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 does a fantastic job of melding horror with the absolutely ridiculous. Wong basically built a messed up town where conventional laws of science do not apply and infested it with spiders, ghosts, zombies, monsters, evil bureaucrats, and a couple of slackers that only overachieve at monster fighting.
The book is twisted and absurd and funny. The plot holds your attention, not so much by twisting, but rather by sprinting off in unexpected directions like an unruly dog having just seen a squirrel.
Both author and narrator combine to develop the characters which all achieve an excellent texture whether main protagonist or bit player.
I recommend this book highly. My only reservation is that it slows down toward the middle. It starts strong and finishes strong and the middle is manageable. I say, go for it.
First of all, I think it's admirable how author succeeded through self-publication. Way to go! That in itself makes a good story for believing in yourself and your product.
The story itself is a good yarn with fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, monsters, chases, escapes, miracles... It's one giant and true love short of being the Princess Bride. To make up for this, Sullivan offers the intrigue of an evil church conspiracy bent on remaking the world to conform to their will. So it is a very interesting story that keeps you engaged.
The characters are well composed and endearing. Both the author and the reader play their parts in bringing them to life. Reynolds really brings the individuals into contrast with very subtle changes in voice. His characterizations are not super bold, but they are enough to make individuals recognizable. I am not the largest fan of his overuse of the British, West Country for low-born accents, but that is a very minor thing. Mostly very good.
My only issue with the book is that it lacks a bit of polish. Sullivan tends to overuse the word "guy," which sort of messes with the medieval setting. There are also editing flubs in the track, where words are repeated. The text could be tightened up a little bit. But all this is just quibbling; if you don't sweat the small stuff, it is a really fun read.
I was so hopeful after the first book. This was going to be one of those series where I actually put books on pre-order. I really liked where it was going. And then this happened. I don't know if Staveley was rushed to publication, or if he was told to cram a lot more stuff into the book to keep it lively, but this book doesn't make much sense.
Oh, there are some redeeming pieces. Staveley can check most of the blocks that go along with your basic fantasy novels. He has good fights, readable banter, surprises, and colorful atmosphere. I don't want to give him zero credit. He does those parts pretty well.
His major problem is that his characters are broken in a way that makes the story not make sense. I am not saying that he writes damaged characters intentionally like an alcoholic who acts perversely yet humanly. No, his characters are constantly doing things for no reason or for reasons they know to be false or just completely stupid. Sure, the scenes and outcomes are more dramatic, and what they do may fit for that scene, but they don't make sense to the rest of the story. I get it that characters often act contrary to their interests, it can build drama. This is understandable and completely forgivable in stories. It happens in real life all the time, but when every major character makes decisions like the drunkest freshman at a college party just to make that individual scene as striking as it can be, their motivations in the larger narrative fall apart. That is the problem with this installment. The author gets dramatic scenes that don't make sense when you try to string them together.
As this could be the sophomore doldrums, I might swing back around for the third book. But I won't be waiting breathlessly. I could just as well give this series up.
I consistently enjoy Simon Vance's readings. This narration was also strong.
The books in this series are shaping up to mark individual, chapters, or episodes in the development of Tavi of Calderon. The titles, beginning with book 2, pretty much lay that out. This installment has lots of spycraft and a big battle at the end. I think what I enjoy most is that the main character uses his wits to get himself in and out of trouble. In his world, he is basically handicapped. That doesn't even come close to stopping him though. He experiences the humiliation of not being able to do what everyone else can, but he is also not bound by their blinkered thinking and limitations. Tavi is a great character for perseverance and cleverness. He is a well-crafted character.
I am not going to go on about the reading and the horns as I did in my reviews in the previous two books. It is enough to say that Reading's characterizations are solid and her pacing is good. There seem to be some editing flubs where one word runs right into another, but other than that, pretty clean.
This book moves Tavi's story out of the country and into the city. As opposed to book 1, Academ's Fury is where the story arc has it's true beginning. It kind of makes Furies of Calderon seem like a pilot episode where the writers knew mostly what they wanted but then decided to take the rest of the story in a slightly different direction. And I do mean "slightly" here.
This book has a lot more intrigue, more politics and about the same amount of magic combat. It's a really good read, enough twists to keep you on your toes and enough explosions and sword fights to keep your inner 15 yr. old boy engaged. Character introduction and development is solid too.
I am still not entirely pleased by Reading's accent in this audiobook. I don't get why the producers felt the need for her to go British. I normally like her a lot. Despite the contrived accent, her characterizations are firming up. She has obvious talent.
I still don't understand what is up with the random horn fanfares. Is that there because the book was originally split into multiple files to speed up downloads?
I would recommend this book to fans of fantasy. Well worth a credit.
I read this book years ago and loved it. I am a sucker for this kind of fantasy, one that follows the boy of great and yet undefined potential through adventure and sorcery. It was reading the Belgariad (Eddings) as a kid that turned me into a reader. This is a book has a similar narrative to Pawn of Prophecy. I am a fan of Butcher from the Dresden Files and this is a departure from urban fantasy to more swords & magic fantasy. He does a solid job. His development of the world and the system of magic is fantastic. This particular quality he shares with Sanderson, however, he is quite different in many other ways. In short, Butcher does a great job of drawing together great elements of fantasy to make for an enjoyable story.
I generally like Kate Reading. This one is a rare miss for her. I don't get why they made the choice to play British in this novel. She's American and it shows. When she characterizes certain characters that are a departure from her normal speaking voice her British accent goes in and out. Also, one of the advantages of getting a British reader to do British accents is that they don't all have the general standard British accents. Bumpkins will sound like they're from Yorkshire. City dwellers will sound like there from Norf London, that kind of thing. Because she's trying to pass as British, you don't get variation, you get inconsistency.
I will be on the lookout for the next in this series. The book is good, but its potential is great. Those that make the Joe Abercrombie association are not far off. Like Abercrombie's, this book is a character-driven novel with abject violence and exploration of the extremes of good and bad in people. The character description is reason enough to read this book. Watson adds spice by toying with a quasi historical fiction of iron age Britain.
Two places where this book is less than excellent are the pacing of the plot and the description of the setting. The plot doesn't really follow a tempo, and really just collapses into a coherent shape at the end. It feels like the author in the last quarter of the book, crumpled up the paper and wound up with an origami crane. Also, Watson really could have gotten more mileage out of his recreation of Iron Age Britain, he could have better imagined what people ate, wore and built. With the holes in the historical record, he could have really taken the science, engineering, home economics and society for a real spin. I feel like he played it too conservative.
I think the reader is dead on for the characters, but he didn't blow my mind which is what I reserve a 5 for. Its a tough bar to clear though. He did a respectable job.
I think there is tons of potential to this series. Worth a credit.
If you take nothing else from this review, understand this: this book is a history of theory. They are clear about this in the description, but it bears repetition, thus: A. History. Of. Theory. So the narrative goes from one strategic philosopher to another and as often as not discusses how the philosophy touched the world at large.
This book does not show how strategy is relevant to you. It also makes a weak case as to how the development of strategic theory was relevant to the history of the world. It is as if the artifact of strategy only barely touches the larger world. The author cannot be accused of overselling the relevance of his subject. Unfortunately, that makes it pretty hard to get interested.
There are two major items in this book's favor. One, that it keeps a refined focus on strategy and artfully keeps from being drawn down to the level of tactics, which would be an easily understandable digression. And two, the book has a good vision for the analysis the strategies of political movements, though sadly, it is there where it looses thematic focus.
In the end, I couldn't finish this book. It is an academic text unsuited to audiobook format. It also is written with that academic tendency of never using a fifteen word sentence where a fifty word sentence will do.
I'm a Sanderson fan, but I might not sound like it here. Perhaps I grade him harshly because some of his other work is so good. I enjoyed this book and I would recommend it, particularly for a YA audience, but not-so-Y adults will enjoy it as well.
Sanderson does well what he always does well:
-Characters have very cool magical powers.
-Fight scenes with magic are fast and plentiful.
-The "all super villain / no super hero" premise is great!
-The post (ongoing?) - apocalyptic setting is interesting with plenty of room to develop. Though this last is full of anthropological and incentive-based paradoxes that you are better off not thinking too deeply about.
In my mind, these are enough to carry the book. These alone make it good enough. Unfortunately, there are some issues that are uncharacteristically slapdash. The general narrative is just too convenient. The plot never really derails, the characters have already planned everything out and nearly always find what they are looking for. Any twists are very forseeable. Sanderson drops too many clues. I'm horrible at figuring these things out and even to me it seemed plain as day. The characters are pretty wooden. There are some exceptions. Ok, one. Cody. But the rest are underdeveloped.
Lastly, the "boy meets girl" piece is achingly contrived. I know Sanderson wanted wanted a young love element. But, come on, of course the crack team of hardened super villain assassins is going to include a pretty girl his own age who resents him at first, and warms to him later when he demonstrates his quality. Of course it does. While I can suspend disbelief to fit a villain-created forever night in a steel-fossilized Chicago, the love interest character is a bit too fantastical.
The reader was good. Very well cast to do a young man narrator. His accents were ok as were his characterizations.
NOTE: As of this writing there is a free short story available on Audible as an interlude to the series. The next full novel that has not yet been published.
This book definitely has a good setup. The magic school piece is not an innovation, but the story of it is pleasant enough. That is about the first half of the book. The second half is about seeking and finding a Narnia-like world. It is not merely similar to Narnia, it is an intentional reference. I enjoyed this premise as it has the effect of bringing adult fans of childhood fantasy novels along with the protagonists on their adventure.
What fantasy reader hasn't wanted to make that trip? This was my favorite element.
I can't give universal praise though. The trip to Fillory (Narnia) has bad narrative pacing. Someone makes a surprise discovery of a clue; from there, the adventure to get there is a few short pages of magical tinkering. Once they get there, they are given a quest, because that is what you do when you get to a magical land. They make short work of the quest and then it's over.
It is pretty clear that Grossman is trying to make a statement about the disillusionment of seeing childhood fantasy through an adult's eyes. Grossman is making a parody of children's fantasy by making the same mistakes. That is ok, but he doesn't do it with any kind of wink to the reader. He mocks fantasy with a grimace, not a smirk. It left me feeling like, even though I was a kid, I was such a sucker to love fantasy.
The other depressing element is the protagonist, Quentin. He's a kid that is basically given everything including brains, magical powers, a busty girlfriend, and the opportunity to live out his childhood dream. He spends the whole book wallowing in self-pity almost to the last sentence. I am not sure whether this is a critique on the near universal upbeat attitude of most fantasy characters. Seems likely, but it also makes it a burden to read. Quentin carries pubescent angst into his late 20s. It is hard to watch a child not grow up. Presumably, significant experiences in a story like this should change a character. Nope.
The reader was good. He did some good characterizations. One character he voiced, I just wanted to punch in the face. I guess I mean that as a sort of a compliment, The voice was certainly distinctive and that was the case with most in his reading. That one was just nails on a chalkboard for me.
I probably will not continue with the series. My problem is that I need a character to root for or against. This book didn't really give me one.
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