Not sure what the earlier reviewer meant when they said that the narrator's dry tone was perfect for the subject matter. The style of narration reminds me of those ancient films they used to show us in biology back in high school. Ugh. Why not get Joe Barrett (Meany) or Grover Gardner (Ciderhouse) to do this book over? They were much more engaging and genuine. This book deserves that.
This certainly wasn't an unenjoyable book. It had its moments - there's some action, there are some tense moments, and so on, but ultimately this book is supposed to be a mystery, and there it falls short. I'm pretty sure your average reader would have this figured out roughly half way through the story, at least to the point where he or she is just waiting for the minor details to be revealed.
There's a little too much conventional content in the book - the torturer conflicted about what he has to do; the self serving bureaucrats; the penniless serfs. It all seems a little tired. Also, there is the occasional lapse into the 21st century as far as the narrative, which breaks the spell a book like this is supposed to cast. For example, I believe that at one point the narrative describes a character's realization as having made "the light bulb go on". Huh? 1659?
That may be a function of the translation. I don't know. Having said that, the book does not read / listen as something that's been translated. The performance is also very good. I like Grover Gardner, although I still can't stop comparing him Frank Muller because of all the Stephen King books I've listened to. Frank was cool.
Anyway, it wasn't bad, but I don't think I'll listen to the rest of the series.
This book just didn't do it for me. It came off more like a made-for-TV movie you'd see on the Lifetime network or something. I didn't find the story lines or situations to be especially suspenseful or scary. Relationships between the characters were stereotypical and trite. Too much of the book went on with the supernatural occurrences being treated as things that just happened, with no real exploration or back story.
The narration was passable, although some male narrators just don't sound right when they are voicing female characters. I think Peter is one of those narrators. It's probably the combination of the gruffness and the higher pitch he uses with these characters.
Looking over the reviews for this book, I see some frustration at the lack of resolution, how the book never "went anywhere", etc. That's John Irving. When I download one of his books, I know I am in for a lot of entertaining character development, interesting, interconnected vignettes and the like, but that I may not be getting a big tidy story arc or a punchline. It's still great listening, in my opinion!
When I first heard George Guidall years ago, I thought I might not be a fan because his voice has a grandfatherly characteristic to it that I felt might be hard to overcome when voicing younger or female characters, but I've come around on that opinion. He's narrated some of my favorites and seems like an old friend at this point.
I almost passed on this book based on the comments concerning the audio problems. There is certainly the occasional clipped word, but they are few and far between. I didn't find it distracting, and missed none of the story.
It's tough to say too much without saying too much, if you know what I mean. From a writing perspective, it's always great when an author who can string a nice sentence together ventures into this genre. That's what we have here. The writing is descriptive and lends atmosphere without ever detracting from the story line. Very well done.
The narrator gets top marks, too. The cast of characters could have easily overwhelmed a lesser performer, but he nails it!
A friend who had read the print version of this book recommended it to me. When I found it on Audible, I was a little apprehensive because I have never been a big fan of "narrated by the author" books. In my experience, there are few people who can do both well (Neil Gaiman comes to mind).
In this particular case, the author, who lived through this amazing experience, is the perfect choice to recount what happened. The emotion and intensity of what happened is there, but not over the top. He really brought something to this story in his reading of it.
I'm going to recommend the audiobook version back to my friend!
OK, so I got most of the way through the first book in the series before giving up. My gripes then were essentially my gripes now. I am not a big fan of Roy's narration. Some of the voices are ridiculous, and most of the guy voices sound like pirates or stodgy old Brits. The women sound like they should be in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. It is true, though, that the voices for each character are more or less individually recognizable. That's a good thing because my second gripe is...
DANG, there are a lot of characters in this series. It's hard to know when a character is introduced whether they will be inconsequential or hugely important. I like to keep track of things like this in a story, so this in particular drove me nuts for quite a while.
The last thing I'll mention on the minus side is that there is a boat load of detail. Too much in my opinion. I lose track of what is going on and who is currently present in the story for all the detail. I don't care what your cloak is made out of, just move it along!
Now, after all that, you're probably wondering why I bothered to part with four more credits to get the second and third books in the series. Well, at the risk of sounding low brow, I'll tell you. I LOVED the first season of the HBO series. There... I said it! All the issues with the hokey voices were addressed with excellent casting. All the extraneous characters either evaporated or faded into the background. All the long descriptive passages became beautiful sets and locations. I got a good grounding in the story, saw the developing big picture, and promptly got the second book after I finished watching the first season.
Now that I know how the more important characters are handled in the book, I just resign myself to letting the other characters sort of wash over me without giving in to my OCD and trying to keep them in order. I got an app for my phone with a Westeros map on it, and descriptions of the houses, religions and characters. That helped. The mental pictures of the actors from the HBO series help me to keep the characters straight, too. At times, I just let my eyes roll back in my head when the Roy-ness gets to be too much, or there is a multi-paragraph description of what people are wearing.
I'm most of the way through the third book, and there is a real story arc developing, and quite a few surprises. On the whole, I'll admit that I am now enjoying this series despite my strong negative reaction to the first book. I think I will see this one through...
I don't have much to add about the story that has not already been said. It's thoroughly engrossing on a number of levels, and you will probably irritate your family and others around you as you enjoy the marathon listen.
What I did want to take a moment to say is that, unlike many of the reviewers who wrote the reviews I find at the top of this list, I thought the narrator was perfect. I didn't think she read too fast - most often I took that as a convincing rendition of what a teen or a child would sound like recounting her part of the story. Certainly not distracting or difficult to understand. Also, what some took for monotone, I found more atmospheric and appropriate to life in this difficult, gritty place.
Do listen to the sample, but if you are unsure, forge ahead!
For me, this is one of those books that I will listen to again at least once. Morgenstern weaves just the right amount of atmosphere into her story, without resorting to long, torturous passages that one would be tempted to skip over to get back to the story. Speaking of the story, it's loose enough to keep your mind engaged in "what if's", and wondering "what's next?" without becoming messy or hard to follow. Definitely looking forward to more from this author. Also, you cannot go wrong with Jim Dale. Great to listen to him read something other than Harry Potter.
The publisher's summary says this book has "equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense". I guess I must not be a fan of the paranormal romance thing, because I found this book to concentrate far too much on that aspect of the story. The narrator was pleasant to listen to, although there was the occasional mispronunciation, which is always a little jarring. If paranormal romance novels appeal to you, you'll probably like this novel.
This book could benefit from being about 10 hours shorter. I'm not sure what it is that differentiates useless details from engaging atmosphere, but my eyes rolled back in my head after about the first 6 hours or so. The main characters are pretty one dimensional. I had a hard time caring about any of them. Most of the great fantasy I've read has an over-arching mythology to it, and this story seems to be missing that, unless it has yet to be revealed. If it's going to be revealed in the second book, I guess I will never know...
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