This review covers both Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron, the second and third books in the Theft of Swards trilogy. Any series of books that can hold my attention for 70+ hours and leave me wanting more is a winner. On top of discovering one of my new favorite narrators, I found the books amusing, swashbuckling, and a romp of a fantasy.
The author is not afraid to left Royce, Hadrian and Arista experience both victory and pain. Recurrent characters pop up throughout the trilogy and add continuity and bind the stories together. Originally written as six stand alone books, the trilogy is wisely packaged in three volumes. The main characters and their joint and individual stories are well developed. I felt I knew them and I missed them when it was over.
I am giving the story only four out of five stars because the author leaves subtle but essential clues throughout the books that are hard to remember after such a long narration. He is a bit too clever for his own good at times. When listening, remember, nothing is irrelevant. I was confused by the ending of Heir of Novron. Luckily, I had purchased both the audio and Kindle version and I was able to do a search of the Kindle text to find the answer. It annoyed me I had to resort to looking back.
I had a couple other quibbles with the excessive details in Rise of Empire about every type of mast or sail on a ship and how to operate it in various types of weather. As a reader, I wanted to story to move on and it almost sank. The search for the lost city was puzzling when it turned out that many people knew where it was.
Those quibbles aside, I highly recommend the Theft of Swords trilogy. It is so much better than others series I have tried, such as The Elvenbane (uneven and disjointed) and The Kingkiller Chronicles (so boring I returned the first book and won't revisit).
Office of the Dead is not your typical mystery. The story builds slowly and keeps both the narrator and the reader wondering what is coming next. This is first person point-of-view done as it should be. Our narrator, Wendy, reveals enough about herself to become a well-rounded, sympathetic character. Her observations of Roth, the college, and characters around her draw in the reader. The book is full of interesting and sometimes creepy secondary characters.
While this story stands on its own, I discovered after finishing that it was actually the third book in a trilogy. The trilogy steps backward in time with each volume, which explains one of the issues I had with the story. There are hints of future happenings that are not explained. If the books were read in order, the reader would understand the references.
June Barrie was the perfect narrator for this volume.
No one can compare to Georgette Heyer when it comes to writing great dialogue. This is one of her best Regency romances.
Maybe this is better read than listened to. The writing at times is lovely. You get a sense of the exotic and poetic. But the constant shifts in tense, time, and point of view are confusing. The story, set in India during WW II, didn't ring true. The sensibilities are too 21st century. The identity of one of the main narrators is not revealed until the end of the book (I listened to the last chapter.) and though major revelations are summarized at the very end, it shouldn't have taken 15 hours to get there. It would have been better if the reader could have experienced some of what we learn at the end.
Our hero, Sam, is an American. His is searching for his brother, Mike, who was imprisoned when he began supporting the Indian separatist movement after witnessing the discriminatory treatment of Indians by the British. Sam too sees the way Indians are discriminated against, while falling in love with Mila, a young Indian woman, in a matter of minutes after meeting her. All well and good. But during the many hours I did listen to the book, never once did Sam, who is from Seattle, ever comment on or think about racial discrimination in the US. Wouldn't he have at least thought about the internment of the Japanese Americans from Seattle. Or better yet, the segregation in the armed forces. None of these issues ever cross his mind.
Sam's story is being told to his daughter, Olivia. It is the early 1960's and Sam has just died. She receives a box and a letter from India. We discover toward the end Mila was Olivia's mother (no big surprise). We never get any sense if Olivia can identify with the story of her parents. It must not have been easy growing up as an Indian-American in the 1950s. How did Sam's mother, Maud, react to having a "mixed race" grandchild? How did people treat her in general? Did she understand any of what her parents must have gone through? I wanted to know but never found out.
Sneha Mathan is a wonderful narrator. Her voice is perfect for the book. I would listen to other books she read.
As always, Crowner John delivers a great story. The change from Exeter to London was refreshing. I particularly enjoyed the details about the working of the Court under Richard Lionheart. Bernard Knight always weave historic details into his narrative, sometimes to the story's detriment.The author has a tendency to unnecessarily repeat details throughout a book.
If you want a book without a single, not even one, word approaching a curse (even though the hero is a former sea captain), no real blood or gore, without any sex, not even any romance, and without much character development, then this is the book for you. Not that I think sex, romance and cursing are required in a good book. But something is missing here that any of those elements might have added to the story.
The writing is good, the plot has a lot to offer. But the pace and the characters just aren't believable, even if you do believe in dragons. From the beginning, things are just too easy for William and Temeraire. Their bonding, which goes off without a hint of tension, sets the tone. When they go flying, you never feel the cold air, or the altitude, or the soaring. William seems to wear his sea captain's uniform when he flies without any mention of the change in temperature. But I guess what seemed off to me was that a rugged sea captain would call his male dragon "my dear" throughout the book. I wanted a little salty talk. The author never found her male voice, for either the male characters or the dragons.
Simon Vance, as always, does an excellent job. I particularly like his dragon voices.
I loved this book. It is a funny, sexy mixture of fantasy, romance, mystery, and steam punk, with supernatural creatures thrown in for good measure. Something for everyone. I admit I purchased it because it was on sale. It was a great buy! Normally I don't go in for vampire and werewolf books, but this series is going to be an exception.The author takes just the right tone for readers who aren't into the vampire craze, making the supernatural creatures an accepted part of society.
Set in Victorian England, the story focuses on Alexia Tarrabotti, an umbrella wielding prenurnatural who falls for the leading werewolf of the day. It has bit in common with regency romances, but don't let that throw you off. Alexis, Collum, and all the secondary characters are well developed and entertaining. If I has a complaint it would be that I never quite figured out the bad guys. My favorite character is a fey vampire, Lord Alcaldama, who has gaudy tastes in clothes and young men.
For those of you who were put off by The Bone Season, as I was, this would be a great alternative.
Even though Involuntary Witness has a courtroom subplot, it isn't a legal thriller or a mystery. It is a story of how a man, who happens to be an attorney, is shattered by and recovers from a divorce and grows as an individual. It wasn't what I expected from the title and the cover art, but I enjoyed listening. The courtroom story arc is extremely interesting and says a lot about the Italian legal system and immigration issues. I have no idea how the title relates to the story. The narrator does a nice job but he sounded too old. When he said "avvocato," the Italian word for attorney, it sounded like he was saying avocado. If you enjoy foreign films, you might enjoy this.
While the author is an excellent writer and does a good job of weaving storylines together, I was frustrated when I finished listening to The Various Haunts of Men. I can't reveal my biggest frustrations without revealing important plot points so I will focus on a couple general issues.
I don't understand why this book is called a Simon Serrailler Mystery. Until the final 30 minutes of the 14 hour book, Serrailler is a secondary character who rarely appears. Yet in the very end, when he does become the focus, the author imbues him with a gravitas he doesn't deserve and hasn't earned. The book would have barely changed if he had been edited out.
The author introduces numerous seemingly unrelated storylines, which decrease as some characters are killed off. I found this tiring and confusing because of the rapid change in point of view characters. In general, however, she does bring the story arcs together in a believable way. In addition to the killer, three women, whose stories intersect, become the main characters. But in the end, when Serrailler steps in and the case is wound up, the women become mere footnotes to be summarized is a pseudo epilogue and we never hear from them again.
In fact it is rather strange that for most of the book women are the main and secondary point of view characters but the story ends up in a male point of view.
I hated the ending but I can't tell you why.
The narrator was excellent. I would consider other books he reads. I would have to think hard about another book by the author.
I was surprised I enjoyed this book so much. I have always loved Peter's Cadfel series so I decided to give her Inspector Felse series a try. The story kept me guessing and I didn't figure out who did it until close to the end. Twists and turns kept the story moving. It is a mystery of its time, though, with old fashioned ideas about women and marriage. Simon Prebble is an exceptional narrator. He is perfect for this book.
The narrator of this book was so annoying I almost stopped listening. I'm not sure if my rating would have been higher if I had read the book. The main character's dialogue was so slow I wondered if there was an issue with the speed. But other characters were okay, at least from a speed standpoint. Most of the male characters who were or could be one of the bad guys sounded like old crones. When they were annoyed, they even sounded like the Wicked Witch of the West. The sitcom Italian reading of one character, with sing songy sentences and lots of words ending in "a," was laughable at times.
Bridget Hodgson, the Midwife in the title, is based on an actual person. I understand it is normal in a novel to take liberties with actual happenings in and around a character's life. I felt, however, one of the liberties the author took with Bridget's life was unacceptable. Throughout the book Bridget mourns the loss of her only two children. She doesn't mourn the death of her second husband and there were no surviving children from their brief marriage. According to the author's website, however, Bridget actually had six children with her second husband that survived to the point she named them in her will.
Regarding the story, I didn't like the Bridget. She was flat and uninteresting. Her obsession with forcing unmarried pregnant women to name the father of their bastard children became a problem for me. While I appreciate that Bridget Hodgson is portrayed as a woman of her times, I couldn't come to terms with her lack of compassion for the maid servants who had been raped or taken advantage of by their masters. When Bridget grabbed one young woman around the throat, demanded a name, and groped under her dress to see if she was pregnant, I lost any connection to her I had felt.
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