The first two installments of Riyria Revelations are found in this volume: "The Crown Conspiracy" and "Avempartha." I find it's easier to recall some of the plot later on in the series if you remember what book it's in. It's easy to get over the cliche characterization of the main characters (what fantasy novel doesn't have the good-natured, under-estimated fighter and his sullen-yet-clever, secretive sidekick?) because they are so well portrayed. They have pasts that are alluded to with just enough detail to make the story progress, but not so much that you have to wade through unnecessary history. No character in this series is a mere device to move along a scene. Every character comes back later in the series with an important role to play. I rather like that. This is an epic fantasy, so it is intended to be escapist entertainment. So long as you keep that in mind, this series is a lot of fun!
As intimated by a number of other reviewers, this story stands out as a well-crafted fantasy. For those who love tales with lots of battle and bloodshed, this has that. But it's also a story full of intricately woven intrigue and intelligence. It speaks to the futility of war and its motivators of greed and religion. Yet little apology is made to the conviction that war is inevitable and therefore, necessary. I was intrigued throughout by how the author balanced faith with doubt and the impacts of both on various characters' actions. It does not take a great leap of imagination to see this story set in the Middle Ages about the Christian Crusades. From that, not much further to the religious wars of today. Only a different interpretive spin or description of the blood song would change this from a fantasy genre to an historical fiction. The great thing about this book is that it concludes the story arc. If the other two books never get published and released, there isn't a sense of incompletion like with Scott Lynch's Gentleman Bastards or Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller Chronicles. That said, I can't wait to read the next installment.
As an aside, I think given the intricacy of this tale, one might be better off with a text version rather than audio. The performance wasn't bad, although there were times when I wasn't sure which character was speaking--he tended not to use voices. Probably a wise decision since there are so many characters, keeping the voices straight would have been difficult and errors would detract even more from the telling.
All in all, this book is most definitely worth the credit!
I was a little disappointed in this story. The idea of the character, time and place was perfect for a suspenseful mystery full of religious and political intrigue. But the mystery wasn't so much a mystery as a sensational expose. I was never really convinced of the protagonist's right to be the one solving the mystery. His emotional response to the sole female character was hard to believe (although, maybe more believable if it was just the idea of the girl, rather than the actual character). Very few of the characters warranted any sympathy. Perhaps it was the use of first person narrative that caused the problem; I find it rather difficult to care about a character that has to describe his own attributes. The mystery might have worked better if the reader could have liked anyone. As for the narrator...John Lee is very skilled, but is not very emotive. Great for a non-fiction book; not so great for a mystery. His inflection and tone were too straight-forward and practical to evoke an atmosphere of mystery.
Couldn't finish listening to this horrible rendition. The narrator was all wrong for this book. Her accent was childish; she so grossly mispronounced words that it detracted from the story. If you're looking for a saccharine-sweet and completely implausible modern fairy-tale kind of story (which I sheepishly admit to wanting on occasion) it could have been alright--if you overlook the hero's rather abrupt about face and the heroine's unrealistic character and the flat, one dimensional Stepford children. But the narrator sounded like she'd be better off reading children's books. She frequently put accents on the wrong syllables, spoke with broad, nasal vowels, dropped "r"s (dearly sounded like daily; barber sounded like bobber) and wrongly added "r"s (drawering?? Speech therapists work on that with school children!) ) and slight lisp were too distracting to tolerate. She also really should work on consistent voice characterization. Sometimes in a conversation between the man and the woman, the narrator gave the man a higher pitched tone than the woman. Bizarre. Overall, not worth the credit. Thanks, Audible.com, for your return policy!
Each story in this series was a well-developed story in its own right. To be sure, one necessarily follows the other, and they couldn't be as fun taken out of order. But each book is its own episode in the ongoing epic. I admit to having the attention span of a gnat and usually get bored with a series by book three, and almost never read beyond book four. But here I am anxiously awaiting--no, impatiently waiting--for the sixth book in this series. I love Alec and Seregil and the relationship they have not only with each other, but with all of their friends. Somewhere along in this series, the narrators change. While some might have difficulties with the change of voices, I confess, the narrators were superseded by the story for me, and they hardly mattered.
I listened to The Tamir Triad first and almost didn't give this series a try. I found that series to be rather dark and difficult to suspend disbelief. I was afraid this would be like that. But this series is much easier, lighter and warmer. Much more to my preferences for escaping into fantasy.
The Alchemist was so well-written that the reader did not merely sympathize with the character, you actually suffered his frustration at his own self-imposed impotence. In reading fantasy, one quickly adapts to the "hero" concept wherein the good guy saves the day. But with The Alchemist, the character acts as any real person might. Where there are opportunities for heroism, the character is not strong enough to take them. So he does what he can to save his own hide and that of those whom he loves. YET. I listened to the ending and felt complete; like it was a sweet story well told.
The Executioness was more a story of how circumstances and superficial observation serve to develop a character just as much as individual growth does. Few people (in the story) get close enough to the woman to know what drives and motivates her. Yet their opinion of her, which she tries to reject with limited success, is what she ultimately becomes. This story also is somewhat cautionary in that even if the hero's path is chosen for you, the grand scheme of things is still just an ever-changing scheme.
These stories don't touch each other. They are different people in different parts of the same world and have no impact on one another. But if the authors wanted them to, they could! It is a world in which magic had become mundane and a natural blight results from careless overuse of magic. The authors treat magic as mundane and commonplace, and as a result, the reader almost forgets it's there. Very well written stories!
Both of the narrators gave stellar performances. Katherine Kellgren is one of the most talented readers I've had the privilege of listening. She has a huge range of accents and is always consistent with her characterizations. Jonathan Davis has the gift of creating an atmosphere of empathy when he reads. Both narrators worked perfectly with these stories.
What a disappointment this book was. The main character had no credibility as a professional researcher who was supposed to have substantial knowledge and evidence enough to support the premise of a book. Non-fiction books contain only a fraction of what the author knows. But this character didn't even seem to know enough to fill a book. Every step of the way through this novel, she was shocked by the "new" evidence presented to her. Incidentally, the whole 2000 year conspiracy theory doesn't wash--no one is so good at keeping secrets. Further, this character seemed more to be a thing upon which circumstances happened--just so much flotsam to be pushed around--rather than an individual capable of making her own life-controlling decisions.
The author tries to use the withholding information device to create a sense of suspense ("I'll tell you later", "it's not for you to know right now") that simply does not work. There was never any reason to withhold information, and the characters just look even more dim-witted and foolish for allowing it. The author tries to mimic the style of Dan Brown and utterly fails.
It is disappointing, because the idea of Mary Magdalene's story of her Gospel (as a witness to Jesus' life and teachings) is a fascinating one that could make for an entertaining story. It's just not this one.
This volume contains "Nyphron Rising" and "The Emerald Storm." With these books, the story really begins to develop toward the ultimate climax (which I'm hoping will be released on Audible sometime soon). Volume one fleshes out the players and leads us to the goal of the various players. Volume two is more plot driven than character development. But that's not to say that the characters don't develop, they do. But it's more of a lateral movement rather than a growth toward betterment. The end of "The Emerald Storm" leaves you hanging! If you don't like cliffhangers, hold off on this series until all three volumes have been released (or see if you can find it in print). Still, I'm rather enjoying this series. No dreadful mid-series lull that is so often found in fantasy series.
Carol Berg writes intricately detailed stories, and this is no exception. Despite the thick and lush detail, there are times when it seems not enough detail is given--especially when the protagonist arrives at some conclusion that the exposed train of thought does not justify. Still, it's a well written and entertaining story. The characters are believably human and drive the plot. I had a hard time trusting the narrator's rendition of Dante though. His character voice sounded too old to be a younger man than the protagonist. But otherwise it was performed very well. I haven't read the other books in the series yet. I hope some of the questions left dangling at the end of this one are answered later!
This book is full of fascinating history and science. It reads more as a story rather than an historical reference, though. But having a hard copy version would be useful to refer back to for the sheer density of information. The author presents the material in a logical, well-organized manner with an entertaining style. The narrator, however, tended toward monotony now and again. Still, his diction was clear and the recording lacked any true quirky irritations.
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