Maybe it was the reader, or maybe it was the writing -- or maybe it was both. Regardless of the culprit, I found this book wanting in comparison to the first Edge book and the Kate Daniels series. The Edge as described in the first book felt really real to me. It all seemed to fit together. In this book, I had difficulty picturing the world of the Mire, or believing in it. The accents the reader used didn't work for me. And the writing... the way it kept switching back and forth between different peoples' perspectives within a single scene was just poor writing form.
Also, what is with Ilona and her characters adopting children or raising their siblings? Kate, Rose, Cerise, and William have all followed this pattern in one way or another. Also, orphans. There seem to be a lot of orphans popping up in her books. I don't mind this part of the stories, but it is starting to feel a little formulaic.
The books is good. I remember enjoying it in print when I read it years ago. The audiobook version is equally enjoyable. The only major frustration I have lies at the intersection of narration and onomatopeias. It seems that Modesitt used a lot of these in this book, and the producer (director?) of this rendition did not deign to provide sound effects. That left Kirby Heyborne trying to make the sound of horse hooves, thunder, wind, howling wind, howling ghosts, closing doors, cocking crossbows, clinking swords, and more.
I'm most of the way through the book now, and the read onomatopeias are driving me nuts. I pray that in later books, either Modesitt used fewer of these, or the narrator is provided with sound effects to replace his own attempts at making these sounds.
This is the first Duncan book I've read outside the Alchemist series. It is true that this is a darker world than that of the Alchemist series. But it has a few similar themes, such as religious persecution, as well as likeable protagonists with depth and complexity. Sometimes when you read books from another series by the same author, you end up sorely disappointed and give up. In Duncan's case, however, I am already trying to decide which series to read next. Against the Light convinced me that the Alchemist series was not a fluke, and that Duncan is a solid fantasy writer whose books I will continue to enjoy.
I do feel that this book was set up as though there might be a sequel. There aren't any cliffhangers, and only one loose ends relating to a supporting character. But the world's problems have, if anything, gotten worse. That usually means that a sequel -- or several sequels-- will be coming out to fix all that is wrong with the world.
Unfortunately, Duncan has said that he will not be writing a sequel. I'm disappointed by that, but find it acceptable; I think we too often expect everything to be kittens and rainbows at the end of a series or book. I think there should be room for bittersweet in my library.
First, context. I'm a fan of Kelley Armstrong's adult Otherworld books. I enjoyed Armstrong's first three books in the Darkest Powers series, although I found many of the characters irritating. They were almost caricatures in many cases. Just a little too goody two-shoes too, in many cases.
Now for the Gathering, which is the first book in the Darkness Rising trilogy. The narrator is great. I liked the characters in this book a great deal more than in Darkest Powers. They feel more realistic to me. This may be related to their age -- Darkest Powers are 9th grade students, or thereabouts, whereas Rising students are more like 11th grade. Certainly, the relationships are more sexually mature. Sure, all there's been is making out clothed lying down, but there's a lot less blushing and hand holding, and when the main couple make out, there's some real passion.
However, the plot moves very slowly, and the book ends on a cliffhanger with nothing resolved. I don't know when the next book is scheduled to come out. But my recommendation is to seriously consider waiting until you can read the entire trilogy.
On the other hand, I expect that with its slow start, this is one of those series that will be getting better as it goes on, and I'm looking forward to that happening.
I cannot say enough good things about these books, or enough bad things about this narrator.
I read this series in print back when they first came out. I loved them dearly, and was looking forward to listening to them.
Since then I've "read" over 200 audiobooks. This is the first time I've given up on a book because of the narrator. That should tell you that I'm fairly tolerant of the wide variety of readers that are out there.
The problem is not his characterization of the various individuals' voices. It's the cadence of his speech. I actually have trouble following the narrative because of the speed and rhythm with which he reads. I shouldn't have to concentrate to understand what the reader is saying/follow the narrative.
I truly wish I had listened to the sample before purchasing this book. Buyer beware.
This novel suffers from a variety of flaws that are, sadly, fatal:
1. The war is all too easy. You'd expect a war novel to be rife with conflict, but in reality, the antagonists in this series don't stand a chance. Nor does it ever appear that they do. While at first, I enjoyed seeing the repugnant antagonists in shock over their forces getting trounced, once you realize that the protagonists will never even be challenged, it's hard to get excited.
2. The schism is all too easy. First of all, for me the "big reveal" when characters are told a shocking and unbelievable truth (in this case, the true history of Safehold) is my favorite moment in any story. But Weber skips over that moment every time. And then the protagonists take it completely in stride. I know the protagonists are very careful about who they choose to tell, but SOME inner conflict would be nice. Some interesting reaction beyond "that explains a lot" and "gee, I'm angry now" would be nice too.
3. Repetitive and pedantic. The same things are explained multiple times per book in this series. Many things are also explained in far more detail than they need to be, as though they were being described to an idiot. The level of detail at which these things are explained is also unnecessary to advance the plot or character development, and slows the plot considerably. This applies to battle tactics, technological innovations, political machinations, speeches, etc.
4. One-dimensional characters. By and large, as one reviewer of the next book suggested, there are only three character types: 1) rational good guy; 2) rational bad guy, who would be a good guy if their honor, patriotism or faith did not force them to the wrong side; and 3) irrational bad guy.
I believe that this story could be told in half the time.
Since it is difficult to enjoy a story when banging your head against the wall or passing out from boredom, although I finished this novel, I will not be "returning" to Safehold for the next book.
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