Silver Spring, MD, United States | Member Since 2010
Who can't get behind a novel based around wholesale demon killing? Like its predecessors, this novel carries on the tradition of bumping off monsters at a good clip in new and creative ways. Plenty of action for those who seek it and that carries the book fairly well. As before, the danger level of the demons has increased raising the stakes and the suspense. All good things.
The characters are well-developed and deep. Brett's iterative process of doing a full exploration of the principals' backstories over the course of the series ensures that whether you are rooting for or against them, you still see where they're coming from. The downside of this is that sometimes you have to wait to see how the main story arc progresses, but for the most part the backstory is worth it.
I liked this book. I did. However, I liked it in spite of some serious hangups that may be a turn-off to other readers. It is not as good as its predecessors and the 4 stars are a soft 4.
I am not puritanical; I like sex as much as the next audiobook listener, but this book is a bit much. Sex surrounds every facet of life. Sex for social advancement. Sex for alliance. Sex for love. Sex for procreation. Sex as a duty. Sex for educational purposes. Sex for relaxation. Gay sex. Multiple-partner sex. Sex for mind control (evidently, some women are just that good). Sex brought on by demon power fueled lust. Complete rejection and concurrent acceptance of homosexuality within a culture. Sex is Peter Brett's multitool. He uses it in every situation. Even more problematic is that his characters seem to want to treat sex as if it is something with a desirable mystique about it, but it falls flat because the author uses it with such mundane regularity that it is hard to get interested in it. You want to take Brett aside and say, "Pete, Baby, less is more; sell the sizzle." Unfortunately, he's serving it up graphic and ad nauseam.
While I generally enjoy Bradbury's telling of these novels, with this book his accents appear to have strayed. Arlen has now become full-on hillbilly. Renna pretty much speaks with the same voice as Arlen.
This book was a step down from the previous two. Now, that still rates it pretty high, but a bit disappointing. The characters, well developed through backstory, begin to lose their depth in the main story arc. This wasn't a problem with the first two books. Arlen is starting to become just a country boy. Renna is essentially a feral dog with daddy issues. Jardir is becoming an empty suit that believes he's a god. Leesha is starting to tend toward feckless mediocrity (what's that about? She was awesome when she was slinging fire balls and kicking butt.) It just feels like the characters development has hit its high water mark and has begun to retreat.
One last knock on this book is that because of all the backstory the main arc is not very far removed from the end of the last book. You certainly get action, but you don't get much progress.
This book continues the good storytelling and performance from the first novel. Set in an alternate 1930s where magic has been present since the antebellum period, the story follows a group of secret society operatives with different types of magic that attempt to combat a shadowy government organization, a menacing Japanese Imperium, and an all-consuming enemy from another dimension while trying to sort out issues of trust and common purpose.
The reading is outstandingly performed by Bronson Pinchot who has some of the strongest voice characterizations I have ever listened to. He did make one noticeable modification to one character's accent in this version as his voice was better clarified in the text since the first book. Overall, this doesn't do much to detract from the performance which was fantastic.
The story is filled with action using both science and sorcery to make the fights, chases, escapes, and traps filled with unexpected turns. If you liked the first one, I wholly recommend continuing on to this one. If action, magic, gunfights, or just a well-told story appeal to you at all, I recommend reading the first Grimnoir Chronicle, "Hard Magic," and then continuing on to this one.
Yes Bronson Pinchot. Who'd have thought? He nails this. His voice characterizations are fantastic, and well executed. His cadence is solid. He manages to do males and females in a diversity of ages and accents without his presentation being cheesy or overcooked. I would put him on par with Jim Dale who narrated the Harry Potter series (I believe that series is not available on Audible yet, unfortunately, though other Jim Dale narrations are).
As to the story, I was very well satisfied. I was put off by the idea of the "Grimnoir" as a bit of a silly portmanteau, but I was over it immediately. It is actually quite apt. The setting is an excellent combination of alternate history and urban fantasy. It has an extremely tight magical structure that makes for interesting plot twists and challenges for the protagonists. The characters well developed especially the main two with just the right amount of backstory. No doubt, Mr. Pinchot's voices have a lot to do with this.
This book can go from quiet introspection to epic battles dialed up to 11 in very short order. It is impossible to get bored.
As an individual episode, this book is just OK. Sandman Slim spends another novel being a tough guy, treating his friends like garbage, referencing movies, beating up monsters and cracking one-liners. That leitmotiv remains strong. Unfortunately, there is no deepening of the narrative or development of the characters. Throughout the previous book I'd thought it was going somewhere. Jim was learning about his dual nature and hinting at a growing maturity in solving his complex problems. Kadrey appears to have scrapped that sort of character development. It makes this book feel like empty calories. It has some good fight scenes and it has a well described Los Angeles qua Hell setting that will probably appeal to people from that area, but the characters are just meh.
I understand the whole "root for the bad guy," anti-hero protagonist narrative. These novels are missing two important elements of this. The anti-hero is usually rebelling against a system or a prevailing authority of some sort. For that protagonist to be an anti-hero instead of merely a villain, that system has to be corrupt somehow justifying his or her antithesis. In this series, there is no such system or authority. There are lots of powerful individuals, but there is really no "man" to stick it to. Also the anti-hero has to have some redeeming quality for the audience to admire. Jim is mean, dishonorable, selfish, sociopathic and not particularly smart. He has a lot of power, but he uses it to harm innocents for his own convenience and rebukes those that show him kindness all while failing to grow up.
He's a thug. There is little to redeem him. I am back to rooting for him to lose. I think this will be the last book of this series for me unless I get really bored.
Many of my gripes from my review of the first book in the series have been fixed or at least patched in the second.
Stark is still tough guy concentrate, but at least now there is more inner conflict and less gratuitous posing. There is still some, but I mean, come on, he is a hitman from hell. There is bound to be some. Andrews (the narrator) has managed to improve his French accent and nails the other characterizations with subtle changes. Only a few of the characters have an extreme characterization and those are appropriate.
The thing that has really improved with this episode is the story. In the first book, Stark is little more than a mad dog, fumbling his way through a string of set pieces driven by his need for revenge and to show off as the toughest guy in the room. That is gone. In this story you have a bona fide mystery narrative. Stark is no Holmes, but at least he is trying to figure things out and it is this investigation that leads him into the trouble spots. In this book he actually has agency as a character and takes actions affirmatively as opposed to the first book where things mostly happened to him.
The supporting cast is still very likable and vivid. Author and narrator combine very well to flesh out this cast. The mystery leads you through some plot twists that are not earthshaking, but still quite good.
In conclusion, if I was left lukewarm by the first book and was on the fence about whether to continue the series, I would continue on to the second book. It feels like a notch better in almost every category.
There were things that I loved about this book and there were things that were unbelievably lame.
First, the Good:
The modern supernatural setting in LA is bloody brilliant. I've sampled a good amount of this genre: Dresden, Mercy Thompson, Iron Druid, American Gods, and this one holds its own very well. In one novel Kadrey elaborates some supernatural arcana, teases others, and leaves himself plenty of room to explore.
The action is solid, gruesome, plentiful and well described. While it may not refine exactly who has what powers and the exact mechanics of each, you still get clearly depicted fight scenes, explosions, magical fireballs and whatnot. You're never left waiting long and the story moves quickly.
The story is a common trope: Hero returns from long absence for revenge or redemption, finds world has changed and has to cope with changes and adversity on the way to his goal. See: Payback, The Perfect Weapon, I'm Gonna Git You Sucka!, and about a million others. On its own this is fine, if not particularly innovative, but it does play extremely well with the supernatural setting.
The title character is a joke. And it is not because Kadrey can't write good characters. Most of the ones in the book are just fine, some are extremely well developed. Stark (Sandman Slim) is a cartoon.
He is a magically gifted kid who at 19 is betrayed and sent, still alive, to Hell to be tortured and made to fight in gladiatorial combat for 11 years. That in itself is really, really cool. Unfortunately, his portrayal is that of a 14 year old with all the cynicism of a vetran IRS agent depicted by Chuck Palahniuk and a constant pathological need to prove what a tough guy he is. It's silly. It took me 10 minutes to hate him. After that all the trouble he gets himself into is well deserved. I started rooting for people to beat some sense into him.
You can just imagine him thinking, "what would a tough guy drink/smoke/say?" It is like every sentence about the title character should end with, "because I'm a badass."
That said, Andrews's depiction of Slate is dead on. He sounds exactly like he reads, like a young guy trying to do a Jack Nicholson impression. I was well satisfied with Andrews's reading mostly. I had do take some points off for his French accent. It's close, but the way he pronounces Rs are an abomination.
This book is OK. Just OK. And by, "OK," I mean, "not awful, but in no way to be confused with good."
It certainly brings you the trappings of fantasy. It has an adolescent boy protagonist, magic swords, dragons, evil barons, honorable knights, sorcerers, castles, petty, squabbling gods, an army of golems, you know, the usual. It was one dwarf with a Scottish accent away from the true Platonic Form of a fantasy novel.
The book has an interesting device with the god-given swords and their various powers all serving to meddle in human affairs for the entertainment of the gods. That makes for a substantive and entertaining element for the series's story arc.
Unfortunately, the elements that make a good book are not there. The plot is weak. Not much actually happens in the story and it ends very abruptly without any resolution, even an intermediate one as you might expect with a series. It just ends.
What I find most unforgivable are the characters. They are not persons. They are cardboard cutouts pretending to be persons. If they seem nice, they are nice. If they antagonize, they are evil, just because. The duke is evil because the story needs a villain. And it is not just one throw-away character in some insignificant scene; every character is equally one-dimensional, except for the protagonist who is non-dimensional. Saberhagen did everything to be obvious about his characters except give them names like: Goodguy McHonorable, Sneaky O'Spytheif, and Dastardly von Hitlerburg.
Saberhagen forgets, that even though it is fantasy and has magic and other arcane and incredible elements, the struggles, growth, contention, adversity, and joy have to be shared by seemingly "real" people. Otherwise, the real people reading the story will have nothing to sympathize with. It will be as compelling as a rally with signs and banners and face paint, but no participants.
Perkins's reading was solid, but with these characters, there was really nowhere to go.
I haven't read an author more inclined to have his characters suffer than Erikson. I mused in my review of the previous book in this series (The Deadhouse Gates), with all the starvation, rape, murder, and mass crucifixion that took place in the story, where does Erikson go from there? What does he do to increase the tension and deepen the depravity?
Answer: Cannibalism and Necrophilia!
Well played, sir! But what now? There's seven or so more books. What's left? Holocaust denial and a sub-prime lending crisis?
Despite all the negativity, wow what a story! Erikson has really gained a talent for developing pathos for many individual characters in very short order. He gets you to feel for them all almost instantly. With so many perspective characters, you find yourself rooting for a lot of different people all at once. It makes it hard to determine who's a good guy, a bad guy, and who's just putting in a day of work.
One delightful trait to this series is that while on the surface you have a fairly simple plot - in this case a military campaign involving two successive assaults on fortified cities - you have multiple complex undercurrents that feed the series' longer story arc. It almost makes it seem like the plot of the individual book is just background to the major movements in the epic. Like there are two stories being told, not merely building blocks of one big story. This mixes well with the very large roster of characters. If you have one, or a few, main protagonists, it really matters what they are doing book to book. With so many, only a small part of what an individual does in a given book matters to the whole. With many characters making many small contributions to the epic you end up with a more complex story arc with an extremely broad and momentous scope. The downside is that this arc is harder to follow and takes longer to materialize, but I get the feeling it's worth it.
Lister's reading is once again solid. I will continue reading this series and would recommend it to a friend as long as that friend knew, that even though this is fantasy, not to expect any happy endings.
NOTE: As of this writing, this audio book is the latest available in the series on audible. Print editions are available through the whole series.
I've dutifully dropped credits on all the issues of this series so far and been generally satisfied. The action has remained strong, the magical intrigue among the various pantheons is getting stronger and the the story, as always, is well paced.
I plan to keep reading this series, but I am noticing a growing problem with Atticus, the main character. Hearne is trying hard to drive the quips and jokes through pop culture references mostly told by the Iron Druid himself. This is getting more and more forced and I think it is starting to eat the core of the main character.
Atticus is supposed to be a 2000+ yrs. old druid with the wisdom of years and a pressing concern with preserving the health of the earth, self-preservation, and passing his knowledge on to his protege, not to mention spending quality time with his dog. He has a lot on his mind. He (including his internal monologue) talks like an idle twentysomething who spent the last three years in front of his computer all day ritualistically refreshing buzzfeed and quickmeme. Up to now, I had generally liked the way he had made such references, but now it's getting too thick. It's fantasy, and it's ok for a character from a different era to dig Coen Brothers' movies. Just don't overdo it and it will be fine.
The characters in this book spend a ton of time walking through the the desert without water. Have a glass of your favorite beverage available as you listen.
When I finished Gardens of the Moon, I was at about 50-50 on whether to continue with this series. It was well written, but it didn't pull me in. It was more respect than love. I believed that the world was well drawn, but the scope too sweeping and the characters too numerous to try really get to know any one of them.
It gets better. This book continues with some of the characters, but not others. Thus it is a bit more manageable. As you read the series the sheer volume of words over time allows you to get to know the characters more fully. In other words: while huge in scope, it gets easier to grasp as you go along.
Erikson is very talented in that his landscape is very well painted. The setting for this series is an entire planet and he seems to want to cover everything that is happening on its surface. Moreover, he has no shortage of ideas when coming up with interpersonal, national, magical conflict. There is always some argument, earthquake, war, or magical existential crisis a chapter away. It makes you wonder how he will keep track of all the threads.
One thing I would challenge about the veracity of the characters is their glib misery. Erikson seems to want his characters to suffer most of the time. There are very few iotas of happiness in his books. It's mostly fighting, dying, being raped, descending into madness, suffering, or at least being annoyed. Despite this, his characters really do maintain a fantastically positive attitude. After so much smiling in the face of death, you begin to forget that there is so much of it in sheer volume. It makes me worry for the future of the narrative. If we are simply used to wholesale, abject death, where do you go from there to create tension?
That is but a small thing, however. I think I am in it for the long haul. I am on to the third book now and things keep getting better. I recommend carrying on to book 2 if you even kind of liked book 1. Lister does a really good job of voice characterizations even if they are not all the way I would envision the characters. He is consistent and has great cadence.
So fill your camelback and drop a credit on book 2. Enjoy.
Referencing the Kingkiller Chronicle as Podehl's other work. He did a good job narrating. He has a good voice for male coming of age novels. 'Nuff said.
Probably my fault for not studying up MacHale's other work, but there was nothing about it in the description. For those not generally familiar with his work, this is definitely young adult fiction. I didn't know this so not long into it I found myself thinking, "what's with all the horror movie and awkward teenager cliches?"
After I realized that the book is for the young and I forgave all the trite stuff it actually turns out to be a pretty good story. There are some very enjoyable set pieces where the "monster" attacks. These are cinematically described and quite vivid. MacHale's words and Podehl's cadence during the mysterious revelation scenes is also quite engaging.
Unfortunately, one tool the author beats to death is Marsh's uncanny inability to predict his scene. I'm sure MacHale does this so the reader's surprise matches the character's, but it is so consistent that it's distracting. If he thinks something will go well, it becomes a catastrophe; if he thinks he's in trouble, he is saved; if he thinks she hates him, he gets a kiss. It is more predictable than gravity. Usually, there is very little contextual reason that Marsh should have his misconception. MacHale simply describes the misconception then "surprises" you with the opposite, over and over.
My hangup on the cliches and that particular device aside, I think I would recommend this book to a teenager looking to read a little light horror. The action is good; the mystery is good; and the story moves along at a steady pace.
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