I have loved this adaptation of 'Beauty and the Beast' in the style of Lackey's Elemental Masters series for years, so when it came up in Audible's library I snagged it right away. Having listened to the first twenty minutes, though, I'm not sure I'm going to be able to get through it. The narrator's reading is expressionless and wooden. It isn't only that Black-Regan doesn't "do the voices." Not everyone can convincingly pull off a voice of the opposite gender, and it's better that they not try than do it badly. But there is no inflection or emphasis in any of the narration - no emotion at all to reflect whether what is going on is exciting, or sad, or moving. It makes for an experience that bores me as a reader, and is not good for keeping me engaged. I was very disappointed.
I have been a huge fan of Ms. McKinley's Damar books since I was a child, so when I saw that the audiobook was available, I snapped it up instantly.
Don't get me wrong: You should absolutely, definitely read this book. But if you have any choice at all, read it yourself and avoid the audiobook until a better-quality recording has been made.
Ms. Warren's reading is decent enough, although she doesn't appear to have put much thought into the emotion behind her words. Many of the characters came off as emotionless, to my ear. But to be fair, I've got portions of the book memorized and after so many years of hearing them in my head, I came into the experience with certain expectations. I have heard much worse readers and Ms. Warren is easy to follow with a pleasant voice.
What is NOT acceptable is the terrible quality of the recording, which appears to have been converted to digital format from an old cassette that was not at its best. There are many skips and places where the sound was blurred, and the entire first half of Chapter 4 is so full of clicks and static that it's all but impossible to listen to without gritting your teeth.
I'm astonished that any publishing company would allow such a poor quality audiobook to be marketed. Shame on you, Recorded Books! Ms. McKinley's wonderful work deserves much better treatment. I join the other reviewers who are crossing their fingers and hoping hard for a new and better quality recording of this classic Young Adult novel.
I try to be mindful, when I write a review, that the author put a lot of work into a book. The narrator put a lot of time and energy into reading it aloud. I certainly could not do either of these things. I acknowledge their effort and hard work in doing so.
However, I couldn't get more than a couple of hours into this audiobook before I turned it off and deleted it from my device. The exposition is awkward and rushed ('Hi, I'm the main character and I must get all the salient points of my angsty backstory out in the first twenty pages') and does nothing to make the main character appealing. Ms. Gilbert's narration is true to the feel of the text, and she does an excellent job conveying different characters, but the combined result is a whiny heroine who's in over her head (which is fine - many great main characters start this way) but lacks the chutzpah to pull it off in an engaging manner (which isn't), read in a tone that's not pleasant listening.
The appearance of Bones and his British accent and bad-boy persona, instantly and inexplicably allying with the heroine and producing further awkward and rushed exposition ('Hi, I'm a vampire and I must get all the salient information about vampires in this universe out in the next twenty pages'). My immediate conclusion: Cat sounds like a Buffy fanfiction character. Bones is Spike. Okay, I realize this probably isn't the case... but I can't get past that impression now.
A lot of people have enjoyed this story, so take my review with a grain of salt if you are an avid consumer of urban vampire fiction. I'm a little worn out on them. I love Buffy and Mercy Thompson and Rachel Morgan, but beyond these excellent ladies and their colleagues, my days of drooling over the undead are behind me. Help. It's happened! I'm vampire-jaded. There's enough of the genre out there that I'm picky about where I spend my time. Cat and Bones don't make the cut.
No, I didn't get very far into the book. Maybe it becomes amazing later on. But if a book can't hook you within a few chapters -- when it, in fact, discourages you from continuing to read, when all the effort that's required is turning on your iPod and paying attention -- isn't that a problem?
If you're tired of traditional steampunk (do we have "traditional steampunk" yet?), Bannon and Clare are a wonderfully novel approach to the gothic Victorian magic-and-metal genre. The book is, at its heart, a mystery, heavily reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes, with distinctly dark undertones. The main characters take a little bit of warming up to (which is probably just how they like it) but are well-written and multi-faceted. The supporting characters are fascinating, and make you want to read more about them. Moira Quirk is an excellent reader, and her cultured voice is well-suited to the book - or, it should be.
Yet somehow, Quirk's reading and Saintcrow's writing mix like oil and vinegar. Something about the style of writing, which is heavy on rapid-fire conversation with very delicate exchanges, makes it very difficult to follow when Quirk is reading. I frequently had to stop, back up, and listen to a passage again to figure out what had just happened, because I'd glazed over what was spoken. This review doesn't have a plot summary included because there are huge portions of the book where I'm not quite sure what happened.
To be fair, I much prefer to listen to books I've already read than those I'm encountering for the first time, so some of this may be personal preference. If you are an ardent audiobook listener, by all means, give this one a shot. But I've listened to many audiobooks that kept me alert on a long drive, and this one would not have done so.
This was an enjoyable book, and I am crossing my fingers and hoping Saintcrow brings Bannon and Clare back for more. But I think I'll read the next one in print.
I was fascinated by the mythos described in summaries and reviews of this book, but twenty minutes into the audiobook I gave up. I am completely on-board with the idea that ancient immortals are going to develop language that's appropriate to the time period, but I was so thrown by an ancient demigod with a mouth like a New York main sewer that I turned the book off. I just couldn't get past it. Too much too soon, and not at all a character that encouraged me to delve more deeply into the series. Perhaps it gets better, but as an opener it was too off-putting for me to be able to suffer through to what may be a genuinely interesting storyline.
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