Overall, I was very much unimpressed by this book, and its sequels.
A friend (ahem, former friend) recommended this trilogy of books as a "great modern, fantasy series." So I'm ashamed to say that I've read the entire trilogy. I was promised each book gets better and better. They did not.
I'll say this for Robin Hobb, she writes beautifully and sets a grand stage.
...in regard to execution, however....
I'm sorry to say that the story is simply bland. We have an assassin, exquisitely trained, with little to lose, who does so very, very little! Virtually nothing!
In addition, you'll be presented with an ever-present storyline where the protagonist and his allies encounter obvious opposition and betrayal from among their own - and do nothing! The story paints the protagonists as perfectly equipped to deal harsh justice to the antagonists, but they do nothing over the course of three books!
'Suspension of disbelief' can only be applied to plot mechanisms, not the human nature of the characters.
I recommend you give this one a pass unless you're stranded on a desert island.
I couldn't become interested in the characters, plot or prose. I think this is one of those instances where the high ratings are because of the book's appeal to the lowest common denominator.
The primary action in the book is around a group of young adults engaged in deadly competition with a sci-fi setting. But it was too thinly drawn to my taste - like 'The Hunger Games' or 'The Giver'.
Maybe if I hadn't cut my teeth on 'The Running Man' (both the Stephen King novel and the Arnold movie - loved both, even if the latter was camp as all get out) or the film 'Battle Royale'.
At any rate - if you find we have other positive reviews and negative reviews in common, I'd recommend you give this a pass.
Earlier while listening to the series, I remember the narrator switch and finding it disappointing - not because I couldn't adjust to the change, but because the narrator wasn't the right fit for me.
I kept on though because I was so engrossed in the story. But here, with Book 5, I had a long gap between this and Book 4, enough that my interest had to be rekindled. So take that, the fact that Book 5 is a little slow to start, and the narrator is grating on me.
To each their own - but I find this particular narrator has such a rigid cadence, lack of inflection, and this habit of adopting a glottal, Irish accent for women characters that it pulls me out of the story.
Will have to switch to reading hard copy rather than listening if I'm to continue.
And oddly enough, the narrator was actor Martin Freeman who I've enjoyed on the BBC series 'Sherlock'. But I thought his accents and inflections were all wrong for delivery of Adams' humor.
I've read many other Peter Hamilton novels: the Commonwealth, Void and Greg Mandel series. Loved those, but this one just didn't take. I suggest any sci fi fans who've read nothing by Peter Hamilton start with those series and in that order. Only consider 'Great North Road' after that.
At that point, my review to those folks would be that 'Great North Road' has all the elements of those previous efforts, but it was less interesting, developed, exciting and thought-provoking. In addition, it was mired in several large sections. I recommend giving it a pass.
To end on that first point though - I very much enjoy the many other novels of Peter Hamilton, and look forward to more!
I was taken in by the quantity of positive ratings and reviews for this book. I should have suspected there was a low-common-denominator factor in play.
I knew from the publisher's summary to expect cliches. Those I could forgive. What I couldn't forgive was the logical inconsistencies in the main character's portrayal.
We're told that before the attempt on her life and her memory loss, she was formidable. What we're handed after is an utter twit.
Imagine having watched the film 'Bourne Identity', except instead of an intelligent, competent, capable, and driven Jason Bourne, you had a bumbling, cowardly, insecure, stuttering jackass. And I mean literally stuttering - the main character in 'The Rook' is infiltrating a clandestine headquarters, her former self knew in advance this would happen and provided months worth of instructions, files, equipment, etc....and she's now walking around not knowing how to get to her office, saying things like "err, uh, umm" to the people she has to interact with.
On another note, the narration was awful due to a particular habit on the part of the narrator when reading exposition. Dialogue was fine. But when she had a bit of exposition, she'd routinely employ a sing-song cadence such that it sounded like she was reading aloud to the tune of the Humpty Dumpty nursery rhyme.
Sounds a little far-fetched, but listen to the audio sample Audible offers for a preview to see it's as apparent to you as it was to me. Other reviewers have commented on this as well.
A lighthearted tale about an orphaned baby who is adopted and raised by the supernatural inhabitants of a graveyard.
When a secret, occult group learns that a child will spell their doom, they seek to eliminate said child. Though they dispatch the infant's family, through a series of events, the baby boy is found by the spiritual (deceased) inhabitants of an old, local cemetery.
He is quickly adopted and protected by the graveyard folk. They protect him from the faction that took his natural family while raising and loving him as if they were his living, breathing kin.
This book invites you to become ensconced in the hamlet where your adopted parents are a kindly, husband-and-wife, Victorian ghost couple, your guardian is an ancient, reformed vampire, your tutor is a matronly werewolf, and your neighborhood is a venerable graveyard with a quaint community of ghosts from here, there, and then. The graveyard's magic keeps you hidden from those who would do you harm, and you must remain until safe. But in the meantime, you find your hearth and heart among the macabre.
I adore Neil Gaiman. To my mind, he's a master wordsmith and storyteller. He can distill wonder from the seminal & archaic: historical events, dated language, orphaned mythoi, places with memory...you name it.
As a stand-alone book, this one isn't the most engaging, so I wouldn't recommend it to anyone unfamiliar with Gaiman's body of work. Even I admit that he's got far more powerful pieces in his repertoire. For the rest of us who are familiar though, the operative word here is 'nostalgia'. Listen to this for the nostalgia...
If you've read and loved graphic novels like 'Ex Machina', 'Y: The Last Man', 'Watchmen', or 'The Walking Dead', then this is a pipe-full of tobacco cured, aged and toasted with your palate in mind, my friend.
If you haven't read any of those, go check them out immediately; they're fantastic!
Seriously though, this is a great novel for enthusiasts of sci-fi, action, adventure and superheroes. It's also got a bit of grit, a bit of depth, but not so much that the story isn't fun.
Finally, I like the author, Peter Cline's style. I dig the way he expresses himself in narrative exposition and dialogue of the protagonists. There's a sense of rapport - like spending time with a brother or a life-long friend. It's the same in Cline's two other novels and it makes me hopeful the guy keeps writing!
This was an okay Narnia-type trope - a moderate fantasy tale with nothing explicit that would make it inappropriate for kids. Imminently forgettable, but not bad.
I'd recommend it for children listeners. For their adult parents, I'd say give it a listen if you've got nothing else on the ipod and there's a 14 hour road trip in your future.
Superb modern fantasy. This novel is a successor to Joe Abercrombie's earlier work 'The First Law' trilogy - which is also available as an audiobook and also narrated by Steven Pacey.
If you haven't read or listened to that trilogy, I highly recommend beginning there. I have a separate review for the trilogy that goes into detail on its virtues.
If you have read the trilogy, then you'll be familiar with the capabilities of Abercrombie as an exceptional writer, and Pacey as an exceptional narrator. This novel is the pair at their best once again....and more time in the company of Logen Ninefingers, The Bloody-Nine!
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