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.
Bottom line: If you have come this far in the Temeraire series, you will definitely want to grab Blood of Tyrants and you will enjoy much of it. This series is one that must be read in order and if you haven't started it, I recommend it as wonderful alternate history fantasy - start with His Majesty's Dragon.
This is not the best book in the series - actually, I'd say it is the weakest. But if you have gotten to book 8, you have probably come to love these characters as I have and spending time with them again is enormous fun in spite of a rather frantic inconclusive plot line for this edition. Laurence's amnesia that begins the book is silly, but does serve as a reminder not only of past events in the series (catching us up for the home stretch I guess) as Laurence slowly recovers, but also calls up one of the central elements that makes this series truly grand. The walk down memory lane recalls the moral/ethical development of both Temeraire who started his life as a blank slate and Laurence who started the series with a moral code externally dictated by his station, government, and culture. Watching Temeraire and Laurence both grow in the development of personal conscience and understanding of the the other's perspective has been a delight and has made this series special in the world of fantasy. (In addition to having the best dragons since Pern!)
Novik takes her human/dragon duo to Japan, China, and Russia in this installment of the Napoleonic wars as fought with dragons. However, in spite of an inordinate number of skirmishes and all-out battles in this book, the over-arching plot line is little advanced, the Laurence/Temeraire relationship is only explored from the past (because of the hokey amnesia thing) with little opportunity for the two to grow as they have in previous episodes, and the book has a rather graceless ending with everything up in the air.
Although Blood of Tyrants seems to be mostly a set-up for the Grand Finale of the Temeraire series, I still really enjoyed it and recommend it to all Temeraire fans. A little time with not only our heroic duo, but also some fun moments with clever Emily, long-suffering Granby, and the hilarious, narcissistic Iskierka, in addition to the ever-so-fabulous voices of Simon Vance makes this a good listen. I think and hope Novik is prepping us for a really great conclusion.