Good writing is more important for an audiobook experience than for conventional reading. It is harder to skim over the annoying parts, or to skip ahead if you really just want to see what happens. Here, the author chose an interesting historical setting, and had some good ideas for characters and story. But the writing is below average, and I recommend looking elsewhere.
Here are some specific criticisms:
- Phony sounding dialogue;
- Over the top, eye-roll inducing, descriptions;
- Inconsistent narrator point-of-view; sometimes in the characters' underpants (literally), sometimes a lofty historical perspective, sometimes getting sidetracked in an irrelevant crime caper, and once suggesting a recipe for the reader to try at home;
- Blatantly contrived plot devices; typical examples: (a) having characters raped and tortured for no particular reason, other than to generate sympathy; or (b) supposedly smart criminals scheme and suffer extensively trying to get a three digit safe code . . . but they don't realize that it would only take a few hours to try all 1000 combinations? (They had access, and assuming a generous 10 seconds per attempt, it would take less than 3 hours.) Not so smart.
When reading an an incomplete series, I find cliff-hanger endings and unresolved major plot points at the end of books to be frustrating. Particularly so, when there are long delays between books, as appears to be the case with the third book of this series.
This book leaves you wanting to know more about the characters and about the world, but without the frustration. So if the series' delays were giving you pause, don't worry and give this a listen.
The narrator has a very distinct and important persona for this humor driven book. She is a modern person who constantly highlights the absurdity of the characters, their Victorian sensibilities, and the story. She uses distinct voices and accents, and dramatic timing for her many droll observations and asides.
I was worried that the unrelenting effort of sounding witty would be too much, and the narrator would just sound arrogant and annoying. Not to fear, however; Ms. Kellgren handles the material perfectly for a thoroughly enjoyable experience. The book is smart and funny, and is enjoyable for adults and kids (althought some of the vocabulary and literary/historical references will be lost on younger kids.)
Both Pillars of the Earth and the sequel World Without End are very well done and worth listening to. However, they are both so long and have so many same or similar setting, character and story elements that, if I had it to do over, I would probably only listen to one of them. My recommendation would be to listen to World Without End. It is a bit of a better book, and you don't need to know anything about the first one to fully appreciate it.
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