I love the story, I love Ellen Kushner's narration, but I hate the sound effects.
What I love about audio books is what I love about books. I love reading or being read to. Audio books let me listen and let the authors words and my mind together create a world, a place, a feeling. It's different than movies. It's not passive - it collaborative. It's calming yet nourshing mind and soul food.
Narration was prefect, authentic, wouldn't change a thing.
I made a vow this year to try to write "positive" negative reviews, as in, I didn't like this, but you might like it if...but in some cases I feel I've gotten a bait and switch based on the description of a book and my temper flairs.
I wouldn't be quite so hard on this book if it weren't for the fact that it won an audie award and was championed by Neil Gaiman. This book was described as Jane Austin-esque fantasy with a "supporting cast" and "soundscapes."
Firstly, I get zero Jane Austin from this. It is primarily an action adventure book. Yes, there are scenes of people having dinner or tea and chatting, but also scenes of swordplay ending in death and fairly graphic sex scenes, which are not REALLY something you'd find in Pride and Prejudice.
The supporting cast pops in from time to time and this is quite jarring. Imagine, you've been listening to the main narrator doing all the voices for half an hour, then randomly, another actor pops in for a few lines. Huh?
The sound effects are completely random. Why they chose to highlight certain sounds is beyond me. So...no sound effects for a whole scene, then a loud sound of a piece of paper being crumpled. Or, sudden clicking tea cups when that isn't even a plot point, they are just drinking tea.
The occasional music was fine.
Finally, if you are sensitive to adverbs, which I didn't think I was, you will lose your mind. "He said, archly, darkly, quickly, slyly, overtly, snidely..." I'm okay with adverbs but at some point they signal that the author fears the reader will not understand the state of mind of the person speaking. And, really, I didn't.
I love Niel Gaiman, and buy pretty much anything he puts his hands on. But this one was a dud for me. Slow and... I don't know. Kinda boring really.
It was an interesting premiss but the characters were annoying, broken, or nasty. Why would I want to be around them any longer than necessary. I kept waiting for the characters or the story to improve, but they didn't.
The sound effects were distracting. For example: having a bell ring, and then the narrator says "a bell rang", just seems dumb.
The story is well written and very engaging if you can get past the author's less-than-stellar reading of her own work. This is one instance where paying a professional orator would have been money well spent.
An upstairs/downstairs blend of haughty aristocracy and thieving lowlife makes this a fun and fascinating performance. The manipulations and moods of the characters fill out a subtle plot well. A full radio play with background noises was a delightful extra.
People who pick up this book without knowing anything about it might be a little surprised at the turns it takes. Swordspoint is only about swords in the social sense of the word - there is little sword fighting and action of that sort is thin on the ground. But Ellen Kushner never pretends that the book will be some kind of action-packed thriller. As Neil Gaiman says in his introduction, the key to this book is in its subtitle: A Melodrama of Manners.
The story revolves around the social station of a number of aristocrats in a fantasy city, who live on 'The Hill' while the lower denizens inhabit the city by the river, handily named 'Riverside.' The two sides interact mainly when the higher classes have to get their hands dirty, by arranging affairs of dubious legality or honor, or engaging a swordsman to fight to the death on their behalf. The main character is the celebrated duelist Richard St. Veer, whose position is more often outlined in social terms than in violent ones.
Of course, it is far from that simple. A Melodrama of Manners hardly ever is. But the story is very entertaining and unusual for the sort of high-fantasy setting that this is similar to. The prose is quick and clever, and the way that the audiobook was performed was great. I hope other audiobooks follow its example. I have already listened to another of Kushner's books, and I intend to read or listen to more when I can obtain them.
I never before heard of this book. From the blurbs I expected a Napoleonic-era type book like Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange. I'm a great admirer of Jane Austen and Jane Austen-influenced writers like Patrick O' Brian. I was very surprised to find the book so pervasively homosexual. Neil Gaiman's brain is rather unique, which is perhaps how he comes up with such interesting stories, but no story can display the uniqueness of his brain as much as his assertion that this is the type of story Jane Austen would write. It stands to reason that Jane Austen would never write about an ambisexual hypocritical Thackerian community. But the use of language in this book isn't particularly elegant nor does it possess many of the formal conventions of the Napoleonic era. I can't think what prompted the comparison.
To recap. If you enjoyed reading the print version of this book and you want to hear it performed in an innovative way, then this audiobook will be to your liking. If you like period stories written with a modern voice, then you will probably enjoy this book. If you like lust-ridden characters and homosexual trysts, then you will definitely enjoy this book.
Everything led me to believe this was a swashbuckling fantasy adventure story with elevated language. Nothing informed me that this was a gay-bisexual romance written in a modern voice.
I have worked in information Technology for 25 years and have run my own small business for 23 years. I love books!
I spent a lot of time trying to bond with this book - but it was just horrible. The narrator puts the emphasis in all the wrong places and it just drove me crazy.
Children's book illustrator & toy designer living in Los Angeles. Addicted to audio books.
I really don't know- maybe people who don't understand fantasy genre. I don't know why this was in the fantasy section. It seemed more like a farce or satire apart from some of the lordly titles like "Dragon-Chancellor"- which i think was the most / only "fantasy" element of the whole book
It was very tedious - I get the intent, but it just didn't work for me. It was like slogging through sand. Nothing interesting and I couldn't have cared less about any of the characters.
Maybe someone with a British accent since it seemed like the setting was more someplace like London. Her american accent and those of the other performers really pulled me out of the story.
I didn't like any of them- lots of hury-up-and do nothing going on with all of them. Redundant conversations, eye rolling interactions… very tedious.
I really tried I really tried with this one and I love performance audio books with full cast like Phillip Pullman's His Dark Materials. But - I just didn't get into the characters- who were dull or the story- which really had no point (pardon the pun). I'm about halfway through and it's just tedious and painful.
There are long convoluted passages of political descriptions where the author assumes we have prior knowledge. She suddenly describes political characters and their relationships and schemes and drops all this in as an aside to a conversation which was totally confusing. Introduce these characters and political situations as a natural part of storytelling!!! Just don't throw them in as an internal conversation as plot exposition and expect readers to know, understand, or even care what the heck is going on. About the third time this happened I was rolling my eyes and chanting, "Who cares!?"
Now the delivery- this world seemed to be a gentile fantasy realm and all the actors and narrator have blatant American accents and modern names ( Devon? Chris? TONY ?!!!!) that are so out of place it is jarring. It really does not help the story. The actors do a good to ok job, it's just they do not fit the setting at all. The narrator may know her work and characters, but her delivery pulled me out of the story so many times.
The Story- as far as I can tell, there really isn't one. It's just a bunch of who is scheming against who for what ever reason that I'm supposed to care about or be interested in, but I'm not. Tedious conversations- De Veer and Alec's long BORING conversations- ugh - and aren't they main characters? I could not work up any interest for them at all. Ijust wanted them to shut up. Tedious political exposition. Tedious and long winded. Even the "liaisons" were painful and tedious. One review - Boston Globe I believe- said this was a witty adventure and I have yet to encounter either wit or adventure. Also this is listed as Fantasy. There is none unless throwing in a single character title of "Dragon Chancellor" makes a novel fit this genre.
I find myself zoning out so many times like I'm at a boring lecture- only to come back and find I've missed nothing.
The author uses comparisons with "like" so many times you could make it into a drinking game! "Eyes like drowned hyacinth blossoms" "skin like cream" "sunbeams a color like butter". Drink!!!!! like like like likity like like.
I tried because, well, Neil Gaiman- but this was a let down. So glad when it was over.