Another reviewer compared this to Jim Butcher's excellent Dresden series, and Kevin Hearne's work so far does compare quite favorably to that high mark. The setting is modern-day Arizona, but all the trappings are fantasy: druids, witches, werewolves, vampires, and a healthy bag of mixed gods. There's bawdiness and language enough to make this one for grown-up readers, though I'll say none of it is overdone or forced. The most fun aspect of the book is the relationship between the druid and his dog: think back to the classic (and somewhat underground) science fiction movie "A Boy and his Dog" and you'll get the flavor of Atticus' relationship with his Irish wolfhound, Oberon. It was obvious that the reader particularly enjoyed voicing Oberon, and more than once I found myself chuckling aloud at the great characterization. The story itself was well paced and engaging and I was sorry to have it end though I didn't feel cheated. I'm off to work on book 2 now.
The Spellman Files is all about the characters, all of whom are depicted solidly. Lutz does an outstanding job of revealing the characters through dialogue and action as well as through the main character's slightly sarcastic observations. The Spellmans are a family of private investigators, and in the Spellman family, even the kids join the business starting at a very young age, which leads to its own set of very interesting problems. The main character is Isabel Spellman, and we see the world through her eyes as she works cases, survives her family, and attempts a social life outside the quirky, overbearing, and plain old nosey confines of the family business.
The mysteries, which play second fiddle to the family dynamics of the Spellmans, are not all that mysterious; I found I had correctly guessed the outcomes of the biggest mysteries in the book without much effort. Still, Lutz had put enough twists in that I was interested enough to stay with it until the end, unsure if she would toss a surprise turn of events in for good measure.
The reader was quite good. While she doesn't necessarily
Pretty darn good. It qualifies as the genre "Space Opera" and I found it quite entertaining -- enough so that I can see getting all the episodes to see how it turns out. My least fave: the rather long explanations/descriptions of the political environment, or the intense evilness of the empress. Mr. Green does a good job of exposing through dialogue and action, I think he could do more of that and leave some of the descriptive stuff out, especially in an audio drama. Otherwise, it's very much like listening to a fun space-adventure comic book (and I'm a huge comic book fan).
I found this to be as entertaining as the original Percy Jackson series. Although the characters from the previous series play only supporting roles in this one, it's similar enough that it comes across as what it is meant to be: another adventure in the Percy Jackson universe. Regarding the reader, I found him to be quite similar to Jesse Bernstein in tonal quality and execution. He has a teen-sounding voice and manages the accents and voices well enough that the characterizations are clear and not distracting at all. It's a smooth listening experience and a fun adventure.
Despite my adult status I've read and thoroughly enjoyed the previous six AF books. Book 7 fell short for me because Artemis himself was relegated to the role of supporting character. Much more time was spent with this episode's bad guy than with Artemis. The Artemis I was waiting to experience didn't really show up until somewhere in the second half of the book, where he was as enjoyable as ever, but then the book ended. I have to acknowledge that Eoin Colfer took some risk in having his title character take a back seat to other characters in the ensemble (Butler, Juliette, Holly, Foaly, as well as the current bad guy). Did the risk pay off? For this book, I'm not so sure it did. (I'll still be back for the next book!)
I have to imagine a large percentage of readers and listeners of this piece will be fans of Willingham's Fables comic series. I've been following that series for a couple of years now and have never been disappointed by the high quality of storytelling and Willingham's ability to surprise me. Having finished listening to Peter & Max, I can tell you this story holds up quite nicely to the high mark set by Fables. That said, I think it's also clear that Mr. Willingham hasn't found his prose voice yet, despite the strength of his writing voice in comics. There were times I felt he tried too hard to describe a character or a character's feelings, when really I'd already formed the picture in my mind a couple of sentences earlier. There were also times where the writing was so wonderfully vivid that the scenes were quite evocative. The scene where Max attacks his father leaps to mind, where any doubt of Max's insanity and capacity for brutality were completely removed.
Wil Wheaton's reading I found to be quite pleasant. Only once or twice did I feel like he'd made a goofy choice of voice for a character, but in retrospect I think he did that quite on purpose to match the given scene. Some of his work was stunningly good, like his work as Frau Totenkinder. Also his timing as a reader, thanks to what I know are good sketch comedy chops, I find to be impeccable. If I have any complaints it would be that on several occasions he finished sentences with such a drop in volume that I often lost the last word of the sentence if I was listening in the car. Never a problem in headphones, only if there was ambient noise to deal with. (A side note: I highly recommend Wheaton's autobiographical book and audiobook, 'Just a Geek.')
It's clear that Willingham has tapped into a rich and fascinating world that can support stories in many mediums; I look forward to more prose and more comics!
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