This is the beginning of a saga set in a fairly typical fantasy world - although there are a couple of surprises. Magic is shunned, and elves are both the enemy and a despised underclass. The two main characters are a pair of rogues who hire themselves out to nobles for odd jobs that nobody else can do. There's a real sense of camaraderie between them, as well as a constant but restrained sense of humor throughout the books.
This audiobook is really two books in one. The first book has a simple, predictable plot with overpowered main characters and two-dimensional villains...but it gets better. The second book picks up where the first left off, and now it really begins to shine. Details from the first book that seemed unimportant or incongruous come back and take on new meaning. The characters from the first book get more back story and personality. While I never quite lost the idea that I was listening to someone's RPG campaign, I ended up enjoying myself quite a lot. It's no grand literature, but what it is isn't bad - a bit like how fast food can hit the spot, but will never replace a fine meal.
Two sisters, orphaned after their parents disappeared one night, become experts in running away from abusive foster parents - until they end up adopted by their grandmother, a woman they had always been told had died, and brought to live in a town whose inhabitants are all fairy tale characters. There, they discover that some of the fairy tale characters are plotting to kill off their family and release them from an old spell which traps them in the town.
It's an interesting premise, although I found it to be derivative after reading the Fables comic series. They both look at fairy tale characters down on their luck in the real world, and both have Prince Charming as a mayor, both have the Big Bad Wolf as sheriff, and both have their magic artifacts locked away for safekeeping, and both have Jack as a rogue who wants to earn a fortune. There are big differences, though, and the Sisters Grimm is much more family friendly - although with moments that aren't appropriate for kids.
Overall, I didn't find any one thing to be particularly bad. The voice acting was fine, the characters were interesting, the plot was slow to start but then reasonably fast paced. However, nothing about it really excited me, either. It wasn't a bad read, but it just didn't click with me. I'm not sure I'm interested enough to pick up the sequel. Fables is a much better read, even though it's a comic.
A computer nerd discovers that the world is really just a computer simulation - and that he has access to the source code. After getting in trouble with the law, he winds up in medieval England, pretending to be a wizard - and discovering that he's far from the first person to come up with the idea.
It's a really interesting concept, but fails to really examine itself seriously. What ARE the consequences if we're really all a simulation? What's the purpose of it? Are there any clues in the code? Why doesn't affecting the past change the present in their universe? We never get answers. Instead, we get a young man's adventure. That's good enough, except that it lacks a central conflict until the very end. Instead, we hear about Martin's bumbling mistakes, one after another, as he learns how to become a wizard.
What really drove me nuts was the missed opportunities. More than once they mention the possibilities of the code, such as travel in time and space - yet Martin constantly talks about how he can't return to his own time for fear of being arrested. Why not reappear in his own time, but in a different place? Or a day before the police came to his door? We constantly hear that people can be altered in the code - why not remove the powers of the bad guy before confronting him in person? The 'wizards' define their code so that anybody with the proper equipment can use their 'spells' - why not tie it directly to their identities? So many missed opportunities when given such godlike powers.
In the end, it was a fascinating tale, and one that a lot of sci-fi geeks will love (and I'm one). But it was also a disappointing story on so many levels. There's so much more that could have been done with it.
The story is off to a good start - I've only listened to the first few lines - but the recording is terrible! It fades in and out and is such a distraction I don't know if I'll be able to finish listening.
I really enjoyed the mystery of the Seeker and the final resolution.
I didn't enjoy listening to the main character fumble her way around the attack by the misogynist jerk. Nine thousand years into the future and women are still clueless and helpless in the face of violence? I found it very frustrating. If it had been presented as just so new and outside her experience, it might have been better, but it wasn't.
The future in this series can be summed up as "The best of times and the worst of times." It's either awesome, with all the FTL travel we dream of and a charming naivete (No surveillance at the shuttleport? Really?) or it's pretty bad, with Earth STILL overcrowded, underfed and disease-ridden and the general population (not make clear which general population, as most of the setting doesn't involve Earth at all) getting obese from watching too many "sims." Seriously, a setting where someone can say (with amused condescension) "Back then 7 weeks to go 4 light years was a long time" and yet there's no evidence of any particularly advanced medicine or even cosmetics, let alone the societal changes that come with such things.
Peter F. Hamilton's "The Great North Road" did a much more complete job of envisioning the future.
I ended up enjoying 'Hex Hall' more than I thought I would. I went into it knowing it was Young Adult, yet interested in the concept - I'm glad I gave it a chance.
First, the bad. It's a Young Adult novel, and a little too pat for my tastes. The main character is special in many ways, and it started to feel a bit like a Mary Sue character. She's the most powerful witch of her generation, yet she doesn't know how to use her power. She's the daughter of the leader of the magical world, yet she has never met him. She's one of only four dark witches in the school, so the other witches need her in their coven. She's assigned as a roommate the one student at school who stands out from everyone else. She ends up getting detention with the hottest boy in school that she has a crush on. Detention, might I add, that consists of being locked in a room with him, alone, with the teachers not caring if they actually do the work assigned to them as detention. All of this made me annoyed with the book.
Now, the good news. Several of the points that annoyed me in the list above get explained in the book, so by the end of it, I ended up forgiving the author. In addition, the book's plot wasn't nearly as simple as I had expected it to be, and didn't go in the directions I expected. I was pleasantly surprised that all the clues were in place for me to figure it out, yet I didn't - and that things I expected to happen in a Young Adult book often did happen, but then transformed in a way I didn't expect. All in all, the writing was solid - plots that made sense within the world, characters that were likeable and had motivations and stories of their own, and a fast pace that didn't leave you time to get bored.
I enjoyed the narrator and her slight drawl; she was a pleasure to listen to, and helped the characters come alive.
I've put the next book in the series on my wishlist.
I enjoyed this one a lot.
'The Spirit Thief' does a great job of straddling 'fantasy that seems familiar' with 'original ideas'. It isn't just a cookie-cutter fantasy world, but at the same time, it's not too alien to enjoy. There are a lot of very cool ideas in the book, and it explores them slowly, giving you the chance to anticipate and theorize. I really enjoyed the world, and the magic, that Ms. Aaron has shown us.
The characters are likeable, and you want them to succeed. There's a real sense of cameraderie between them, which is something I really appreciate in a novel. The main characters are all very powerful people, but each of them has their own story that explains it - and which is hinted at throughout the novel. It was done in such a way that I really wanted to know more about them.
The reader was good, but not fantastic. I enjoyed his different voices, but somehow when narrating I found him slightly unimpressive.
The book's pacing was fast enough that I didn't get bored, and I found myself wanting to make time for the book, so I could listen to just a little more.
All in all, I am looking forward to reading more of the series!
Whoever called this "Jane Austen with swords" has evidently never read any Jane Austen.
I was halfway through the book before I found a storyline I cared to follow to the end. I'm giving the book as much of a chance as I can but I highly doubt it's one I'll want to re-read.
Austen is known for her wit and manners and sly social commentary.
There is nothing sly about this book; in fact, there is rather too much blatantly indecent. If your story doesn't grip the attention without sex, then it's a lousy story.
I read this series as a young adult and enjoyed it, so I decided to take a stroll down memory lane and listen to it again as an adult.
It's a rare genre that I have a soft spot for: a group of college-aged kids who roleplay together end up in the game for real, no longer playing characters but actually living their lives, with the knowledge and skills from their own lives. It's a pretty awesome idea - take your average teenager and give them the body and skills of Conan the Barbarian, or Merlin the Wizard, and you have an idea of what fun it could be. But that's not what this book is about. The fun is temporary - the book focuses on how flawed everything is - the world, its people, and even the main characters.
The characters in it are all flawed people. They're not BAD people, but they're also not without problems. The novel stresses the idea that people can grow out of childishness and into heroes. But in the meantime, you get a group of people who can be self-absorbed, petty, and rubbing against each other in the worst possible ways. There are love triangles, unresolved issues, and lots more going on behind the scenes.
The whole book is full of mistakes the characters make - some accidental, some caused by their personality quirks, some because they are seeking to become heroes - that cause bad things to happen to them, from losing their spellbooks right away to a main character dying to the girls getting raped. THIS BOOK IS DARK. Bad things happen to good people. It's not always the fault of the protagonists, but they usually contribute to it through naivete and mistakes. While the worst events take place off-screen, the effects aren't just brushed aside - the book dwells on them and how big events change people, and not always for the better.
The book gets better the more you read, but it can be slow going. The first chapter in particular was a little painful to listen to - it introduced each of the main characters as they went to their weekly gaming session. With a whole group to introduce, you can't really get to know any of them, so they ended up feeling like two-dimensional stereotypes. That may have been on purpose, though - as the characters go through strife and suffering in the fantasy world, we see them grow up and become more three-dimensional. And the heroes begin to realize that the fantasy world they are so eager to leave needs someone from our world to bring some badly needed enlightenment - at the point of a sword. Thus beginning a series.
In terms of writing style and reader performance, both were a bit lacking at first. The reader had to speak dozens of different voices from different genders, ages, and races, and did a fine job of keeping them all separate and distinct, yet some of them sounded a little too comical. However, as the story went on, I began to notice this less and less. In terms of literary quality - well, this is no great American novel, but the writing style isn't horrid, either. While it is tough to get through the first two chapters, and while the group still seems selfish and childish halfway through the book, it all starts to seem worth it once the group meets the dragon halfway through the book. Then, the book takes the rug from beneath your feet, and changes everything in the last chapters of the book.
This is a book about growing up, about losing your innocence, and about redefining what heroism means. It's also a book about roleplaying rules, roleplaying groups and roleplaying quests. if you're not into fantasy or you're not into roleplaying games, I'd suggest giving this a pass. But if you're into roleplaying games, especially tabletop ones, and if you've ever wondered what it would be like to travel back in time or into your favourite movie, this could be the book for you.
Sapphire Blue has an interesting premise: a teenage girl grows up knowing that her snobby cousin is going to be the last in a line of 12 time travelers, only to discover that -she- is the one with the gift. Now she has to learn about history, join a secret society, hide her powers to see ghosts, and decide how she feels about the handsome, charming young man who is the only other time traveler around in her day and age. Meanwhile, all is not what it seems - could there be a traitor? What is the mystery of the 12? And who is trying to kill her?
It was interesting enough to make me listen to this one and then buy the sequel. However, you should be warned: neither this book, nor the sequel 'Ruby Red' have a conclusive ending. You'll need to read the whole trilogy to get closure to the story and find out all the mysteries. That in itself is a problem for me, but not an insurmountable one.
The writing is good, but sometimes it feels like the story is going nowhere. I got the impression that the book was designed for young adults; certainly, listening to the protagonist sorting out her feelings and showing off her ignorance makes me think that. It is, however, not annoying to listen to as an adult.
The reader isn't bad, and has distinct voices for all the main characters, but sometimes secondary characters sound very similar. This can be a problem at times when they are having a conversation - I did occasionally have a little confusion over who was speaking, but it was not a big part of the novel.
All in all, I liked the book and the reader, but can only recommend it with some reservations. Go into it with your eyes open and you'll enjoy it!
I enjoyed Swarm a great deal. It wasn't a perfect novel, but it had a quality that is hard to find these days - it gave me that "just one more chapter" feeling.
The good: Many books have a main character who ends up being crucial to the fate of the world. This is such a book. But Swarm does a good job of actually explaining it, and making it seem plausible, without making its protagonist superhuman. As he explored the heartless AI that had taken him prisoner, the main character's attempts to figure things out and musings about what was going on mirrored my own. There is a definite back story going on, an incredible plot that is hinted at, but that does not quite take shape in this book. Good thing it's only book one, because I want to know more! That being said, there's also a definite (and somewhat happy) ending.
The characters seem interesting - nobody is a cardboard cutout villain, and although we don't get to know most characters very well, most seem interesting. Mark Boyett does a great job of making them come to life with different voices and accents, and I'd be happy to listen to another novel narrated by him.
There is conflict in the book, and consequences. Things are rarely black or white in the novel; instead, the author takes pains to show shades of grey, both morally (sometimes there are no right choices) and with decisions (sometimes the main character fails and sometimes people die because of him). There are also surprises in the book - I was caught off guard a couple times by directions I did not expect the book to go. Even the ending caught me off guard, and set up a wildly different book 2.
The bad: Swarm can be a pretty dark book. As mentioned, lots of people die in the novel, including several because of the protagonist's choices. His own teenaged children die in chapter 2, and while it happens quickly and moves the plot along, it was still darker than I'd have preferred. There is talk of extinction, murder, and a vague hint of rape (not by the main character). At times I found this off-putting.
In addition, the book is a book about events and ideas, not about people. Few people get much fleshing out in the novel, which makes the romance between the main character and an unlikely passenger seem slightly forced. It also seems like some of the angst that ought to be in such a dark book is skimmed over a little too quickly, although not horribly so. The new technologies described in the book are also not covered in much depth, although that's not always a bad thing - lacking a science background myself, I often find hard sci-fi to be trying a little too hard. Swarm was at least internally self-consistent, and often had good reasons for its powers and limitations.
Finally, Swarm changed directions. At the very beginning, it was an adventure, but quickly became a puzzle in which the main character had to figure things out, which I loved. But then it became a science fiction war novel where the protagonist fought side by side with marines against giant robots and talked about politics and logistics. While a great read, I wasn't expecting it (maybe I should have been, though).
All in all, Swarm was a great book, one that was gripping and plausible, but also a little dark and gritty. If you like books about war and solving puzzles, have I got the series for you!
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