I read a lot of fantasy and sci-fi, and I can promise you that this series of books is among the best.
This tale takes place in a land known as the "Seven Kingdoms." However, these kingdoms are actually ruled by a single King with various Lords under him. The history of these kingdoms is expertly blended into the plot, so that you effortlessly become emersed into the world. I can't overstate the skill with which the author draws the reader into his world. It feels as if this land, with its people, traditions and history is as real as our own.
Magic does exist in this world, but it is rare. It is used to color the plot, not to dominate it. There are hints of other races, but varieties of humans are all we encounter. There is some profanity, but it's fairly rare and in context. There is some sexual content. I wouldn't recommend this book for children.
Large sections of the plot revolve around the "palace intrigue" of the King, his family and the Lords. This is a book about the nobles of this realm and, as the title suggests, the high stake games they play for power. The characters in the book are deep, colorful and simply splendid. Their lives have a depth to them that few authors accomplish. I confess that, when not reading the book, I actually thought about them during the day and laid awake wondering about them at night. In the audio version, the narrator does a wonderful job of giving voice to these vivid characters.
The plot has numerous twists and turns. Sometimes I think the author intentionally speculates about what the reader would expect in the plot of a fantasy novel, and then does something completely different. I gave up trying to predict what would happen, and decided to just enjoy the ride. However, there is an overall "master" plot that is slowly unveiled in this and subsequent books.
If you enjoy fantasy, this is a must read. Even if you usually don't like fantasy, you may very enjoy this one.
The WSJ is a great newspaper. The problem is that not a lot of people have the time to sit down and read (much less absorb) the volumes of information delivered in a daily paper the size of the Journal. If reading it isn't part of your job description, it's a difficult thing to accomplish if you have other demands on your time.
This service goes a long way towards resolving this problem. The daily read gives you the "high points" from the journal, including major stories, major financial news and editorials. The mixture of political vs financial news fluctuates on a day to day basis, but generally there is more financial news then political.
The financial news covered usually includes large business transactions (or rumors thereof), product releases from major companies, coverage of the stock & bond markets, interest rates, and predictions of the future of the economy. There is also coverage of the affairs of corporate executives, fund managers and other folks who can influence financial markets. Sometimes the stories dive pretty deep into numbers, which can be difficult to keep track of via audio. But hey, it is the WSJ after all.
The political coverage is generally related to major news stories, geo-political events, budgetary policy, and some amount of "right vs. left" politics. There is also a daily editorial which tends to focus more on political matters. The editorial is my favorite part of the daily read.
So, if you'd like get the highlights from the WSJ, but don't have time to read it, this is a great service. I've had it for a month, and I'm hooked. The WSJ is now part of my daily commute. There's a certain confidence that comes from having listened to the daily read before I walk into work. The information has already come in handy a couple of times. You might be surprised how often some subject will come up in the office, and you'll be able to throw out some information you picked up from the Journal.
This book has a lot going for it. For starters the plot is great. A lot of twists and turns and you're never quite sure what's going to happen (or even what's going on). The characters are wonderfully crafted and the dialog is well written and entertaining. A wonderfully dry humor is mixed in well with the action. Also, major kudos to the narrator. He does such a great job that the audio book may very well be better then paper edition.
Part of the plot revolves around the study of biblical era documents, including the bible itself. I did sometimes find this part of the plot somewhat frustrating. But that's probably due to the fact that I know something about biblical exegesis, and the conclusions drawn by the characters in the book are wildly inaccurate. I suppose this frustration would be similar to the frustration felt by a physicist as he watched Star Trek. Or by a military tactician as he watched a Rambo film. It can just be frustrating to have a subject that you know about used as a plot device. Let's just say that you'll learn about as much about biblical study after reading Snow Crash as you'd learn about physics by watching Captain Picard use "and inverted tachyon beam to scan the wormhole."
Don't get this book if you'll be offended by the use of Christian and biblical events as a plot device. Also be aware that there is some profanity. It's not gratuitous, but it is fairly frequent.
But all of that aside, this is a really good book. If you're a sci-fi fan, you'll probably like it. If you're a cyber-punk fan, this is required reading. But even if you're not a sci-fi fan, you could very well enjoy this book. Just keep an open mind and buckle your seat belt. It's quite a ride.
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