I am a huge fan of both Neil Gaiman and the narrator Simon Jones. It was on the strength of their association with this book that I bought it, despite misgivings. I hoped, I suppose, that the many enthusiastic reviewers of the audiobook were onto something, and that the minority of negative reviewers were perhaps a bit trollish. Well, I'm voting with the trolls.
I might have tolerated this book well enough if the whole thing had been read by, say, Stephen Briggs or Simon Jones -- both masters of many voices. Either one could say every name on a half-page in the phone book in a convincingly distinct voice. Instead, this book was read by many different men and women who spoke essentially alike. Incredibly, the main narrator (the book's author) sometimes reads her characters' voices and sometimes other people do. It was just a mess.
The idiom of the written book was overtly British, featuring an array of titled nobles. But unlike any noble of my acquaintance, the audio characters all spoke in nearly identical American accents. Apart from the author, the character actors sound like students -- and not even not drama majors at that -- reading dialog they wrote for a school play. It was so cognitively dissonant, and fell so short of the standard of narration that I expected, that I could barely focus on the story. Not to mention the absurd background sound effects; don't let's even start on that!
The author was a better reader than most of the other voices, but not a lot better. I tried to listen and follow the thread, hoping if I got engaged in the story I could tune out the goofy reading, but nearly every time a character spoke, I found myself imagining how much more authentically the lines could have been delivered. "I think we should get a cat of our own," for example, as opposed to, "I-ee think WEee should get a cat of our OWN." Who eNUNciates like THAT? Nearly every line of dialog was so over-acted that I'd have laughed if it hadn't been so grating.
I got about a third of the way through the book, and since I knew I was going to return it for a refund, I stopped listening. I needed something refreshing for the rest of my drive, so I turned to a random place in one of my favorite Terry Pratchett Discworld books, The Truth, read by Stephen Briggs. I happened upon a scene where half a dozen aristocratic men of similar age are seated in darkness around a table. Stephen Briggs' reading -- always astounding -- is here beyond brilliant. I know every one these people! -- or at least I know their kind from British costume dramas. Every cadence, every intonation, every pitch is so unique to each unnamed character that I could be eavesdropping on six living, breathing, upper-class British men sitting in total darkness around my own table!
I am not sure whether or not I would have liked the book had it been read by a master narrator (probably not), but this rendition was ridiculous.
reader, teacher, writer=happy person
The tagline on the book promises melodrama, and there is plenty of that. But there was also a sweetness to the characters and some pointed critique of the rigid class structure within the land of Riverside. I enjoyed the allusions to Chaucer, medieval fairy tales and even the Rape of the Lock. Rich, full and engaging. I want Richard St. Vier as a friend.
Unfortunately everything was a disappointment. I now understand why there are so few books in this genre. It's incredibly lame. The actors, and there are many, are pompous and silly. There's really no point to the story. I'm super disappointed because I LOVE Neil Gaiman, however, this one really really really missed the mark.
not sure, I'm going to need a break after this one
The horrible over-acting and ridiculous inflections. Tone it down, I couldn't tell if the writing was pretty or not because the reading was awful.
Frustration, annoyance and finally total disappointment.
This book is more like an action movie. It is not a "melodrama of manners". If you like tough talk and fisticuffs-- well there are several hours of it to be found here. But that's all there is.
There is a bad guy, and an unlikely but clever hero. There is also insult humor. Mostly, the hero makes fun of how stupid everyone else is. And people get beat up.
Graphic Designer. Culinary Enthusiast. Mostly User Friendly.
When I started listening to this book, I was excited to realize that this was an Audible Neil Gaiman Presents selection -- the first that I've listened to. In his opening introduction, he states that "It's as if Jane Austen wrote fantasy... an imaginary world where the characters are real people..." He had me at Jane Austen, of course, and if Jane Austen were a tad spicier, a fair amount darker, and had dealt with same-sex romance, that would be about right. I had a little trouble following all of the intrigue in audio form, even with the theatrical multi-voice narration. I do tend to have trouble with those sort of entwining storylines in general, though. I thought this was a very well-written book, and interesting in it's uniqueness. It felt like a mix of Fantasy and Regency Romance, but with a darker Historical Fiction sort of underbelly that made it seem a lot more real-world than those genres usually do.
Some may not be able to find the actual plot line in this story, It took me 2 listens to realize just what the heck was going on. It finally dawned on me that the story is a chess game, and like a chess game it's the lower pieces that get the most play. I also paid attention to which scenes were dramatized, as it says in the forward "key scenes" that apparently was a hint. I rather liked it even if some of the sound effects were more distracting, I really LOVED that the background talking is actual talking, with lines, instead of people mumbling under their breath.
If you find watching a chess game riveting, this story may be for you.
If you like understated gay romance between 2 amoral men, this story may be for you.
If you like subterfuge and puzzles and a plot line that takes actual work to understand, this story may be for you.
It was for me.
None of the reviews I read mentioned same sex sex scenes.
Only if they have same sex sex scenes.
Haven't listened much - chapter 7 or 8 so far and I've enjoyed the performance style.
I wouldn't say any need to be cut for those who aren't bothered by same sex sex. It just unsettles me and I wish there was a warning so I could move on...
I'd like a refund!
A fun and engaging book. I listened to the whole thing in one go. (Not sure I'd compare it to Austen, though...)
I listened to the second book in the series first and am so glad I did. It was wonderful! If I had listened to this one first however, I would have never listened to the second. This one lacked the character development and adventure of the second. It really dragged and the political structure was confusing.
Skip this one and move on to the next!
I tought this was a rather bizarre book. Maybe I am terribly dense, but through most of the book I was left wondering what was the point, and where is the story headed. I found it difficult to relate to the characters and the story line. The narration was fine, and the performance background was a great idea, but the book did not help matters.