I didn't intend to read/listen to yet another alternate WWII fantasy novel this spring… (I didn't know there were that many alternate WWII fantasy novels out there…) But there it was in my Audible library, and as I've been using earphones defensively against the onslaught of noise in the office (why do people have to yell at the top of their lungs? And have multiple radios going?) I've been going through a good many audiobooks this year.
It took quite a bit of getting used to, this alternate timeline. After other books I've read this year, between Connie Willis and Erik Larsen, I've become a bit familiar with the ebb and flow of WWII. So this was odd, with so little context for the warlockly doings. It made it difficult to tell how or if the course of the war was altered – the grafting on of what Richard (Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways) has called Magicque. The fleet of private ships that evacuated Dunkirk failed in this reality – or not? It isn't clear – but the evacuation ship City of Benares was sunk, just as it was in the current reality. (Though the latter was almost made to sound like something resulting from the Eidolon and the OKW.) It was interesting to see the Red Orchestra show up. Even something like the "heil Hitler" salute – it came as a surprise when someone used it, which made me realize that was the first one of the book, as far as I noticed. Which, considering some half the book is set in Germany or amongst the Nazis, is odd. I don't think as much was really done with the branching of events as could have been; apparently the war ended in 1940, and there was little exploration of what that meant in the world at large. I came to very much dislike Jo Walton's Small Change series (which featured a non-magicque alternate timeline), but in some ways exposition of what that world was like was done rather better than in this book.
With half the characters being from London and its surrounds, I wish the narrator had been British. Or perhaps I just wish he had better at accents; main character Raybould Marsh starts out as a street urchin, and faces disdain among politicians because of his origins – but the accent the narrator gives him isn't far off the others' with had much posher backgrounds. Will's was nice, and Lorimer's, but the German accents reminded me alternately of Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Hogan's Heroes. Also, it was distracting and sometimes confusing that characters' internal monologues were in, basically, the narrator's own accent, not at all the characters'.
I keep trying to put my finger on the quality that makes one book perfect for me and another anathema; in a synesthetic sort of way I can almost associate a color with an author's writing. Bitter Seeds felt like a sort of ochre, a little heavy, a little resistant. But there were moments that I loved; one I made a note of was: " The flint in his gaze had been knapped into arrowheads, all aimed at Marsh." That's quite nice, I thought.
Then of course there was the moment it made me smile and think of Firefly: "'Dangerous? That's your question? If you're seeking a new hobby, Pip, you're better off juggling rabid badgers on a street corner. You might even make a few quid.'" Some people juggle geese…
Another flash of amusement came from "Klaus wondered if many great men shuffled around in their dressing gowns and obsessed over their bowel movements." It struck me, based in part on the weird variety of books I've been reading, that … yes, actually, a fair number of great men probably do and have done exactly that. (And not so great men, too.)
All of the senses are attended to in the storytelling. The falling of a syringe makes a distinct sound. Cigarette smoke; the flight of birds; the grip of a handshake; the flavor of chocolate – taste and touch and smell and sight and sound permeate the book, to the point that it stops being a good thing and simply becomes repetitive.
Part of the disconnect I felt with the book was in the fact that despite the attention to detail in description, more information would have been useful in other places, or more specific information. As mentioned above, the alternate WWII timeline could have been made more clear. (Warning: this gets a bit squicky…) One character sacrifices what is specifically described as a fingertip… but the shears "crunched together at the center of [his] finger", and thenceforth he suffers "phantom limb" pain, and there is mention of a "missing finger". In my world, the fingertip is the fleshy bit at the, er, tip of the finger, the bit that will make contact if you bring your finger straight down onto your desk. The end of it. Small area. Tip. Not even necessarily including any nail. My father lost the tip of one finger in an accident long ago, and you'd never have known it. So … Er?
For Will's story alone, this nearly went up to 4 stars, and he would be the only reason I would pursue the series. I became impatient with Marsh, and never could scrape up much interest in the almost dimensionlessly Evil Nazis, but Will was a fantastic character with a compelling arc (though his path might have been too determinedly downhill to form an actual arc). Unfortunately, I don't think he's enough reason to go and seek out Book 2.
Hello, If you like magic, sci-fi, & WW2 then you might not throw this book across the room when your done. At times it was great and other it was like, "WTF" where did this book just go. I will not go into any detail but I will get the sequel, if one comes out (deadlines suck).
The science fiction aspect of this book is so silly, honestly, I felt like I was listening to a sci-fi alternative history thriller written in the 1950’s. And the characters are so under-developed, it’s amazing how little you get to know the characters in a book so long. Sorry Ian, this is my first and my last.
Very enjoyable, and I am excited to hear that the rest of the series gets even better. It had been sold to me as "Nazi X-men versus British wizards" but there is a LOT more to it than that.
Of particular note: the narration is stellar. Some strong accent work with some really distinct voices.
As I read this book I kept going back and forth between loving it and finding parts I thought were either not well thought out or not executed well. There are sections with a lot of detail and areas where it asks you to make huge jumps without a lot of information. The style of writing periodically felt like a YA novel but with very adult themes. I do not believe this was intended to be YA fiction and would not recommend it as such.
The book is about the occult utilized in World War II on both the part of the Brittish and the part of Germans. One side utilizes Warlocks and the other side utilize human engineering to create enhanced soldiers that have special abilities - a little like X-men but its not a genetic mutation.
An overwhelming theme of the book is the willingness to sacrifice the lives of their own people to kill thee other side either through science or magic. There is a cost in war and an understanding that there will be casualties, however, the book focuses on a growing callousness towards costs.
The book is based on interesting ideas. It is clearly fiction, but utilizes facts to support the fiction and give creedance to the ideas within. An example is a military division under Himmler experimenting on humans to create super soldiers.
The narration is ok. The voices for the Germans were a bit aggravating. The accents were not done well and that combined with some overdramatization made it very hard to get past and focus on the German portion of the story. The rest of the accents were fine. The German accents were the only part of it that made me wish I had maybe read it instead of listened to it.
The book is wroth the time, but this is not a feel good World War II novel. This is not an, "our spirit will overcome it all" view. It looks at how war tears away our humanity and increases our willingness to do whatever we believe necessary for whatever the cost. It's intriguing but if you are looking for an upbeat book this isn't it.
People who like bad accents, extreme verbosity and stereotyping.
If you are interested in this genre (i.e. supernatural spy thrillers) try Charles Stross's The Atrocity Archives (geeky humour) or Tim Powers' Declare (Le Carre with supernatural elements).
I think this book might have been better in print form. I listen at work usually and this narrators voice was too easy to tune out. Then I would rewind to find my place and have to re-listen to much of this book. I could never differentiate the characters by voice or even accent, and there are American, British, and German characters throughout the book. The idea or synapses of the book is great. I can't really put all the blame on the narrator, because the story is full of holes, too.
The most interesting aspect of this story was the battery enhanced German soldiers and the Dr who made them. Too bad they never explain how the technology works in any detail. The story starts out as a few kids and the next you hear they are grown and have their "powers". They hint that a lot of kids die and never get any powers, but never name one or even talk about their teen years, etc. I wanted to know more about the Dr too. The least interesting part of this story and really boringly done, I thought, was the romance between the main character Marsh and his wife. Their storyline was insanely boring and could have been left out of the book entirely.
I liked the sound of Kevin Pariseau's voice, but I didn't think he was a good fit for this story. I think the narration would have been better coming from a European narrator. I really missed having accents for different nationalities represented
I usually go through 4 hours of audiobook in a day at work. This book had me rewinding so much because it didn't make sense, or have a flow to it that made it easy to follow.
I really wanted to like this audio book, but just couldn't enjoy myself with it. I think the author had a great idea and synapses, but failed in the execution. It came so close to being good, I think it could make a good action movie or comic book series. I might give the follow up book a shot if they do it as a prequel to fill in the blanks they missed this time around. If it's just continuing where this left off, I think I'll pass.
This book sounded cool, but it is very unengaging. I have thought a lot about why this book has been so hard to get into, but I have no real explanation. All I know is that I have seriously tried listening to this book about a dozen times and each time I get bored and my mind wanders or I fall asleep. I will probably not go on to finish the book,
The premise of this book is way more interesting than the book itself. Basically, the entire book has only one real character(who can see the future), and the story hooks you into wanting to know what her plan is. Expect no resolution to any significant plot points. The other characters are cardboard.
Ultimately this is just a hook to a trilogy, but it gives no indication if it's worth reading the other two(as of yet unpublished) volumes.