Smoke me a kipper; I'll be back for breakfast.
First off - Simon Vance is amazing and he improves anything he sets his voice to. I listened to this book as part of a book club. There were many people that almost gave up or gave up on this book. The book starts very slowly so just be aware that it takes a few hours to get going.
The author was the man that helped Tolkien's son put together Silmarillion so you get the idea on his style. Many compare him to GRR Martin, which is pretty accurate. But at least Martin is enriching a world for a huge series. The author spends a lot of time on ambiance and loves to introduce characters wherever and give you various tidbits on the world even into the almost end of the book. It's just really strange pacing is what I'm getting at.
The good is that it's a decent fantasy story that explores, predominantly, what would happen if a magician was able to wipe out a culture by taking away its name. It also deals with a prince's long journey to bring down the two new leaders after the fall of said culture.
So the pluses are - standard fantasy with pretty prose & solid and believable ending.
Minuses- Too many characters using first person narrative, not enough action, didn't care about barely any of the characters.
Characters were typical fantasy characters: innocent boy, ousted prince, wizard, nubile young woman, random fighters, character drafted against his will becoming a hero for the cause.. and a host of other similar, formulaic cast members. Every man is a hero, every woman is a mix between innocent and incredibly beautiful (and willing.. for the right cause). There were some plot twists here, but never anything earth shattering or that interesting. And in multiple cases, I found myself thinking the people actually did something so OUT of character that the 'teachable moment' was unbelievable and mildly annoying.
Too much of the character development hinges on backstory. There are unnecessary subplots that take up room in this book that could have been better used to really develop the story. The sometimes weird sex scenes didn't help either: they fluctuated from useless and violating to just plain violating. The only one that seemed important to the plot was incestuous. How's that for weird?
I did love the story between Brandin and Dianora, but considering she was a slave... in hindsight I'm not sure what to make of it either. Definitely not an attempt here for truly strong female characters (all end up in (what passes for) every woman's fantasy, and all are celebrated for annoyingly mild acts of courage. Cutting off her hair gets tears and sympathetic looks, while cutting off his fingers gets advice and something like, "get back out there, soldier!")
It earns three stars for good vocabulary use, and being generally ok. The premise was very interesting, and the storytelling rich enough to keep me listening. Not really worth my credit, though.
Yes, and the narrator did an excellent job here, as usual.
Oh please no. Just.. no.
Wish I'd skipped the author commentary at the end. The book is so-so on it's own merit (interesting story, but nothing else) but the author's attempts to explain the greater themes- which failed completely here- just irritated me. If I was rating this book by what I was SUPPOSED to get out of it, I would give it 1 star. He does explain, in a way, why this book failed so completely: he had a grand plan for discussion of social issues, and then tried to build it into a story. That could have worked with a different author. Instead, it was a case of, "Jack of all trades, master of none."
I thought I had listen to many of the great fantasy authors. I was wrong and glad to be so!
If I had one complaint it would be that there was great character development and plot development within the first 15 hours and the conclusion seemed to come rapidly in the last five hours. I know my opinion is influenced by the fact that I am not used to having a single book containing both the beginning and end.
Simon Vance is awesome!!
All I can say though is "TIGANA!!"
The culture was more like medieval/renaissance Italy, and it was amazingly thoroughly reflected in how the characters acted and thought about things, as well as in the narrative itself.
The best fantasy novel I have ever read, one of the best stories ever composed - sheer brilliance; delightful. Please read it!
Tigana is a deep and convoluted tale of fantasy and political struggle that deeply imbeds itself in the strife of the people of a truly lost country.
Vance is a wonderful narrator and this story is elegantly written. Kay creates a world full of emotion with characters that are not flat and one dimensional. They struggle with difficult decisions and show their depth in many ways. My only criticism is the pacing, which tends to be very slow moving. I found it worth the wait though.