Sunday, May 13, 2012
Breakdown of a Heroine: Deryn Sharp
Please note that this post may contain minor spoilers for the Leviathan & Behemoth. Anything that is a spoiler for Goliath will be labeled beforehand.
Who is Deryn?
Deryn Sharp, or Dylan Sharp as she like's to be called when she's in disguise, is a midshipman on Leviathan, an airship in Her Majesties Navy during the Great War. Flying has always been her dream and she wants to serve her country, which requires pretending to be a boy.
Strength of Character?
Deryn is so many things I admire in a person. She's brave enough to serve in the military and never shies away from danger. She's loyal to her friends, keeping their secrets even when it goes against orders, particularly Prince Alex heir to the Austrian throne. She manages to find the balance between her duty to her country and doing what's right for herself and her friends.
Deryn's story really gets underway in Leviathan when her airship crashes in the Swiss Alps. It's there she encounters our other protagonist Alek (a hero in his own right) when he tries to save the airship's crew from starvation in the glacial wilderness. From there they go on an adventure that spans the globe. From helping start a revolution in the Ottoman empire, to trying to avoid intrepid reporters in America, to fighting the Germans-- Deryn does it all and bravely.
This series has one of my favorite YA romances. For the most part it stays in the background. There's a war to fight, assassination attempts to avoid and a revolution to start. The characters don't ever forget what's important or their priorities. At the same time the book doesn't ignore that your feelings affect your decisions, especially in life and death situations.
SPOILERS AFTER THIS SPOILERS SPOILERS
When everything finally comes to fruition in Goliath it's done perfectly. The revelation that Dylan is actually a girl named Deryn is well done. Often these things are drawn out and painful. But Westerfeld created two intelligent main characters and allows them to figure it. He doesn't need to bang the characters (and the reader) over the head with the truth before they accept it. I don't think I've ever seen it done this well and I read a lot of girls pretending to be boys stories. For Alek and Deryn it always comes back to the friendship they've built, the loyalty and the trust. It's a relationship based on being intellectual equals and mutual admiration. They are both heroes and respect each other.
I feel like me and this series were meant to be together. The story of an alternative steampunk WWI, a girl dressed in boy clothes and a global adventure is just my style. This series is spectacular and highly recommended, especially if you like history. Deryn is near the top of heroines I love. She's brave, clever and such a loyal friend. She's the type of girl anyone would be fortunate to know.
Right after I finished I tweeted about how I'd stayed up late to finish Goliath and that I loved it. Scott Westerfeld tweeted me back a link to some bonus material. Trust me it's worth having a look.