Silver Spring, MD, United States | Member Since 2010
Some will probably fault this critique because they'll say that all my complaints are reversed in the second book and shame on me for not having the faith to drop a another credit on it. Sorry, he had 22 hours to pique my interest and give me a reason. I'm not going to throw good credits after bad.
This is a bad audiobook. Do not buy it. If you somehow come to it for free, do not listen to it.
Why is it bad? The characters are bad. I know many readers may have come here from some piece of Thomas Covenant. I read those books many years ago, and although they weren't my favorite, I did like them. I know it is Donaldson's shtick to have a mentally or physically damaged protagonist. Fine. This protagonist has nothing but her damages, and she doesn't experience any development or growth. She ends the book the same milquetoast, weak-willed, ineffectual, submissive "heroine" she is at the beginning. Oh there are three scenes where she "defies" powerful men (mostly by lying to them), but most of the narrative of those scenes are given over to how she is on the edge of insanity, narrowly keeping herself from devolving into a mass of teary jello.
The remaining women in the book are as single-trait as she is. Elega is ambitous. Myste is capricious. The maid is licentious. Most of the men are just as shallow with a couple exceptions.
The Story is bad though not quite as bad. One thing you will have to recognize going into it is that this is not a book. This is half of a book. He's just selling it in two pieces [cha-ching]. Unless you are convinced you're buying both from the outset, do not begin. And I do indeed differentiate this from a two book series as well. This is not that. This book does not stand on its own. That said, there is some intrigue present. You'll have to buy the second book if you want any answers though. The system of magic is ok as well. I would have liked a little more explanation, but there is plenty of potential.
As for the reading: I did not really like it, but I still feel the voice actor is talented. I kind of get what he was going for. I feel like his wispy, breathy, melodramatic portrayal was an attempt to reflect the personality of the protagonist. If that is the case, the reader nailed it and the reason I didn't like the reading is because I didn't like the protagonist. He also did a good job of characterizing the other voices such that they were recognizable and sympathetic. But for all that it was a coherent portrayal, it was just so grating.
This book is a variation on the “kid goes to warrior school” epic fantasy genre. It’s a pretty good one. There are some fresh ideas in storytelling that keep it new and interesting. The main story arc is told as if to a historian, however, you come to learn that the reader is getting a “true,” insiders account, but the historian character to which the story is being recounted, is being told something else. In other words, you get the secrets, but for some reason, the main character is telling his conversation partner something less meaningful. Also, the depth of the features of this world, magic, religion, people, sects, are only being hinted at. The author has so much setting left to fill with story, it keeps you wanting more.
The story begins a little slow and there are some significant breaks in action. However, it does heat up and progressively becomes more intriguing. Twists and plots aren’t immediately apparent until you realize you’re up to your neck in them.
Characters are well developed and Ryan fears not killing them off which raises the stakes of the various challenges. The dialogue is neither particularly good nor bad. It is just kind of there.
This book really suffers because of its narrator. He doesn’t apply himself to characterizations so you often lose who is talking in a particular conversation. He blows the accenting of certain sentences which changes the meaning in odd ways. Overall it feels like what you are hearing is the reader’s first attempt.
Despite harvesting the old warrior school trope, this book goes in interesting directions. The story leaves off at a good point too. There is an ocean of possibilities at the end, leaving you very interested in what comes next. All in all a good read. I would recommend this to fantasy fans.
This novel starts a little slow and pretty conventional, but heats up quickly. It wasn't long before I was listening to it every free moment I had.
The early plot involves two royal brothers, each sent away as youths for training, one to a monastery and the other to Air Assault Ninja School. That in itself seems like a pretty derivative beginning, but the brothers are quickly dunked in intrigue when their father dies. The action, plotting and mystery remain pretty thick for the rest of the story. The main characters are put into many different challenging and life-threatening situations which move the story along. Also, since you keep switching back from one brother to the other at suspenseful points in the narrative, it is really difficult to find a good place to put the book down.
Staveley does an excellent job of keeping you on your toes. You are never allowed to get comfortable in your expectations. There are twists in this book, but the artful part of the twists are that some of them aren't twists at all.
The supporting characters are very well described. But for a few character traits, the main characters are written a little bit blank. Vance does an excellent job bringing them all to life. He is so good I will make special point of seeking out his narrations in the future.
I would recommend this book to any fantasy fan. The foibles of being conventional disappear quickly and are easy to forgive when you realize your being drawn into an exciting fantasy mystery.
I listened to this book a while ago and now again as its sequel is coming out soon. It is a very good book and fans of Sanderson’s other work will likely enjoy it a great deal. The book highlights the things Sanderson is very good at. His world-building is deep and wide. He seems to want his stories to take place on world that has fully realized ground underneath them, so that if the listener were to question, “Where does this tradition come from? Why do these people always do this or that? What is the origin of this feature?” he has already thought it through and has an explanation and, what’s more, made it significant to the narrative. Sanderson may do this better than anybody and this book is a good example.
He also makes a complex, but coherent structure to his magic. Importantly, magic, for him, is not the purview of bearded old men who sling bolts of lightning. His magic augments his warriors so they end up like superheroes. This makes his fight scenes as vivid as if they were drawn in comic books.
His characters are great if a little conventional. I am always a sucker for nobility and honor in my protagonists. I forgive other faults when the hero is a stand-up guy or gal. His certainly are that. Thankfully, he gives backstory to explain why they are the way they are. Other authors often pick their good guy, invest him or her with a nobility of spirit and let that be that. Sanderson builds a character who is noble, but also conflicted and also shows you why. So his people are not very complex, but very relatable.
The one major complaint I have of this book is that it bogs down in the middle. We are treated to too many cycles of Kaladin being depressed at losing friends, finding his resolve, coming up with a solution, and then having that solution negated by the Man, causing him to lose more friends (repeat, repeat, repeat). It even happens in flashback. The middle of this book abides there a bit too long. Maybe this was intentional to build tension for the last fifth of the book which was really spectacular, but I think they could have pared it down a little.
The reading was generally good. Kramer did a very good job. Kate Reading was ok. Her characterizations lacked energy. There were some differences in pronunciation that grated. This pair, who have combined for some very good reads in the past, should have known better, but still a solid reading.
Beware some reviews that overstate the candlepower of this book. It is a solid start, but it is not an instant classic. The book has general appeal for those that like a long series and fans of Sanderson will really like it. I would recommend this book to almost any fantasy reader. I don’t doubt other reviewers’ sincerity, I just think some may be dedicated Sanderson fans and forgive some of the negatives.
First let me say that this is a necessary book if you are looking to get informed about the Iraq War, but it is not enough on its own because the breadth and depth of the topic cannot be contained in one book. The battalion and brigade viewpoint of this book are certainly enough to make it a worthwhile read. It serves as an excellent play-by-play and the inclusion of the individual service member stories make it a perspective that often goes uncovered.
Additionally, the inside baseball of Iraqi politics is an essential piece of this story and is expertly woven into the exposition of the US military moves. While the coverage of all the players is burdensome in audiobook format, it is necessary, and if you can remember who did what, very enlightening.
Gordon and Trainor’s access to classified materials is mostly a good thing, but can lead them astray. Their access to the JSOC operations and the intelligence efforts against the Quds Force and the interdiction of Explosively Formed Projectiles built in Iran answers a lot of questions. You would not get this view just from reading the news. On the down side, they tend cite classified materials whenever possible even when it doesn’t add much to the book -- seemingly to trumpet their unprecedented access.
Though insightful, this book is not the definitive work on the Iraq War. Because of some biases and perspective limitations you will need to reach outside to get a better picture. The two shortcomings are political views and holding too closely to the insider’s perspective.
First the political: There is little criticism of President Bush’s handling of the war. Enough is said about Franks’s leaving Sanchez understaffed and unprepared and Bremer’s failures, but is not connected with the Bush administration’s world view of how this war would unfold and how long we would be involved. Bush’s administration posited that it would be over quickly, it would be cheap, and we’d all be home by Christmas. This drove the initial strategy, and it was a train wreck. But who gets the blame in the book? Bremer, Sanchez and Casey. Granted, all three men had their share of blame, but Bush is painted very heroically. At one point Bush is described as “steadfastly maintain[ing] a position of ambiguity,” where others might have been unclear, obfuscating, or vacillating. Democrats are generally described as uninformed and driven by selfish political interests. This political cant is neither devastating to the book, nor does it detract from the muddy-boots-level view this book provides, but it is there, nonetheless.
The book also holds too closely to an insider’s perspective. This is an advantage when you describe what was happening on the ground, but it is a hindrance when considering the larger questions of the war. The insiders consistently wanted to stay with the mission until something was accomplished, lest the opportunities for a democratic Iraq and the sacrifices of the troops be wasted. This perspective made it seem that when people talked about drawing down or ending the war, the listener was being led to ask, “Don’t those outsiders get it? We’re winning. We can’t stop now.” I personally met with that perspective on the ground with old Iraq hands I worked with. It was certainly a real thing, but it ignores half the story. The book doesn’t cover the cost of the war, the fact that WMDs were a fiction, over stretched forces, Iraqi foot-dragging and dependence, war-weariness at home or, importantly, that Obama was elected to the presidency running hard against the war in an election that was largely seen as a referendum on Bush’s Iraq War policy. It’s as if the people who wanted us out of Iraq were a small, eccentric, and not particularly bright minority when the opposite is true. There were plenty of reasons to leave, but you wouldn't know it from this book.
The reader, Shapiro, did a very good job with a tough piece of material; most of his pronunciations were pretty accurate. This book was full of Arabic words and names and he nailed all but a few, which is a tall order. He even managed US military acronyms (extra points for “MNSTC-I”). Points off for blowing the pronunciation of Huế (Vietnam). Good pacing and a pleasant voice.
Overall, this book is a good addition to the Iraq War canon. It is one perspective to add to the bookshelf, but not the only one.
Not having read Duncan before, I did not know what to expect, only that the book was recommended to me by audible based on my other reads.
One good thing about this book is that it includes all the trappings of heroic fantasy. Orphaned hero seeking his parentage, living on the edge of society because he's just a bit different, gets whisked off to a magical land where he discovers he has some special amulet which makes him extremely powerful, but also comes with its own enemies and perils. And then you throw in all the things that are supposed to be in a fantasy novels, centaurs, minotaurs, harpies, elves, sphinxes. Notably lacking: a bearded dwarf that spoke with a Scottish brogue.
Unfortunately, because of this, it seemed like a novel built from stock parts.
It is a quick fantasy read that will not challenge the reader. It moves along fast enough and doesn't bog down. It is OK so long as you don't try to dig too deep.
Another good thing about this book is the reading. Podehl does yeoman's work deepening characters that Duncan wrote pretty flat. He deserves quite a bit of credit for raising this book up in my estimation.
Now about those characters...
This is one piece where the book really fails. The characters are almost all one dimensional, many wouldn't even have that if it weren't for Podehl's reading. The evil megalomaniac is a bad guy, because he's a bad guy. His evil henchman performs odious acts, because that is what you do when you're an evil henchman. The main character acts heroically. Why? To impress a girl. That's new. The reader just can't identify with what is essentially a cast of cardboard cutouts.
I would not recommend this to anyone except maybe the convinced Duncan fan who knows exactly what he or she is getting into.
Correia keeps the pace pretty fast through this third installment of the Grimnoir Chronicles. This book reads like an action movie. You may find a bit more self-reflection than just any shoot-em-up, but action is what this series is built around and if that is what you seek, you won't be disappointed.
The author has done some very interesting things with the structure of magic and has developed it well over the course of the series. This draws the reader in as you can see the magic as the problem and the solution and you ride along with the characters as they use cleverness and grit to figure it out.
The setting is fantastic. I have the feeling that Correia spent a ton of time trying to get it right. With magic affecting people since before the Civil War, the course of history is changed, slightly. It is then fast-forwarded a number of years and different things have shaken out. Teddy Roosevelt is a famous and important figure in U.S. history, but for completely different reasons. There are lots of these little changes which fold in extremely well with the story. That part of this book has the potential to go under-appreciated, but is really interesting.
Initially, I thought that the characters were your standard action flick fare, but upon reflection, they do indeed run a bit deeper. I give full credit to Bronson Pinchot for adding a lot of depth with his portrayal. Once again, the book is read outstandingly well. I will look for Pinchot in the future.
It is good to be back reading the Gentleman Bastard Series after a bit of a long wait. While this book did not have the genius of the first one, it certainly serves as a very entertaining episode. Lynch fleshes out characters at a very smooth pace, melding back story with current story arc in ways that often leave you with a cliffhanger, but not have to wait too long for a resolution. The effect is quite pleasing.
Lynch's dialogue is fantastic and Page's characterization of it is spot on! Be warned that the language is extremely bawdy. Even my 36 yr. old former soldier's ears might be too virginal for some of the worst of it. His insults and quips will make you want to use them at parties to impress your friends and confound your enemies.
The weakest part of this book - and it was not very weak - was the con itself. For all that Locke spent the first two books as the most talented and clever confidence man in the world, he spent most of this book flailing like an amateur. I get why this antagonist was extra hard on him, but since the very first caper in the very first book he has been reliable for ingenious and bombastic thievery and mischief. That is more than half his appeal. For this episode it feels like Lynch lobotomized all of Locke's talent, but left his ability to curse alone. I read about Locke because I like hearing about the guy who is always one step ahead of his competitors, not 10 steps behind.
I would recommend this book for people who like fantasy and comedy. I would not recommend starting with this book as it is the third in the series. Begin at the beginning and read the whole story. The previous two editions are available on Audible; enjoy them all.
Seeing how the book itself is a piece of the English literary canon, I doubt my insights will be that interesting and new. Briefly, the story comprises a boat captain's trek into the African interior during the British colonial period. He comes to hear stories about an exceptional colonial agent who has been living in the deep interior and who has become changed by the experience.
Branagh's retelling is ok. I don't feel that his voice adds too much to the story. It is well done with good rhythm and enunciation. He is obviously a skilled actor and his voice is nice, but I wasn't blown away.
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.
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