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.
I know a lot of people who really enjoyed this story. I don't think it was for me. I was bored for most of it and didn't like most of the characters. While I thought Ellen did a fantastic job of narrating it, I wasn't a fan of the background noises and other actors speaking some, but not all the parts. It would have been better to only have one narrator reading the story and no extra sound effects. But, that's just me.