First of all let me say I am on my fourth listen to this book. Jeff Woodman voices Lord John Grey with tremendous wit and style, he does a fine job with the other characters as well (although Davina Porter fans may find fault with his Jamie Fraser). The story is intriguing on it's own (ahem, yes he's gay, yes there is sex, it doesn't get graphic until 4 or 5 hours into the book with plenty of foreshadowing - those who claim to be shocked at this remind me of Claude Rains in "Casablanca"). Beyond that there is social and political intrigue, great battle scenes and a family mystery.
If you are a Gabaldon fan and plan to read/listen to "Echo in the Bone" this is a must for many reasons. Chacters and story lines come back to haunt us, but most critically this book shows us Lord John Grey in depth. He's no longer a 'minor character' in Echo, and I for one am glad.
For a reader new to fantasy this might be of some interest. For myself (a long time fan of the genre) I found it pretty lame. The world building is thin and derivative...no sense of place beyond some made up names. The "magic" is contrived and way too convenient...following no coherent system beyond what is useful to further the rather predictable plot. The characters seem stereotypical, the prose leaden and the tendency of the narrator to render every event as portentous doesn't help. Midway through the first book I find myself bored and irritated.
If you did enjoy this I would recommend Lois Bujold's Chalion series. Magic, strange religions, romance, adventure, lots of engaging characters, well written prose and engaging narration.
Time warp back to when manly heroes were men and the ladies were feisty (but swooned none the less). Could just picture this as a 1930's swashbuckler.
HaHa! Beauvallet, no doubt about it. The hero is the hero after all!
A sense of vivid fun. He sees what is best in the dated material and runs with it.
If you are looking for any kind of 21st century sensibility this book is not for you. If you grew up watching reruns of old Hollywood swashbucklers (and loved them) you may find yourself sucked in - even tho the plot is transparent and the characters perfect stereotypes. The key word there is PERFECT...
I enjoyed it despite my better judgement ;-) Besides, it was on sale.
If it was 12 -14 hours instead of 24 it would have been worth it.
No, although it's sort of sui generis.
I also listened to the first volume "Blackout", performance was comparable. I read "The Doomsday Book" and others by Connie Willis and enjoyed them which is why I looked forward to this set.
There probably will be one...hope she can be more concise.
She obviously was in love with the period and her research, to the cost of plot and character. The characters were forced to run around worrying about this and that, endlessly whinging about something or other until the story caught up with her descriptions of the horrors of the blitz. After a while it made them hard to differentiate, much less care about. There is a good book buried inside this monster (and I include the first volume "Blackout"). Don't get me wrong, I love long books (Diana Gabaldon for example has some single books that are longer than these two volumes combined), but fully fleshed out characters are critical to holding my interest. Historical accuracy and detail are wonderful, but need to serve the plot rather than the other way around. In Willis' earlier books she managed this quite well, maybe this should have been a different two books - one tightly paced novel and one non-fiction book about life in London during the Blitz.
I bought this in one of the Audible sales, I'm a long time fantasy fan and it had been on my list for a while. I was disappointed, I found the charater development thin and the language trite. I love Jeff Woodman as a narrator when he is 'on' (listen to him reading Diana Gabaldon or Chris Grabenstein for example) but here he seemed as bored as I felt...there is not much for him to work with.
If you enjoy this type of fantasy I would highly recommend Lois Mc Master Bujold's "Chalion" series...similar magical millieu but far better written, with richly developed landscape and charaters. Audible doesn't yet have the Queen's Theif series by Meg Whalen Turner available, but seek it out in print - then pester them to release it on audio.
I would give this a 5 for research, 4 for narration, 4 for plot, 3 for character and 1 for dialogue (interior or conventional).
Given that the book is written in the first person (with multiple POV) I found the leaden dialogue to be a fatal flaw. Even brilliant narrators such as Davina Porter could not bring the paper thin charaters to life for me. All the historic facts have been marshalled, but are defeated by anachonistic whining on the part of the heroine, who by all rights deserves our sympathy. Granted, believably getting inside the mind of a brilliant, aristocratic, 16th century child / woman has a high degree of difficulty, still this effort fell short for me.
Lord Dudley (the villian) seemed to have stepped straight out of a 1940's costume drama (think the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood) - if he had a mustache he would twirl it.
I stuck with it for 13 hours, but just couldn't bear to listen to it grind to the inevitable, 'heartbreaking' conclusion.
Highly recommended as an appetizing complement to the Outlander series. These three stories fill in a wealth of details about Lord John Greys's life and character. I don't know how interesting I would find them as stand alone works, but they provide backstory for one of my favorite personalities in the Outlander series. Plus they contain lots of clues and context for the longer Lord John books.
As usual with Diana Gabaldon there is a wealth of historic detail and some sly humor, with the added twist of the mysteries to be solved. The style of the writing is quite different from that in the Outlander main series - like fine claret as opposed to scotch whiskey, perhaps? Both appeal to me.
That being said, the final story 'Hand of Devils' does feel like it could easily be twice as long and better for it; I wanted to know more about some of the characters who remained undeveloped. Still it does tie up some of the loose ends from Brotherhood of the Blade (and will make a lot more sense if you have read that book).
I find Jeff Woodman's nuanced reading delightful, he brings the varied cast of characters to life - particularly Grey and his loyal, long suffering valet Tom Byrd. I've listened to these more than once in the past year, and enjoyed picking up on things I missed the first time.
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