This was my first encounter with a Jack Daniels book. I liked the characters and the wit, and don't mind that the events are unrealistic. But wit and action comprise maybe 25% of this book; the rest is filled with detailed descriptions of psychotic humans joyfully inflicting unbearable pain on other humans. The author is thorough: no body part is spared, no method (knife, gun, hand-to-hand combat, explosion, shock, extreme heat, various blunt objects, feline attack, etc.) is left unconsidered, no character misses out on the chance to narrate his/her agony in (literally) excruciating detail. I'm no prude, but this was overwhelming, especially in audio format -- and as another reviewer notes, there is no real satisfactory payoff at the end, just the promise of more violence.
Louise Erdrich is a national treasure, and The Round House is no exception to her collection of tremendously compelling novels. Patternings of light and dark, historical and present-day stories, young characters and elders, interweave to carry the reader/listener along to powerful conclusions.
And I generally love Gary Farmer. He's a tremendous actor, and here when he's reading something that's more like a film scene, he's fabulous. I love the drawl and the cadence, and I can't imagine anyone reading four skinny-dipping insult-trading Native boys any better, anywhere. But one significant joy of Erdrich's writing is what she does with prose sentences, well-crafted lines of text that wind around like a growing vine until they reveal some vivid flower at the end and leave you breathless. On too many of these, Farmer stumbles or flat out trips, reading right past really crucial commas or inserting full take-a-breath stops between subjects and verbs. It's as if he was too busy or too expensive for Harper Audio to pay for him to rehearse or re-record anything, and so he had to read the whole novel cold, and kept getting caught every time his teleprompter was too slow or his attention drifted just a little.
If that kind of narrator-error bugs you, then you have to decide whether the trade-off is worth it: the joy of being really immersed when Farmer is hitting his stride, in a way you can't be if you're trying to do the voices in your own head with a print book, vs. the frustration of being pulled out of the story-world when the errors (maybe one every 10 minutes or so?) catch at your brain. For me, it was worth it, but maybe not by a whole lot.
I've loved this book, and the whole series, for 30 years. I needed every bit of that love to get through an entire audio recording about MorGOAN prince of HEED. "Heed"? Are you kidding me?! In what language anywhere is "Hed" pronounced with a long E? It's like fingernails on a chalkboard. (And it's not like she pronounces Deth or Hel with long E's, so it's clearly just some weird affectation.)
I'm glad that Audible (or someone) sponsored the creation of this audio series: it's an excellent trilogy and deserves more publicity than it gets. I think it was a nifty idea to have this middle book recorded by a female reader, and I don't even mind if a few of the names are differently pronounced (is the Morgul's daughter LYE-ra or LEER-a?) by the separate readers, though that seems such an easy thing for the series editor to have coached.
But to get the hero's name so befuddled is inexcusable. For the narrator not to remember from one scene to the next whether Raederle has a high girly voice or a lower one is guaranteed to frustrate readers, especially since Walsh has such a meager range of voice types (besides a mild working-class accent) to draw on. Great books deserve better voicing, and better quality control by the editors.
After two books that included a nice range of characters, motivations, and plot twists, the third Iron Druid book is taken over by a bunch of testosterone-laden guys with revenge tunnel-vision. For the last 2/3 of the book, Atticus leaves Oberon, the widow, Granuaile, the witches, Coyote, the regulars in his shop, and the local police behind to head out with vamps, wolves, and second-tier gods for a round of storytelling about their personal suffering at the hands of Thor, followed by an all-out war in which they all hope to bash Thor's head in. Luke Daniels does another fine job narrating and picking up what humor there is below all the smashing and gnashing, but the story just drags. You could skip most of the trip to Asgard, listen to the last few chapters to get caught up on the big event, and not really have missed anything significant to Atticus's tale.
Good easy-listening fantasy. I bought the book based on the fab reviews, and while I wasn't bowled over, it grew on me. I think I'm a little old to be swayed by Atticus' hip-dude charms, but Daniels' narration is spot on and enjoyable. I'll order the next in the series.
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