This review is more for the entire series than this one book. I did read to the entire series, and, for the most part, I enjoyed it. The narrator is good, and I liked the dark tone of the books. In some ways, this review would be more appropriate for book three, but I assume people picking up the first book are considering reading all three.
The style and tone of the entire series is much more realistic than most fantasy works. That, I appreciated. "You have to be realistic about these things." Mr. Abercrombie continually upsets fantasy tropes, taking a left when a right is expected. He sets up fairly believable characters with faults and weaknesses. All of the characters change throughout the series, if only in our perception of them. I especially appreciated Inquisitor Glokta, a profession torturer and POV character. It's not often you see such a unique persona.
What I didn't like as much is the direction the author went for the third book. As I said before, Mr. Abercrombie takes a left when a right is expected. Unfortunately, he takes that to the extreme of predictability. Hardly anything surprised me toward the end, because all I had to do is ask myself "Would this character have a redeeming moment here or hook up with so-and-so or grow and become something greater?" The answer is "no."
By the time you get there, it's not a surprise when things end up poorly. It's the kind of story the author is writing. That's fine, but it's not the kind of story I'm interested in reading. If I want to hear about the bad guys becoming richer and more powerful at the expense of good people, I'd watch the news. If you're interested in that sort of thing, though, you'll enjoy this series.
Although I enjoyed this book, and will probably listen to the next one, I was disappointed. There were a few things I really didn't care for, particularly toward the end of the book. Just before the final battle, the author gives a slow and detailed account of Jane shifting into Beast, and it just bugged the heck out of me. An explanation of how the magic works makes sense at the beginning of the first book. It even makes a little sense near the beginning of the second book, as a reminder. Throwing all that in at the end of the second book near the most exciting part is just a pointless waste of time.
Other things that frustrated me were her questionable decisions on who to bring and not to bring to the final battle, and then waiting for the enemies to gather their power and start a ritual before attacking--after she had already been told it was dangerous to interrupt a ritual. What's better, waiting to see how a ritual works or stopping it before it starts? I understand that the author probably wanted to get a description of the ritual in there, but the reasoning for allowing it to even start was extremely sketchy.
Finally, without spoiling anything, I didn't like her choice of men. I agreed with her reasoning for not choosing the one, but I can't help but think the same reasoning would have applied to the other. Oh well. I guess I knew it was inevitable from the first book, but I don't have to like it.
I don't want this review to be entirely negative, because I still enjoyed most of the book until the end. There were some cool interactions with Leo and other vamps toward the middle of the book, and we got to see a lot of new backstory on both Jane and the vamps. The explanation for why vamps are the way they are was interesting and a lot more coherent than most other fantasy worlds.
This is one of my first forays into the world of steampunk, and I wasn't impressed by this one. I enjoyed it enough to keep listening, but it wasn't a story to keep me hooked or interested in reading more by this author. The story takes place in the time that should be Victorian era England. The timeline has diverged, though, causing the world to end up quite different.
On the plus side, the historical setting seemed well-researched. Out of curiosity, I looked up some of the characters, and they're quite accurate. The POV character really did know 20-some languages, fence, and work as a spy. Some parts I had a hard time believing were actually historical events. Truth is stranger than fiction, eh?
On the negative side, other parts just bugged me. The author seems to believe that people go suddenly and irrevocably insane after traumatic events. Or, even not-so-traumatic events. One character is afraid that culture shock will drive him mad (spoilers: it does). Having traveled extensively myself and having lived abroad, I know that culture shock isn't something that drives you to insanity. It's called culture "shock" not culture "insanity" for a reason. A number of other minor points made me roll my eyes and go "Really?" To avoid spoilers, I won't go into the details.
Regardless, it was reasonably interesting and well-read. I had no issues with the narration. If you're looking for a decent steampunk story without magic that doesn't care a lot about how the real world actually works, you could enjoy this book.
The story is great--this is a solid sequel to Sharpe's Tiger. I give the performance two stars, though, because of the poor production quality. A few times, I could hear the difference where the narrator had read something at a different time from the rest of the passage. Worse, the audio had some glitches and stutters, causing the same word to play several times before the audio continued. Not the quality I expect from Audible.
First the obvious: Yes, Roy Dotrice is back. That's good news overall, but he was never my favorite narrator and he's worse than he was in the first three books. Very few voices are the same (notably Davos and Tyrion). Dany is atrocious, and Tyrion, Jaime, and Cersei all pretty much share the same voice, or at least the same accent.
The story, alas, is my biggest complaint. Mr. Martin continues to follow the same track he started down in AFFC, constantly promising resolution to certain storylines but never following through. People travel at the speed of plot--the amount of time it takes to travel from Westeros to Mareen is equal to however long it needs to take for everything to not happen in this book.
My second complaint is the characters. Some appearances are welcome and seem to move along, others... not so much. Jon Snow and Dany were two of my favorites from the first three books, but just end up annoying me here. Both of them have turned from being mostly honorable pragmatists who did what was necessary for their people to being bleeding hearts who ignore the advice of (literally) everyone around them and generally make a mess of things, each in their own unique way.
Of course, if you're even looking at this you're probably going to get the book anyway. I did enjoy it, overall, and look forward to the next. I wish, though, that I had waited for the next book, assuming we get a next book. The ending to ADWD is at least as unsatisfying as that of AFFC. Wait, if you can stand to.
Kate Reading did a fine job at narrating this book, giving characters different voices, with none that really annoyed me. Her male voices are believable. Unfortunately, the editing was poor, and frequently you can hear where the narration resumes too quickly after a pause.
Also, for some reason I can't fathom they randomly inserted the sound of horns into the audio. They aren't at chapter breaks or anything of significance as far as I can tell, but they were very annoying.
The book itself, while it stretched my suspension of disbelief past the limit and was very predictable, was entertaining. I liked the characters, by and large, which was a major factor. The magic system failed, I think. For example, one power Alerans with an air fury have is to smother someone without touching them. This ability was used once, and while it is referred to more often, it never reappears--even though it would have come in handy a number of times. That's just an example.
The setting, while not ground-breaking, is interesting enough. One thing worth noting is that one of the main characters, Tavi, has no special powers at all in a world where magic is common. I was expecting (dreading) the author to hit a button and give him crazy god-mode powers, but it never happened. I appreciate that--very few fantasy authors seem willing to have a protagonist who isn't blessed with awesome.
Overall, though I wasn't terribly impressed, I kept on reading, and I downloaded book #2. Make of that what you will.
This was actually the first I ever "read" this book, although I had heard a lot about it. I have to say, this is one of the best credits I have spent--the book was great, and is a classic, so I won't spend much time talking about it.
The narrator was very pleasant to listen to, and did a good job of putting the correct emotions into her voice. Indignation, coyness, sarcasm, and humor were all rendered fully. The only issue I had was that once or twice I lost track of who it was speaking. That said, it is unfortunate that Lindsay Duncan has not narrated more books, as I would certainly listen to her again.
This book seemed better-written than the previous ones, and should have gotten four stars. Ultimately, though, I had a really hard time getting into it. The fact that the events of the book take place *before* the end of Arthur made it difficult for me to take anything seriously, as I already basically knew the limits of the narrative.
Otherwise the book follows its predecessors well, presenting an interesting adversary and a fresh point of view. It was generally well-read, although at a few times the reader failed to properly portray certain emotions. I overall preferred this reader to the previous books.
I like Lawhead, but I had to give this one a "2." I struggled through the beginning having to listen to the terrible rendition of Merlin as a child--whiny and just flat annoying.
Maybe some enjoyed his narration, but I did not care for the rest of the narration either. To me it was just overly dramatic. I found myself rolling my eyes numerous times, especially when he was expressing strong emotion.
The narration probably would have spoiled it for me regardless, but the way the story was told wasn't the best either. Too much of the book carries a melancholy tone--he tells the story with a sense of impending doom. This made even happy parts hard to enjoy.
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