Authors often use Celtic/Druidic/Pagan ideas, beliefs and characters in their writing as merely functions for a broader story manipulation, paying no attention to the actual mythological history of these characters and concepts. Mr. Hearne is one of only two authors I have discovered who has succeeded in bringing these elements together with authenticity, humor and plain ol’ excellent writing. (I guess that’s what happens when you have a degree in English Education!) And hats off to Luke Daniels for almost perfect pronunciation of those almost impossible-to-pronounce Irish names!
Speaking of Mr. Daniels, his dexterity with dialect is delicious. Through the first two books in this series, he accomplishes Irish (Southern), Tamil, Polish, Russian, American South Western, Scandinavian, “Dude”-ian, and Dog! I don’t know that there has been such a good of a match between author and reader since Jim Butcher and James Marsters.
This would be a mildly entertaining story if not for Mr. Hearne’s exquisite sense of humor. As it is, the book (and series) is an extremely effective, enjoyable, addictive and yes, entertaining, experience. There is a scene in this book where Oberon is trying to impress Atticus with his use of language in order to get a treat. It is brilliantly written and brilliantly performed, and I can’t remember the last time – outside of actual live theatre – that I have been so tickled with hysterics. It is classic, intelligently written, and truly comedic – an almost impossible task that has been achieved by Mr. Hearne. Two other humor points to mention: what Oberon learns from the story of the Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, and the author’s hysterical use of the word “ass” in many different contexts, will be burned in my Funny Bone Memory forever.
The last time a book made me randomly and breathlessly burst with laughter was David Sedaris’ “Me Talk Pretty One Day.” Expect the same thing to happen with you with this book.
This was an extremely fun, laugh-out-loud, cracker of a story. Brilliantly conceived and brilliantly executed. The actor/narrator’s performance was so perfectly shaped and constructed; Mr. Heller, an award-winning voice actor, brought these saucy and magnificent characters to full realization through his perfectly-suited Noir style.
Almost every line has some quirky reference or wink/nod based on classic Christmas stories, movies and animated TV specials and spins them in a unique, razor-witted, and extremely intelligent way. For most of this book, I found myself moving from grin, to laugh, to shock, to chortle, to chuckle, and back again.
The structure of the book does seem to spin out of control near the end, only to wrap up in a somewhat unnecessary and overtly-religious way. This bothered me until I realized the source from which the author drew his conclusion was also one of those animated classics which, by today’s “standards,” comes across as also quite overtly “religious.” Once I realized who this character was, it lessened my aversion to the seemingly forced message or moral that it presented. I don’t usually have an aversion to books that have a strong Moral, if that Moral emerges or develops naturally from the characters, or plot, or style of writing. Given the tone of 9/10ths of this book, however, the conclusion seemed entirely out of character from the rest of the book. It felt forced and manipulated, and did slightly spoil the overall experience of the otherwise brilliant world and language the author created.
The bottom line is: I have in fact, recommended this book to several people for the incredibly sharp and smartly funny turns of phrase and stylistic brilliance in the writing. Despite the structural problems and awkward way it comes to its conclusion, I still think this is a wonderful holiday tale.
This new recording of Anne Rice's classic book is welcome and thrilling. It's most important to know that these audiobooks (including "Vampire Lestat" and "Queen of the Damned") are not reissues of the unabridged CDs that were made years ago with Frank Muller doing the reading. I know that many listeners enjoy Mr. Muller's work, but I found his reading of The Vampire Chronicles to be far too mannered and "affected." I listened to the earlier CDs primarily because I'm a big fan of the Chronicles; but I always had a hard time getting past Mr. Muller's voice. I don't wish to be cruel about Mr. Muller - as I said, I know he has many fans, and has had a long and successful career as a voice actor - it's just that personally, I cannot appreciate the vocal mannerisms he uses and the type of performance he gives.
Now, thankfully, and at last, we have another award-winning Master Storyteller (Simon Vance) re-telling these tales! Within the first few minutes of listening, I knew that this would be the version that I could love and listen to over and over again. Mr. Vance easily evokes the "correct" atmosphere in his narrative, and moves between dialects as if he were a "Complete Cast" on his own. Sections that seemed awkward poetically in Mr. Muller's performance, now are rich, imaginative and evocative.
I am thrilled to recommend this to fans and first-timers alike. If you've heard the previous recording - even if you like it - you will love this new one. Fingers tightly crossed in the hope that Mr. Vance will also record "Tales of the Body Thief" and finally give us an unabridged recording of "Memnoch the Devil" (which has only ever been recorded in an abridged format).
Finally, I've heard Anne Rice say that she thinks that "The Witching Hour" (and probably "Lasher" and "Taltos") will be recorded in an unabridged format soon. Now THAT'S something to look forward to!! (Please, please, please....let it happen!)
"Mistress of Magic" (part one of this saga), is Igraine's and Morgaine's journey. It is an effective, evocative and intensely personal journey. This part, "The High Queen," is mostly Gwenhyfar's story, and shows a lot of contrast, and a different perspective. Though it's my least favorite "book" in the saga, it *is* still part of the larger story. It's a testament to the quality of the writing, I think, that I can be so personally involved, moved and annoyed by the journeys of these characters. (And Gwenfhyfar annoys me greatly! :-) )
Obviously, don't get this book if you have not listened to "Mistress of Magic" first. This (and the other books which make up the entirety of The Mists of Avalon) is NOT a sequel; it is part of the SAME BOOK! It is unfortunate that Audible (or the publishers, more likely) have chosen to break this one large book up into 4 separate parts. They shouldn't be considered separate books.
I've written specifically about the narration in my review of "Mistress of Magic," but to just do a quick recap: Davina Porter gives an adequate and sometimes very good reading of these books, though her pacing is sometimes quite slow.
For those listeners who lose interest during this "part" of the saga, please know that it really does get better! "The High Queen" can feel a bit tedious at times, but it is worth it to continue through to the end - the next two "books." The next installment, "The King Stag" picks up the pace and energy that this section lacks, and "The Prisoner in the Oak" is a magnificent and stunning conclusion to this incredible journey.
I was first introduced to this book very soon after it was initially released in hardcover. I had had very little interest in it when I heard it was "just" the King Arthur story. My friend convinced me to give it a chance, given that it was not only written from the perspective of the women in the saga, but that it would also resonate with me, given that it also explored spiritual perspectives that I share. I agreed to give it a go, and my friend actually read it aloud to me. (Yes, the entire book over the course of a couple of weeks!) It was the first book I ever experienced first in a purely audio/vocal way. It was fascinating. It became a great love. I've read the print edition once a year (during the Beltaine season...) for the past 20 years. I took to this saga as many others have The Lord of the Rings.
I joined Audible when I found out that this book was (finally) released in an unabridged format. Like other reviewers, I was disappointed that it was broken into four separate "books," but I was, still, just thrilled to have the opportunity to "have it read to me" again.
I have given this book 5 stars - and by doing so, include the "other three" audiobooks which make up this one actual book. Ms. Porter as the narrator does adequate and sometimes very good work here, though her pacing is somewhat flat. She is subtle, gentle, and at times very effective.
By way of contrast, Rosalyn Landor (the narrator of Marion Zimmer Bradley's "The Forest House" and "Lady of Avalon") would have been much more effective as the reader of this book. As I've written in other reviews, I have absolutely loved Ms. Landor's reading of the Avalon books; whereas Lorna Raver (the narrator of "Sword of Avalon" and "Ravens of Avalon") is the least effective of the three narrators in the Avalon series. Ms. Raver's precise-ness, forced diction, and American (as opposed to English) accent, is sometimes very difficult to listen to in this context.
Admittedly, when I read the hardcover years ago, I was extremely disappointed with the fragmented nature of this book. I wanted "Epic" like Mists, and dismissed this book with some sourness. I only chose to get the audiobook because of Rosalyn Landor, and how stunning I thought her reading of "The Forest House" was. This book ("Lady of Avalon") like the previous one, just blossoms under Ms. Landor's efforts. I still don't care for the middle story, but the bookends - the first part taking up the action right after "The Forest House" ends and the third part, learning about Viviane's early years, are just beautifully done now.
I still don't think this is a great standalone book - in fact, I would only recommend it after listening to "The Forest House" and as a bridge to "Mists." But, if like me, you didn't enjoy reading the novel itself, I would suggest you give it another try by listening to it being read by such a wonderful storyteller.
After having gone through the slight and fairly enjoyable "Autobiography of Santa Claus," I was expecting perhaps something in the same light vein. This was a bit too "precious" for me - perhaps it was the narration that made it so, and far too repetitive over the last 2 hours or so. This is not a "Holiday Romp" novel that I mistakenly thought it would be - I read the title to mean it would be a "fun" novel; it's not, it's a serio-historical drama, far more geared toward the religious aspects of the holiday. I do suppose that if you are a Christian, you might very well enjoy this novel far more than I did. In other words, it's very "Christ-mass" and less holiday than I wanted.
This is not a reissue/transfer of the unabridged cassette tapes that were originally produced. Everything about this new recording is outstanding. Rosalyn Landor is an absolutely, perfectly beautiful interpreter of these characters and words. In fact, she's so wonderful, I wish she had also been engaged to rerecord The Mists of Avalon as well; she is really *that* good! This story, though slighter than Mists, is a wonderful tale and forerunner to the main novel of the saga. If you've heard the cassettes and haven't really cared for them, I urge to you get this new recording and hear this beautiful story for the "first time."
The larger story arc of the series so far is wonderfully fascinating and intriguing. I have enjoyed following the main characters' arcs through the story. It is a bit black and white in some ways with the Very Bad being Very Bad and the Very Good... well, you get it, but there are a lot of grey areas and characters (Lady Placida is fantastic!) The story involving Fade and Isanna is beautifully written; Lady Aquitaine (et al) is fascinating...
My biggest problem with how the series is developing - and it's a major issue for me, is that at least 1/3 of the book is taken up with battle tactics during the war which seem much like a fantasy version of a History Channel documentary. Hours and hours are spent in detailed battle plans and execution. Nothing there there, just details of swords/arrows/spears/etc. While I can see how probably many fantasy fans find this exciting, to me, it became extremely tedious. Every battle or development in the war, over time, started to sound exactly the same in every respect. There's absolutely nothing creative or of interest for me in this kind of war documentary. To quote from the book: "And the battle went on, and on. And on." And it does.
This incidentally was why, of the Dresden Files, "White Knight" is probably my least favorite (huge battle there, which, compared to this Alera book, makes it seem short....)
Jim Butcher remains a favorite author of mine, but I'm not sure that I'll continue on with this Alera series, just because of these endless, tedious battle-upon-battle scenarios.
Last word: I sincerely wish that there was more actual story and development here. Mr. Butcher's creative imagination is strong, unique and wonderful. If you love battle scenes, you have a lot to love in this book.
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