Silver Spring, MD, United States | Member Since 2010
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.
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.
Taibbi takes the financial industry out behind the wood shed in this book. His anecdotes explain a lot about the mentality that leads to and perpetuates inequity. He has no problem with telling you what he really thinks about this or that financial mogul. The stories and characters go paint vivid pictures of how the law treats people differently in America. I will admit that he managed to be convincing enough to shift my views slightly, though I doubt they had very hard to go.
I liked the book, though I believe it was telling me what I wanted to hear. I tend to agree with Taibbi when he talks about this or that Wall Street operative as a scumbag and I sympathize with the plight of the poor. The stories are informative, if biased. Taibbi has chosen his side; you get the feeling that he is only telling the anecdotes that support his thesis where minority reports may have been omitted.
Porter reads the book very well. He worked hard at using sarcasm and emphasis where it is implied by the text.
This book was just like its predecessor. On the plus side you get an adventure loaded with action, monsters, and guns (and guns). If you're a sucker for action (and guns), Vendetta might have enough to hold your interest.
Unfortunately, the story is almost a repeat of the first book. I feel like I could have just read Monster Hunter International twice.
There was really no deepening of the very superficial characters. His use of stereotypes makes me wonder whether he's ever really met another human. His main character is even less human than the other "humans" in the book. Owen Pitt thinks in taglines and catchphrases. He is a narcissist who knows even better than the reader that the story is about him. He feels guilt for getting his friends into trouble because the bad guys are after him, but he doesn't act on this guilt other than to just "feel" it momentarily every time someone off to his left or right gets killed. The only other emotion he has room for in his ammo pouch is anger and all its synonyms. I forgave this after the first book, but by the end of the sequel, it needs some character development.
Correia started his series with a "world in the balance" climax so he had nowhere to go except to give us another similar ending. I can't speak for the rest of the series, but I feel a lot of similarities in narrative and main character to Goodkind's, "Wizard's First Rule" series. Ruggedly independent man with powers no one can explain faces unavoidable, world-ending conundrum that he defeats with the timely assistance of a Deus ex Machina all with libertarian undertones. With Goodkind it got old slowly (his characters had personalities), not so with Correia. I think I am done after this.
The reader, Wyman, stepped up his game in this edition. He went a little bolder with some of the characterizations to good effect. I am not blown away, but I am well satisfied.
Go into it expecting a good bit of fun and monster-infused violent pulp fiction, and it is possible to really like this book. If you are coming to this from the Grimnoir Chronicles, you may be a little disappointed, but you will recognize the fast pace, shoot-em-up style that works well for Correia. Come looking for literature and you'll probably be traumatized.
Correia serves up action and the supernatural pretty well. If that is why you're reading, you'll be fine. He is great at keeping your interest. It is hard to put down.
It is also hard not to roll your eyes in places. The characters are stock parts bought right off of the shelves. Except the main character who is basically loaded to his eyeballs with every single trait it takes to make a dime novel hero except a soul.
Correia uses the rest of the cast to make the book out to be a manifesto for libertarianism. Every good guy is a government-hating, rugged individualist, gun nut. Every bad guy is a bureaucratic, authoritarian. And there's no depth in the story as to why or a description of personal motivation, the characters are like sandwich boards for "evil bureaucrat" or "gun-toting, freedom-loving hero."
Another thing that some readers may love, and I kind of like to a point (a point, that is, which is exceeded very early), is Correia's in depth - sensual, really - description of gunfights. I feel like it goes way too far and drags on the story, but some readers may love it. Correia's characters do not just draw, aim, and shoot. They will reach for the stained hickory grip of their custom two-tone chrome 1911, pull the well-lubed slide back to chamber a 405 grain .45 caliber bullet, then fall into a standard weaver stance, calm their breathing, focus on the front site post of their, after market, tritium sites, squeeze the trigger to allow the hammer to strike the firing pin which, in turn, strikes the primer at the base of the shell, this primer then ignites the main charge causing the powder to burn and the pressure of that rapid expansion of gasses to propel the led slug down the barrel causing the soft metal of the slug to engage the rifling of the 4" barrel and on, and on, and on. It wouldn't be so bad if it only happened once. Anytime a gun is mentioned it gets the full catalog description. I don't mind guns in real life, and they are certainly appropriate to this story; still, it's like "enough already!" The guns have more personality than the people.
The reader is ok. He seems to be talking through gritted teeth even when not characterizing a voice, but that is not inappropriate as lots of the characters are tough guys. He does some voice characterizations which work well. The overall effort is less than brilliant. A gentleman's 3/5.
Despite my focus on its faults, I like the book. The action is tight and plentiful and I am a sucker for that stuff. Planning on continuing the series.
This book encapsulates the manor of thinking that spawned Freakonomics. It does a pretty good job of satisfying the authors' intent which is to show you different ways to address a problem. They expand the definition of economics beyond the standard Micro-Macro science of optimizing use of scarce resources, demonstrating it as a social science to explain human behavior. All well done.
On the other hand... The authors admit that this may be their last book on the subject because their economics-driven philosophy may dictate that they quit. I submit that they should follow this inclination. They do a good job of showing the need to look at actual incentives and data, but they are not thinking their own examples through. They are not considering or exploring the permutations of their policy prescriptions. They seem to consider them good solutions merely because of their cleverness and unconventional thinking, when previous examples - in this very book - point to disaster. They talk about the importance of data as if they are among the few that are clever enough to see it clearly and make the proper interpretations and then slyly wink at a possible creative solution with out thinking out how it would work. This allows them to sound clever without having to ground their arguments in the data they value so much.
I feel like they are reaching. They are trying to load the book with the successes of unconventional thinking and that is great, but they have overextended themselves and have mixed bad examples in with the good.
In short it is a good book that says the right things about how to look at problems through a social-economic lens and then sometimes fails to live up to its ideals.
As sequels go, this is a good second effort though I will not say it sure that if you liked the Blood Song one you'll like the second. I very much liked Tower Lord, for its creative narrative rhythm, the focus on relationships and the texture of the characters. However, there are things that could throw you for a loop.
There are four perspective characters, five if you count the historian who is sort of telling the story. The perspective changes every chapter and is clearly delineated, but four is too many for some people. Also, those who are interested solely in the story of Valen will be disappointed.
The pattern is the same as the last book where the interludes are the present and the perspective narratives are in the recent past culminating in the present time as marked by the historian's timeline. Unfortunately, this gives the book an air of inevitability. You know after the first chapter where the final battle will be and who will be involved. I think this doesn't spoil the ride, but the outcome doesn't really feel in question.
This book is dark; lots of rape and murder. It is abject and often creatively done. I applaud Ryan's ability as a dark storyteller he really knows how to twist the knife.
The narrator is nowhere. He's a blank slate. No characterizations, barely any accents, no tonal differences between genders. It is difficult to tell who is talking. They should replace him. They have nothing to lose.
I know this sounds like I am mostly down on this book. I am not. I genuinely liked it. It had seldom used elements like characters who were homosexual or dyslexic like people sometimes are and it colors the story without making the whole world about it. This lends it a maturity that fantasy sometimes goes without. Its dark parts are creatively dark and well described and its characters are relateable.
When you have a long, episodic series you need one of those books that is kind of a setup book. In "Shattered," Hearne needed to work through a bunch of exposition for the series and could not put as much into pure adventuring. In the previous book, "Hunted," Atticus was on the run the entire time and didn't have much of a chance to draw in new characters and give a greater vision of the larger story arc. That is what this book was for. The pace was a lot slower, but what it lacked in running around kicking butt, it made up for in character development, world-building, and filling in the main story arc.
Daniels had a lot of heavy lifting in this book in terms of characterizations and accents. He did a good job with a diverse kaleidoscope of genders, ages, accents and personalities. Surely, some will criticize that the accents aren't perfect and maybe a little over the top, but I think he did a good job with a tough field.
I had complained in previous reviews that Hearne was getting a bit too enthusiastic with his pop culture referencing. In this installment he has cooled it back down to a level that is appropriately clever instead of distracting. Well done there.
All in all, I would recommend this book, but seriously, if you have read six books and are on the fence about book 7 and are using this review to decide whether or not to continue, I don't know what to tell you. Flip a credit.
I am going to go against the grain of most other reviewers and say that the narrator, Michael Page, does not ruin this book. I liked Lister's narration marginally better, but I am also a fan of Page from the Gentleman Bastard Sequence, where he does a much more inspired job. One way to diminish the shock of listening to different pronunciations and different voices to known characters is to do what I did and take some time off from the series before moving on to book 4. It makes the transition easier. Another element that eases the shock is the fact that the major characters of this book had yet to make an appearance in the series or were bit players up until now.
No, if this book suffers it is on the author. It is still a pretty good book, but I had no trouble putting it down like I did with the others. It took me a long time to get through it. The pacing is much more leisurely than previous books and the climaxes almost feel like non-events.
Erikson is also painting himself into a corner with the regularity of events that should feel momentous, but aren't. In most stories you would think that a god dying or being cast down to the mortal world and other gods and pantheons rising in his place would be a pretty big deal. No, in this series, that's an average Tuesday.
Eirkson does a stellar job with character development with a couple caveats. The characters's development is matched well with the exposition and they are well painted as individuals. The major drawbacks to the character slate is that there are just so many of them that it is hard to identify with them as a reader. Also, he moves on from the ones you like to others that you don't care about. Then he has to do the hard work of making you care and that eats up narration and adds to the slow pace. Also, they are all basically superhuman. Everybody is either Chuck Norris or hamburger. It makes you feel like outcomes were never in doubt, you as the reader just didn't know them yet. It feels like any built suspense was all a lie.
This was my least favorite volume of the series so far. It is still pretty good and I will likely move on to the next book in time, but this edition didn't leave me pining for more.
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