The Alchemist was so well-written that the reader did not merely sympathize with the character, you actually suffered his frustration at his own self-imposed impotence. In reading fantasy, one quickly adapts to the "hero" concept wherein the good guy saves the day. But with The Alchemist, the character acts as any real person might. Where there are opportunities for heroism, the character is not strong enough to take them. So he does what he can to save his own hide and that of those whom he loves. YET. I listened to the ending and felt complete; like it was a sweet story well told.
The Executioness was more a story of how circumstances and superficial observation serve to develop a character just as much as individual growth does. Few people (in the story) get close enough to the woman to know what drives and motivates her. Yet their opinion of her, which she tries to reject with limited success, is what she ultimately becomes. This story also is somewhat cautionary in that even if the hero's path is chosen for you, the grand scheme of things is still just an ever-changing scheme.
These stories don't touch each other. They are different people in different parts of the same world and have no impact on one another. But if the authors wanted them to, they could! It is a world in which magic had become mundane and a natural blight results from careless overuse of magic. The authors treat magic as mundane and commonplace, and as a result, the reader almost forgets it's there. Very well written stories!
Both of the narrators gave stellar performances. Katherine Kellgren is one of the most talented readers I've had the privilege of listening. She has a huge range of accents and is always consistent with her characterizations. Jonathan Davis has the gift of creating an atmosphere of empathy when he reads. Both narrators worked perfectly with these stories.
This book is really two short stories. The stories are set against the same background events but have main characters whose lives do not intersect. The two stories did not really belong together. Also, maybe because they are short, the plots do not seem to be completely wound up. You are left wanting to know more about what happened to the characters. I wonder, is this a beginning of a series of stories or a longer novel?
I would recommend this book. The stories are very well imagined, exciting, and fast-paced. Of course, since these are fantasy stories you have to suspend disbelief, but the writers make you believe enough to care about the characters and the situation.
The narration is very well done.
I have listened to Jonathan Davis's narration before. He is uniformly excellent. I had never listened to Katherine Kellgren before, but she did a fine job with this story.
This novella consists of two short stories set in the same world. It's very good, set in a world that is late Middle Ages or early Renaissance technologically, but resembling India or Southeast Asia culturally. In this world, magic is a powerful tool that anyone can use, but every use causes Brambles to grow in the area. Brambles are a deadly, magical weed that poisons and kills anyone who touches it, and they are slowly choking the entire continent; empires have fallen to the Brambles. The only solution has been to make magic a capital crime.
The parallels to our world are obvious, and echo familiar themes in Bacigalupi's other works (the ease of using powerful tools to make life easier, at the expense of the environment, with mostly the common people suffering the consequences). Both stories -- "The Alchemist" and "The Executioness" -- are about ordinary people forced to take on the powers that be for the sake of their families. The characters (heroes and villains alike) are all interesting and three-dimensional, and there are no easy resolutions. If you like audiobooks, this is a great pair of contemporary fantasy short stories.
I feel like the book was really interesting. But it is actually 2 separate stories. They are not very connected, although I thought the authors had actually collaborated on one book. Maybe they did, but it is a collaboration of two separate stories. Both are excellent, but I keep waiting for more. I would like more. By the end of each story, I felt like I wanted to hear more, learn more about what happens.
I did not like the narrator on the second story. It was a little difficult to understand her accent. That is just me. Others may have no problems at all.
Great narrator for a great concept. Only complaint was the book was too short. I wanted it to go on. Loved the lead female character...It's about time.She was strong, but not overdone with a chip on her shoulder like an actress in a bad movie that overdoes her part. She reminded me a bit of the male lead in the movie "American Beauty"..." I'm just a regular guy with nothing to lose". Those types of people can do amazing things and that's exactly what she did. Juxtapose her with the male lead who was brilliant but a bit of a twit who had me pulling out my hair and screaming ,"Stupid, Why did you do that!" Great book.
One of the better audio books that I've listened to in quite some time. Both stories are fast-paced and interesting and both narrators do a great job with the material. Definitely worth the download.
It is a pleasure to read fantasy which has broken free of the conventional medieval European-esque setting and cast its sights a bit wider. In this case by creating an Indian inspired setting which is very refereshing. The work contains an environmental message which thankfully does not detract from the quality of the two stories presented. Previous works by Niven and Pournelle (Burning City et al) have explored magic as a non renewable resource while this work takes a more modern environmental approach and deals with the impact that sustained magic use would have on the biosphere. The description of magic use is very visceral involving more senses than simply sight and sound with a great deal of its impact revolving around its smell and the memories that this evokes in the characters.
The two stories are uneven in both quality of writing and narration with the Alchemist performing excellently on both fronts while the Executioness performs strongly, many parts of it are genuinely good even, but not quite reaching the same level. Both stories are better by far than the bulk of recent mainstream fantasy and the shared world building excercise has created a setting of real value which I hope that either or both of the authors return to.
Importantly the price is right (in both time and money). The risk to reward ratio is very favourable so I urge you to give it a try.
I enjoy reading many books genres. But I love listening to fantasy books.
I bought this audiobook when it was on sale, not knowing what to expect. It was wonderful. Two stories set in the same world with two main characters facing the same social problem. The narrators are perfect too. Highly recommended.
I purchased this title because it was discounted and seemed like it might be entertaining. I am so glad I gave it a try. The world is very well realized and the reading is wonderful with nuance and inflection. I purposely save this to listen too as I use my elliptical machine because it makes me want to exercise just to listen to this story and I frequently go past my allotted time just to keep listening. A very nice change to the standard fantasy that is out there right now, no vampires or werewolves in sight.
Thoroughly enjoyed both stories and the world the authors created. Even though both stories are set in the same world the Point of View of each protagonist expands and develops it. I particularly like the stance Buckell takes with The Executioness. So many stories have middle aged rugged men being heroic and doing what has to be done. The Executionist is a middle-aged rugged woman being heroic and not once does her appearance take centre stage. Hurrah!