Review originally posted here
.Why I Read It:
Next (and last) in a series. There are possible spoilers for the first two books here, as well as some spoilers for this final installment. If you're paranoid, just skip to my "Final Verdict" and you'll be fine.
So I knew for sure that two things would happen in this book:
1) Alek would find out that Derryn is actually a girl.
2) Alek and Derryn would finally get together and live happily ever after.
But I was curious how Westerfeld was going to handle it.
For the first point, I thought it was handled really well. I was a little surprised at how EARLY Alek finds out about Derryn, but it really did make sense. How else would his feelings evolve into feelings or luurrvvee if he didn't know Dylan was in fact his preferred gender? So because he found out so soon, there was a lot anger and resentment and broken trust and hurt feelings, but just like Derryn predicted in Behemoth
, Alek gets over it and their friendship is forged anew. I loved reading about Alek's conflicted feelings because on the one hand, despite Derryn being a girl, he still finds himself missing his friend, and he's not particularly mad that she's a girl per se (though he does make some fairly sexist comments), but he's mad that she would keep any secrets between the two of them.
And then the romance! Derryn really puts herself out there and doesn't hold anything back from Alek now. I loved how mature they were about it all too. They both know that they can't be together if Alek decides to take the throne, but they don't angst about it -- not more than can be expected of fifteen year olds anyway -- and leave things unsaid until they actually have time to address them. The conclusion is predictable, but incredibly satisfying (though I have read reviews where people feel like Alek fell in love with Derryn a little too quickly. I'm inclined to agree, but I love these two together so much that I just didn't find myself caring.)
With all this talk of our two main leads I've failed to mention anything about the plot. This time around the story revolves the famous Nikola Tesla and his giant Tesla cannon that's been dubbed the Goliath. After doing some research in Siberian forest that has been decimated, Tesla has deduced that the destruction was in fact produced by the Goliath. If that's true, than that means he can coerce the Germans into peace with the threat of the Goliath behind him. What I found interesting about this main thread was something Westerfeld had said in his afterword of Behemoth
, mainly that the real historical Tesla had made a device which he claimed could shoot down like 10,000 planes or something ridiculous like that. Of course it wasn't true though. So I wondered the true nature of the Goliath the entire time I was reading, like the characters: Did the Goliath actually work? Would Westerfeld stick with what he had said previously, or was he going to make the device actually work (this IS *alternate*-history after all)? Because I never knew, the stakes DID feel high and I was DYING to know.
I liked that Westerfeld expanded on his alternate WWI era world even further by having our leads travel through Asia and then continue on to the United States. We get to see more incarnations of Clanker and Darwinist technology, and places where both technologies are integral to the culture (like Japan and the U.S., though the U.S. itself was divided between Clanker and Darwinist technology because of the Civil War -- brilliant! -- whereas in Japan the two were much more integrated).
I have to say though, that even after having read all the books I'm STILL left wondering how the lorises were supposed to make the Ottoman Empire take Britain's side. It's clear that the critters are super smart and unlike other beasties (mainly in that they learn, as opposed to being engineered for a single purpose like the messenger lizards), but I'm not sure how they were to supposed to shift an entire war. This question is brought up by other characters in the text, and most just theorize that Dr. Barlow wanted time in Istanbul, but other than that, we're never really told much else. So it's not a complaint per se, I'm just curious.
All in all, everything comes to a satisfying conclusion. Obviously the war isn't over and our heroes didn't end it (as much as Alek wanted to) and I appreciated that they didn't -- that would have required a little too much suspense of disbelief and I think Westerfeld handled everything really well and in a satisfying way.Final Verdict:
I loved this series from start to finish and I'm so glad I read them all in one go instead of waiting forever to read them all (I have a nasty habit of reading the first book in a series, loving it, and then never getting to the rest of the series.) The world-building in this series has been some of the most well thought-out and imaginative I've ever come across and extremely likable characters to accompany it. This conclusion is somewhat predictable in many aspects, but those bits were so satisfying to read regardless, and there were enough surprises to keep things interesting. I seriously recommend this series. :)