Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
The Crown Tower: The Riyria Chronicles, Book 1 starts with a nice forward from the author, Michael J. Sullivan, where he explains why he decided to write the prequel stories, The Riyria Chronicles, after having published The Riyria Revelations. And in the forward he says that he wrote them in a way that readers could enjoy reading the stories in order of publication (Revelations first, then Chronicles) or in order of events (Chronicles first, then Revelations). Having read all The Riyria Revelations books and now having listened to the first of The Chronicles, I think that is mostly true - you could follow the story in either order. However, The Crown Tower is bound to be a joy and great fun to anyone who enjoyed The Revelations, but isn't likely to be as compelling to those who have not. All the world building and plot setup is done in The Revelations and you just aren't going to understand what it means when someone says, "By Maribor,....", the hostility toward "the church", and some other references in The Crown Tower without reading The Revelations books. The Revelations is the place to fall in love with Michael Sullivan's world and its characters; The Chronicles provide icing on a really great cake.
If you have already read and loved The Revelations, you are gonna be thrilled with The Crown Tower. The boys (Hadrian and Royce) are back, but not quite the amazing pair they came to be in The Revelations. The Crown Tower goes through their first adventure together forced on them by Professor Arcadius (remember him??) and we get some wonderful insights into how these opposites came together to make such a great team. Michael Sullivan's style is consistent - quick paced, great settings, good plotting, even minor characters have dimension, and very witty dialog. One other similarity with The Revelations; Sullivan writes great fight scenes even for a reader like me who isn't too into the normal violence of high fantasy. In addition to taking us back to the beginning of the daring duo, The Crown Tower gives us an origin narrative for Gwen which I found surprisingly compelling. I will admit that I wasn't overly fond of the Gwen character in The Revelations books - mostly only liked her for her protectiveness of Royce. However, when you get the back-story on Gwen, she becomes a much more sympathetic and understandable character.
I really like the pairing of Sullivan's writing with Tim Reynolds narration. Not only did Reynolds do the narration for The Revelations books which keeps The Crown Tower sounding nicely consistent, but Reynolds seems a natural for Sullivan's books. Reynolds shades his voice more than changing it for character voices/accents, but it is plenty to make the dialog easy to follow and keeps Sullivan's very adventuresome writing from sounding "over the top" while still maintaining a nice narrative tension throughout the book.
If you haven't read The Riyria Revelations books, please start there and if you like high fantasy at all you will love them. If you have read The Riyria Revelations, dive into The Crown Tower and be prepared to not want to stop until the end of the book. This is a totally satisfying listen that will still leave you wanting MUCH more!!
I listened to Red Country a couple of times before I was able to comment because this book blew my socks off! Although Abercrombie has used the quasi-Renaissance fantasy world and some of the characters of his previous books, this story reads very much like a western in the style of Unforgiven with a dash of True Grit and Shane thrown in and includes no magic and little of the fantastical at all. But what is really mind boggling is that with all the standard Abercrombie dark wit, violence, and black-hearted characters this is at the crux a story about human beings burdened with guilt and/or shame and a desire for revenge coming to terms with forgiving others and themselves. Forgiveness, redemption, reconciliation, justification haven't been reviewed in such an action-packed and accessible format since The Count of Monte Cristo. There is no sugar-coating or exactly happy ending with Abercrombie, but Red Country does have a more satisfying conclusion than many of the author's previous books (and wraps up some loose ends from First Law series). When you add the amazing narration of Steven Pacey to this multi-layered tale, you have one terrific audiobook. You don't have to have read the First Law series to appreciate Red Country, but there will be even more nuance to the character development if you have. You could just read this as a good action-oriented western, but you can hardly miss and will probably enjoy the great writing and truly interesting personal evolution of the characters as well.
Somehow I have overlooked Martha Wells in my years of reading fantasy, but as Audible started adding some of her books, I checked this author out and realized she's not only a fellow Texan, but a fellow Aggie (Wells has an anthropology degree from Texas A&M) so I knew I wanted to give her work a listen. Although The Element of Fire was her debut novel, it has been recently revised by the author. I don't know what revisions she made, but this version is wonderful. This is high fantasy set in the country of Ile-Rien which is a little like 18th century France (so not your typical medieval high fantasy setting), with the plot driven as much by political intrigue as it by standard battles, and multi-faceted characters that a listener can really relate to. The beginning of the book is a bit challenging because Wells sets you down right in the middle of the action and then slowly unveils all the workings of Ile-Rien and its people as you move through the narrative. This makes for a fast-paced plot, but it takes a little while (about 2 hours into the story for me) to really connect with the characters. However, once I really got to know Kade, I was totally hooked. Suspenseful plot, engaging characters, a touch of romance (nothing sappy or hokey), some fun wry humor and snappy dialog - what's not to like?
Derek Perkins is a superb narrator and good fit for this book. He has a cultured English accent with a warm, nicely modulated voice and he does good character voices - especially for the Fae. This is a male narrator who doesn't make the women characters sound wimpy or goofy.
I will definitely be listening to more from Martha Wells.
I write reviews to help readers, not to win votes. My reviews are my honest opinion whether popular or not. I hope they help you. ;)
If you like Harry Dresden or Iron Druid you will like this series. This is the second in the series and it has all the action of the first and expands on character development and backstory as well. Mr Jackson does an excellent job reading this book.
The only negative (and hence the loss of stars in performance) was that the quality of the recording wasn't that good. The sound was tinny and had echoes in places. You could hear where they cut from one reading to the next. The funniest part is you could hear what was going on in the booth in a few parts. I could even hear Mr. Jackson's stomach growl twice during the reading. He's doing a great job, someone get the man a sandwhich for goodness sakes!
Overall, great story and performance. The series is fast paced and action filled without negelecting character development. The worls is rich and well developed as is the system of magic. You can't go wrong with this one.