The narrator. His characterizations have very little distinction between them-- for an eldery male character the narrator sounds like he's trying to sound old, whereas a previous reader (Raymond Todd) had an uncanny ability to change his voice to the point that I thought it was a cast ensemble at first listen. This narrator doesn't give adequate depth through the emotional or action scenes, and frankly all adult characters come off as "wry," as if every sentence they say in the book is accompanied with a smirk or knowing eyebrow lift, and it's annoying. Being annoyed through 14 hours 7 minutes is not a comfortable experience.
The story itself is a refreshing return to what made the first 3 books of the Nightrunner series a pleasure. The 4th and 5th books felt like the author had written herself into a corner (it's difficult to be spy and rogue intriguer when you are a parent!) and the soft porn that carried the novels were tasteless and boring. This book has multiple plots that touch onto each other, plots that are political, military, magic, social, and medical. Some character introductions feel contrived, just hurried explanations to get to the next scene, but on the whole the story was entertaining.
Change the narrator completely. Or coach him to improve his characterizations, and for pete's sake, quit reading every character as if they were going, "wink wink, nudge nudge"!
Maybe one more. While the relationship between the 2 main characters is established, it's clear the lives of the ordinary humans around them are dynamic and progressing, and I want to hear what happens to Thero and Princess Klia and Beka and the rest of the Cavish clan. I'd also like to see more of the Auren faie.
No, because while the descriptions of life running a tea house are sweet and informative, the mystery itself is too far-fetched to be believable. Police officers do NOT let civilians lead criminal chases, much less without back-up a la Old West Cowboy style. Trying not to give spoilers: The apprehension of the criminal does nothing to actually describe motive, nor do we actually hear anything from the criminal at the crucial end except for
My next listen will not be another offering from this author.
over the top
Only 50% of the time, for descriptions of running the tea house and the events they sponsored.
This book started off well, but the mystery wasn't focused and finished up too quickly, conveniently, and unbelievably. At the end, I wondered if it couldn't have been totally rewritten from Chapter 3 down a different plot line, one that was mentioned as key to the mystery but then ignored.
The magic of a garden, family legacies and talents, culinary art, and life in the here and now are beautifully crafted together in this story. What a relief to find characters who don't cling to abuse and excuse it as love or whose relationships don't resolve in an instant, but rather require careful tending and time! I found myself feeling unexpected sympathy towards characters who normally would remain flatly wicked. Sure, the story is set in present day North Carolina, but it could easily be a fairy tale told once upon a time and long, long ago. If you don't like romances, then avoid this one-- it's too lovely for your sensibilities.
The previous 2 books in this series were excellent, opening up the world of art in an intriguing and engaging way. This third book began with promise, honest in the strain of relationships between the kids and the changes in moving to the next grade, and quickly introducing the mobiles of Alexander Calder. Throughout the book Ms. Balliett works in English history, teaching as well as entertaining. However, there are a few changes of heart that aren't explained, and some changes of heart that should happen, but don't. Calder Pilay is made to feel so ashamed to be an American it practically ruins his trip with his father. Even at the end, the Anti-American opinion is merely ignored by the bigots who expressed it, although some of the heroes, the art collector, and certainly the injured are Americans. Ms Balliett does an excellent job in presenting art and art history, but would be well advised to think before insulting many of the people who buy her books and thereby provide her an income.
While the similarity to Hogwarts and Harry Potter is unavoidable, there are enough twists in the story for it to hold its own. Max seems grounded and his relationship with his dad is endearing. The blending of technology, espionage, and old magic makes for a refreshing change from typical wizardry explanations, and the history, art references, and mythology woven throughout educate as well as entertain. The ending begs and pleads for a sequel-- let's hope it comes soon.
The 1-star rating goes solely to the narrator for giving this cliched, self-absorbed, predictable bit of recycled formula-fluff an effort.
The story and the telling of it were beautiful. The sense of revealing the mystery in both past and present kept me wanting to hear the next word. The images were wonderfully painted. The one thing that kept this a 4-star rather than a 5-star is the nearly incessant soapboxing. I understand and admire the the author's passion about saving the rainforests (just to be clear, that message is restated in an afterword), but the lecturing interfered with the enjoyment of the story. It made me wonder if the text version of the book was printed in biogradeable inks on 100% recycled paper and delivered on foot to bookstores so petrol would not be used in getting them distributed. This book is definitely on my "listen to again" list, but not until I'm in the appropriate mood.
My reaction to this audiobook is mixed. The narrator was a bit flat and dull sounding. The rest of the cast was convincing, maybe too much so-- the temper tantrums and pouty "no one understands me" tone of the Daine character annoyed me. Thankfully, the rest of the characters' performance and the story itself were engaging, and worked to draw me in. Either I'd read this story in text and in silence, or hope that the next audiobooks of this series will take place when the lead character has matured a bit.
Between the words written by Cornelia Funke and their performance through Brendan Fraser, the story became so engaging I laughed out loud (sometimes at inopportune moments) while listening. My only complaint would be the sound quality overall, which was a bit fuzzy and thick.
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