I found the author's ability to tell a tightly plotted and logical story in a fantasy milieu with well-drawn characters to be impressive. Sage is deserving of more popular attention than she has.
I am writing this review mainly to lend some support to the narrator who seems to garner more complaints in these reviews than make sense to me. From my perspective, McCormick provides the perfect voice for Katnis. She sounds tough, emotionally repressed, competent, yet struggling to cope. I accept that some listeners must not find this voice appealing, but future readers, please don't let the complaints put you off. Judge McCormick for yourself.
This is a fabulous story. Collins creates a fantastic but believable world. I was struck by how many correlations to real life conditions I found in the text. People really do still starve like this in many parts of the world. Entire ethnic groups are held in servitude on flimsy historic reasons (not that any reasons are justifiable). Twelve year olds carry guns and fight in armies. In America, we love lotteries and "Survivor" reality TV. It makes one think....
I would classify this book as medieval science fiction. Since I love both genres, perhaps I am biased. It is drama, tragedy, and even comedy, all rolled into one. I thought the story construction, counterpoint between 14th and 21st centuries, and reading quality were great. If I had to mention a problem, it would be the deliberately low audio in some places. Since I listen in the car, this tendency toward sudden pianissimo was difficult to navigate.
I recommend this book and will probably listen again even though I very rarely do that.
Not much is objectively known about the personal life of Madame Tussaud. She was a show-woman and guarded the truth of her feelings and family. When she wrote about herself, she gave conflicting stories. Perhaps she had no idea how interested in her the world one day might be. She lived through traumatic times, and the book offers a great lesson in some of the major personalities of the French Revolution as it might have been seen through her eyes. Moran delivers a powerful "what-if" depiction of the great wax artist. In the process, we also learn what important intellectual, educational, and social functions were served by a wax museum in the 18th century. Anyone who has ever visited one of the successor Tussaud museums today will likely look upon the experience much differently after reading this book.
Nancy Wake's story is astounding. If this were a fiction book, I might say the character was over the top, but plenty of witnesses have contributed to the claims of this book. Granted, war stories can be exaggerated, but this one rings (mostly) true. Perhaps the most unbelievable point in the story for me was Nancy's transition from an amateur courier to a professional resistance soldier. It seems to happen so easily for her. Don't listen to the appendices unless you want to be let down. Like all of us, Nancy is only human and has her faults. Kudos to the author, however, for not sugar-coating her character.
The flippancy of the writing, and reading, of the book matched the tone very well, overall.
This book does several things well.
1. The humorous narration can make you laugh out loud.
2. The story of the tumultuous life of Attila Ambrus, his family, friends and acquaintances is emotionally gripping. Rubenstein does an excellent job of making Ambrus come to life and--despite all the anarchy--make sense. Though a criminal, Ambrus is an innately intelligent survivor worthy of biography in his own right.
3. The socioeconomic context of post-Soviet Hungary is well-researched and accurately analyzed. Most westerners still know very little of what the people of these ex-Soviet satellite countries have gone through and are still experiencing. This is an important subject about which much can be learned painlessly through The Ballad of the Whiskey Robber.
I felt the narrative rambled in places, but on the whole, the book provides helpful insight into the mind of a paranoid schizophrenic. I recommend it for anyone who lives or works with a schizophrenic.
I started listening to this book (I'm reviewing all three parts here) as preparation for a trip to Ireland this summer. I love antiquity and history, so I thought this would set the mood for my trip. In fact, it was indispensable. Many of the places described in the stories told here were already on my itinerary, and the Irishness of the text as well as of the audio couldn't have complemented my travels better. I plan to listen to the whole book again, soon.
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