There really isn't much going on here that hasn't been done before and better. This felt to me like a flimsy plot built to hold up some shameless scenes of hawt sex. And I'm sorry -- I know we're werewolves and we live on instinct and blah blah, but I'm so tired of the whole "I LOVE YOU BECAUSE YOU SMELL F***ING DELICIOUS!!!!!" A pleasurable scent is not a sound basis upon which to choose one's life partner, mmkay?
This one is more smut than substance, I think. Not totally without its thrills or entertainment, but there it is. Not much to it.
First off, if you're looking for a 100% standalone novel, this is not it. While it doesn't exactly end in what I would term a cliffhanger, the conclusion raises a lot more questions than it answers and the main character narrating the story puts it right out there that it's not over. Another small warning if you're buying this for your kid -- while this appears to be firmly in YA territory, be aware that there are several bloody bits and language that would get a movie rated R. So if that bothers you, consider carefully before you buy.
So about the book itself. I found this one to be a rather mixed bag. There are a lot of interesting concepts going on in this book, but I didn't really feel like any of them were fully realized or explained. Since there are apparently going to be sequels to this book, I realize you can't spill all the beans straight off, but at the end of this book my knowledge of how Oz came to such a pass is still pretty negligible. You learn early on that, surprise! Dorothy and cohorts are now the evil rulers of Oz. What never gets explained satisfactorily is why. It's suggested throughout the book that the Oz books we know and love weren't wrong, that everything did happen that way and that Dorothy used to be good and has changed. There's a hint that she developed an addiction to magic, but her becoming a sort of magical junkie doesn't fully explain the depths of corruption and sadism to which Dorothy has sunk. To be fair, I have just noticed today that there is a prequel novella available for the Kindle on Amazon which may answer some of these question.
Several other things bothered me about this book as well. Our narrator and main character gets bullied from page one and that pretty much goes on throughout the book. She gets bullied into joining the revolution, she gets bullied for being rubbish at training in the beginning (like, wow, you're a teenager from a world in which you don't have to defend yourself from anything more serious than a high school shoving contest, why aren't you the uber warrior we need?!), she gets bullied for not being the hard as nails, nothing before the cause soldier that she was kind of forced into training to be. Adversity makes a story, but seriously? Do we need to ream the girl at every turn when there can be no reasonable expectation for her to have adapted so well to this world in so short a time?
Overall, I'm giving this book 3 stars across the board. The narrator wasn't bad and did seem to bring across the teenager attitude the main character had. This was occasionally annoying as teenagers are occasionally annoying, but I can't fault her for playing her part to a tee. The premise of this book was and still remains intriguing to me and the writing itself was adequate. It could be entirely possible that the sequel to this book, whenever it comes out, will kick much more butt than this one did. I really hope it does. I'd love to see Amy Gumm come into her own, start making her own decisions and her own plans. I'd love to see her fight back on her own terms and not just follow someone else's idea of what's best. She definitely didn't do those things in this book, but I think there's still hope for her yet.
...and say that I am very surprised I was able to push myself to finish this one. The narrator was fine as narrators go, but the book itself was...wow.
I'll preface this review a bit by saying I love the paranormal romance and steampunk romance genres. Among the books I've listened to and enjoyed the hell out of are Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series, Bec MacMaster's London Steampunk novels, Meljean Brook's Iron Seas books, and Kristen Callihan's Darkest London series. These books are full of sex, just like the book that I'm reviewing, but they're also full of great characters with an awesome story arc. I found those two crucial elements to be sadly lacking in this one.
My main complaint about the book is the characters -- they all felt one dimensional to me. It's been noted by other reviewers that the secondary characters were all defined by some kind of schtick, but if you think about it, that's really true of all of the characters. We had our heroine, Taryn I-am-snarkier-than-EVERYONE Warner, whose "witty" one liners seemed to resemble a lot of tee shirts and bumper stickers I've seen. We had our hero, Trey I-don't-know-how-to-love Coleman. We had our hero's crotchety and reproachful granny, the comic relief whose personality consisted entirely of nasty pick up lines, the I-know-what-you're-going-to-do-before-you-do beta and the list goes on. I was thoroughly tired of all of these people by the end of the book.
It doesn't make me happy in any way to tear a book down and if you enjoy this kind of shallow fluff with werewolves and a ton of sex thrown in, there isn't anything wrong with that. For me, be the characters werewolves, vampires, demons, or Easter bunnies, I want them to feel like real people and not just cardboard cut outs. This one just didn't do it for me at all.
I found this book to be a light, mildly enjoyable listen, but was not in love with it. Many things irked me and I don't typically go as much for the caveman style of seduction the dragon hero has going on. I can understand why he would be that way considering the whole civilization thing is a relatively new development in his lifetime, but still.
Overall, I just wasn't very impressed by this book and wasn't particularly moved by any bit of it. (Though I did LOL when we found out what Pia is, because, well, I just couldn't help it.) I really wanted to love this considering the subject matter (dragons, man! epic!), but I don't think I'll be picking up the next in the series.
Other paranormal/steampunk romance books that I LOVED:
Bec MacMaster's London Steampunk series beginning with Kiss of Steel
Kriten Callihan's Darkest London series beginning with Firelight
Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series beginning with Slave to Sensation
Meljean Brook's Iron Seas series beginning with The Iron Duke
Oh man, when I picked this up I had no idea what FUN I was getting into. Alan Cumming has by far and away delivered one of the absolute best performances I have experienced with Audible. This book and its sequels are packed with witty dialog (full of accents!) and tons of action and Alan Cumming narrates with such enthusiasm and skill that you just can't help but be drawn into all of it.
Aside from the narration, I absolutely love every bit of the story itself. As another reviewer states, you've got to get the physical copy to enjoy the illustrations if you're a fan, but there's so much to love here even without the eye candy -- clever characters you want to root for, a fascinating spin on real-world history, and of course, the beasties and contraptions. This is a wonderful specimen of alternate history and the steampunk genre, with a squick of romance thrown in. It is marketed as a young-adult series and there's definitely nothing wrong or inappropriate with that, but I'm an adult and I enjoyed the hell out of it. This series is top of my list, not just for Audiobooks, but for books in general. Do not miss out!
I would certainly try another book from the author, given that it was NOT narrated by the same reader (which I see the sequel is not so YAY on that account). The tale itself I thought was quite interesting. I will admit that I was not riveted and listening to it every moment I was able, but a fair bit of that was how much I really disliked the narrator. The story seemed unique to me, though I would have liked a little more...characterization? I feel like the only characters I got to know up close and personal were Percy and the professor.
My very first impression of this reader when I started the book was that she read much too fast. I felt there was little opportunity to get into the atmosphere of the story and the settings because they just kind of flew by. Changes of scene did not even get a slight pause so I was left confused for a short bit until I caught up with the fact that yes, time has passed and now we're somewhere else. Aside from that, the mispronunciations drove me absolutely NUTS. I know pronunciation is, to some extent, an arbitrary thing, but I'm reasonably sure that Londoners do not say Thames with a soft "th" on the front of it, as in "the." I'm also pretty certain I have never heard anybody pronounce albeit as "all bite." All these things together distracted me from the story in a big way and overall greatly hindered my enjoyment of it, which is entirely opposite of what a good reader does.
What I really would have liked with this book was a good English reader. Everyone in the book is English (with a couple of exceptions), the story is set in London, and we've got an obviously American reader doing accents when people talk (and she seemed totally unable to decided whether or not the Irish character was actually Scottish). It took me out of the story a little bit.
Overall, I do not regret buy this audiobook or listening to it. The story itself was interesting, though I'd have liked to get to know some of the characters and their supernatural abilities a bit better. I do plan on sitting down and reading this myself in book form to see if it improves to me without the influence of the reader and I may even pick up the next one to see what happens next.
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