Terry Brooks is often accused of plagiarising J.R.R. Tolkien's the Lord of the Rings trilogy. I would encourage people not to think of these books as plagiarism but as a further exploration of a world that we didn't get to see enough of before Mr.Tolkien's death. After I finished the Lord of the Rings I really wanted more. There were so many corners of Middle Earth that were left unexplored, so much more to see. I think that's what authors like Terry Brooks offer us. His world is not Middle Earth, as that's a copyrighted name, but it's clearly based off of it. None of the ideas here are unique. They are taken from better series like the Lord of the Rings and put into a post-apocalyptic world just like Stephen King's Dark Tower series but if you want more of the same, which I did, these books will deliver. I wouldn't recommend them as your first fantasy novels, I'd recommend LoTR, Dark Tower, The Song of Ice and Fire and The Wheel of Time series first, but when you're done with those and want more, as many fans do, the Shanarra books are a good read. They have all your favorite monsters and creatures revisted. There are better books out there but I feel the Shannara stories are good extensions of those tales for people who don't feel like they've had enough yet.
You will notice immediately after purchasing this, that A Feast for Crows is recorded using a different narrator. Roy Dotrice was the narrator for the last three books and an incredible one at that. He truly brought the story and the characters to life. He was as much a part of the reason I listened to these books as the incredible story was. Roy Dotrice had an incredible ability to act out the characters while reading. This new reader treats the story as if it were an overly dramatic reading of an Edgar Alan Poe poem. It doesn't feel right.
The story itself may be somewhat disappointing to the audience in that it does not follow the main characters. This is an insert book to fill in some important details of the next book which were originally meant to be told in flash back from the viewpoint of five years after the third book. The story got unwieldy so George R. R. Martin broke it into two books. Given that shock for readers added to this new reader's bland reading, I don't think fans of the last three books will be as satisfied. I have taken to reading the book in print as if Roy Dotrice was reading it to me. I find this much more satisfying.
I believe everyone should send emails and letters to Random House Audio and request that they rerecord this book using Roy Dotrice. Otherwise I won't be buying this or the final three books in this series in audio format.
Spoilers ahead (if it's possible to spoil this book)...
Believe it or not, John Travolta's career-wrecking bomb of a movie is actually better than this book. What makes the movie better is that they cut out most of the dumber plot elements (90% of the book's 1000 pages). I kept reading this book thinking that there must be something in it worth reading, because it has sold millions of copies. Turns out there isn't. Most of the story is just plain stupid. It insults the intelligence of anyone who reads it. It is honestly very difficult to explain just how terrible this book is to anyone who hasn't read it. There are just too many long rambling chapters that expect you to accept ludicrous and poorly written events and characters. For example: bad guys who are made up of colonies of intelligent bacteria, who are lead by a royal caste of former circus performers and who explode in the presence of radiation. After their defeat we are introduced to a shark-headed banker alien who likes to chew mint, which he picks from an old lady's garden in England somewhere. Anyways, you're expected to believe a primitive human from Colorado acquires all the knowledge of the bacteria-people (with their help no less), teams up with a group of Scotsmen and leads a massive and very boring rebellion against a race that has conquered dozens of galaxies. Then the humans of course win and acquire the bacteria-people's assets and become really really wealthy. Wondering why this wasn't in the movie? Because it's stupid that's why, but it really is the plot. Don't believe me? Really bored? Try reading this and be thankful it's the abridged version, the full one is worse.
The first thing I noticed when listening to this book is that it sounds like it is being read by Zap Brannigan from Futurama. If you enjoy the a novel that is read like a William Shatner spoken word album, then this is the book for you. If you don't like it, at least it becomes tolerable after an hour or so. What really bores me about this story is that nearly every concept, theme, fantasy element etc. was already done in the Lord of the Rings and I when I want to read about those things I'll reread the Lord of the Rings. The story starts off in an innocent village of people that don't get out in the world much, ala Hobbiton. We then meet our "Warder", just like the Rangers in LotR, his friend the spellcaster, the friends of the main character, a wizened old magician (who even has fireworks), and they set off together on an adventure. This is all just like the beginning of LotR, but much more boring. Along the way there are trollucs instead of orcs, wolves, fades instead of wraiths, there are even treasure-hording evil spirits, just like the barrow wights in LotR. One of the characters even picks up a gold trinket that turns him into a less interesting Gollum-like creature for a time. The characters in the book are shallow and wooden for the most part. The best writing in the book focuses around the awkard teenage romance of the main character and village girl along for the ride. Mostly the story is centered on recreating scenes from LotR using slightly different characters and locations and without any of the excitement. At times I was so bored with the story I was reduced to counting all of the LotR/Eye of the World parallels I could think of, there are scores of them. The book is not so horribly written, it just lacks originality. I would like to see what this author could do if he'd allow himself to stray for a few moments from standard fantasy cliches. In all fairness this book is better written than most fantasy, which sadly isn't saying too much.
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