Goliath by Scott Westerfeld

by Bridget

Warlike bears as tall as houses, gun-wielding machines that march on two legs, freakishly astute―yet adorable―talking animals, and weapons that issue lightning instead of bullets―Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan trilogy, concluded with Goliath, has all these and more in the setting of a very interesting World War I.

The nations of the Triple Entente (Britain, France, and Russia) are Darwinists, breeding “fabricated” creatures of combined DNA. Their enemies, Germany and Austria-Hungary, are Clankers, building fearsome steam-powered walking machines. When Archduke Franz Ferdinand is assassinated, a war of ideologies breaks loose between the two sides.

I was hooked on the idea of Leviathan before it came out, and delighted that it and its sequel, Behemoth, came through on their promises of humor, adventure, and unique alternate history.

The series centers on the intertwining stories of Deryn Sharp and Prince Aleksandar of Hohenburg. Alek is the son of the Archduke, on the run from his father’s enemies. Deryn is a Scottish girl who disguises herself as a boy in order to serve on the British airship Leviathan, made from the pooled DNA of a hundred species. Goliath takes them on a cross-the-globe journey that features more real historical figures than we’ve met elsewhere in the series. Especially prominent is egotistical and madcap inventor, Nikola Tesla, whose genius and insanity create the central conflict.

Goliath could coast on the power of its sheer awesomeness: its inventive technologies, fast-paced adventuring, and daring acts of bravery.  But it is the charming and immensely likable characters that make the book really special (which is not to say that the man-made monsters, secret nighttime escapades, and non-metaphorical cliff-diving don’t make it all the more interesting).

The protagonists share the narration, making for some great moments of dramatic irony. Deryn is, as her name suggests, a very sharp thinker and exemplary midshipman. Alek, whom she repeatedly calls “daft prince,” is often less perceptive but makes up for his occasional unawareness with passion for what, and who, he loves. They are equal heroes, each getting their share of triumphs and blunders.

The artwork, by Keith Thompson, is downright spectacular. The fifty-plus illustrations range in size from a fraction of a page to two-page spreads. The character portraits are delightful in their expressiveness and the scenic shots are gorgeous.

Goliath does all the things a final installment ought to. Characters from the previous books make their appropriate final appearances, deceptions are cleared, and all loose ends are tied up. The ending is worthy of fist-pumping and a happy dance, although I felt that there was slightly more than enough mystery left over. For those saddened by the reality that there will be no more Leviathan novels, The Manual of Aeronautics, a full-color, large-format guide to the series’ world, is set to be released next August.

Fans will not be disappointed: Goliath is a satisfying end to a brilliant series.


Bridget is a high school senior who is delighted to be writing (a favorite activity) about books (a favorite subject). Her favorite genre is fantasy, but she has been known to have an eclectic taste. Her other loves are music, dancing, and history.

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