the crew of the Leviathan to get Tesla to New York for a demonstration of this weapon’s capabilities.  This journey takes them through Russia, Japan, Mexico, and across the expanse of the United States–a neutral power in this global war.  The airbeast encounters danger at every turn.  What dangers will it encounter once it arrives in New York, and will they be enough to bring the U.S. into this war?  Or will Tesla’s weapon stop the tide of war in its tracks?

As the Leviathan gets closer to completing its mission, Alek and Deryn are forced to face the truth of their new relationship.  But how can they possibly be together when war is tearing them apart?  Can they find a way to end this war and preserve their young love in the process?  Or will the machinations of a madman end everything for good?  Read Goliath, the trilling conclusion to the Leviathan trilogy, to learn how two young people can change the world around them.

As is often the case when I read a book as awesome as this one, this post doesn’t even come close to depicting how amazing Goliath–and the whole Leviathan series–is.  Words fail me, and that is saying something for someone as verbose as I am.  I adore this series, and I think Goliath is the best of the trilogy.  I am totally satisfied with the ending.  It tied things up nicely, but it still left room for readers to use their imaginations in determining how the future plays out for Alek and Deryn. 

As with Leviathan and Behemoth, there is an afterword that gives information about the true events that were the basis for Goliath.  It is amazing to me that Nikola Tesla was actually working on a Goliath-like machine before he ran out of money.  Just imagine what the world would be like now if he had succeeded.

If you haven’t read this series yet, what are you waiting for?  It’s wonderful, and I think readers from upper elementary grades through adulthood will find something to enjoy.  If you’d like more information on the world of Leviathan and author Scott Westerfeld, visit http://scottwesterfeld.com/.  As for me, I will now mourn the end of this series, and move on to my next book.  Happy reading.

Behemoth

Warning!!  Read Leviathan before continuing with this post.  Behemoth is the second book in this amazing series.

As you’ve mostly likely determined, I just finished reading Behemoth, the second book in Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy.  If you follow this blog at all, you know that I loved Leviathan.  It was weird, and it combined historical fiction (which I typically don’t prefer) with science fiction, creating an alternate World War One.  Behemoth picks up where Leviathan ended, and I think this second installment is more action-packed and anxiety-inducing that the first book.  I really enjoyed it, and I can’t wait to see where the third book, Goliath, will take us.

Alek and Dylan have grown closer during their time on the Leviathan, but the two friends are still harboring some big secrets.  Alek has told no one that he is the true heir to the throne of Austria-Hungary, and Dylan–or should I say Deryn–is hiding the fact that she is a girl.  Those secrets, although important, might just be taking a back seat to the war around them.  The Leviathan is headed for the seemingly neutral city of Constantinople (Istanbul), but it soon becomes clear that they are not the only visitors to this all-important city.

After a rough encounter with some German warships, the Leviathan and crew enter Constantinople only to discover that the Germans, or Clankers, have arrived ahead of them.   The Clankers have essentially taken over the city, making it into a hub of Clanker engineering and weaponry.  Neither Alek nor Deryn were prepared for what they were sailing into, but circumstances caused them to face the coming conflict head-on…

Alek, after learning that he will soon be considered a prisoner-of-war aboard the Leviathan, escapes the air beast into the streets of Constantinople.  There he faces his own enemies and makes the acquaintances of certain people who would fight the German encroachment in their fair city.

Deryn, still hiding her true identity, is given an important mission that will make possible the arrival of the British Empire’s most fearsome weapon, the behemoth.  When complications arise, Deryn is forced to seek help from Alek and his new comrades.  But can she, or Alek, trust these revolutionaries?  And what will they do when it becomes clear that the Clankers have a powerful weapon that can stop the Leviathan, and any other beast accompanying it, in its tracks?  Are they strong enough to fight the Clanker powers?  Only time will tell.  But can Alek and Deryn possibly keep their secrets when a war keeps bringing them closer together, or will these secrets only serve to drive them apart?  Read Behemoth to find out how Alek and Deryn fare in a war neither of them truly understand.

Like I said, I really enjoyed this book (maybe even more than I liked Leviathan), and I think any fans of action, danger, and suspense will find something to love in Behemoth.  I’m really intrigued by the relationship between Alek and Deryn and where it could possibly lead in the future.  I also appreciate the illustrations by Keith Thompson.  Like those in Leviathan, these pictures help me to visualize the various beasts and contraptions in this alternate world.  There is also an extremely helpful afterword at the end of the book which explains how the events in Behemoth were similar to or different than the actuality of World War One.

I look forward to finishing this trilogy in October with the third and final book, Goliath.  If Behemoth is any indication, we can expect a lot of action and conflict in this book (with hopefully a bit of resolution).  If you’d like more information about this series or any other by Scott Westerfeld, visit http://scottwesterfeld.com/.

Leviathan

I’ve been meaning to read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld for a while now, and I finally got around to it.  I wish I had read this one sooner.  It was absolutely wonderful.  Westerfeld seems to excel in whatever genre he chooses to write in, and his foray into steampunk is no exception.  (If you don’t know what “steampunk” is, check out this link from Wikipedia.  This is an amazing complete definition.)  Leviathan combines actual events that led up to World War I with Darwinist ideas and sophisticated technologies.  As Westerfeld stated in the novel’s afterword, “That’s the nature of steampunk, blending future and past.”  The world depicted in this book is at once familiar and terrifying, and it raises some ethical and philosophical questions that we struggle to answer today.

Alek is in the middle of a war.  Actually, he is one of the reasons for the war.  With the death of his parents, the world seemingly goes into a tailspin.  Were Alek’s parents killed by enemies of the Austro-Hungarian empire, or did their allies, the Germans, betray them to start a war?  Alek is really not sure, so he goes on the run to ensure his safety.  A couple of soldiers, two trusted advisors, and a military Stormwalker are all that stand between Alek and certain discovery.  If he is discovered, by either the Germans or their enemies, he knows he could share the same fate as his parents.

Deryn dreams of serving in the British Air Service.  There is just one problem–she’s a girl.  With the help of her brother and a rather convincing disguise, however, Deryn–or should I say Dylan–is able to join up, and she, somewhat unwittingly, becomes a midshipman on the airship Leviathan.  But the Leviathan is not just any airship.  It is a biological ecosystem.  The ship is made up of many different fabricated species working together to keep the “ship” aloft and on course.  Deryn is thrilled to serve on this mighty beast.  She gets to fly and be a part of something great.

Things don’t stay great for long.  War is coming to Europe, and both Deryn and Alek are right in the middle of it.  When the two meet, it becomes clear that they will have to work together to survive what is coming.  Can both of them keep their secrets in the midst of everything going on around them?  Can the Leviathan prevail against the Germans’ war machines, or Clankers?  And how will these two young people impact the world as they know it?  Read Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, and imagine the possibilities.

I really, really, really enjoyed this book.  For one thing, not many young adult novels are written about WWI, so that was a nice change of pace.  For another thing, I like weird stuff, and Leviathan had a lot of weird stuff in it, especially the fabricated animals.  (By the way, Keith Johnson’s illustrations were especially helpful in bringing these beings to life.  I don’t think my imagination could do any better.)  I urge readers to take a look at the book’s afterword so that they can learn how much of the book is based on actual events.

I can’t wait to see where Westerfeld takes us in the next book, Behemoth (which is already out), and the third book, Goliath (out in October).  For more information on the Leviathan series and other books by Scott Westerfeld, visit http://scottwesterfeld.com/blog/.  It’s an awesome site!