The tone of the writing fits the setting perfectly, and the narrator matches as though the book were written specifically for him.
Some reviewers have complained that the story is tedious. Certainly the writing style is deliberate and considered, but as I said, it matches the setting and especially the naval character of Lawrence, the main character whose perspective is our own. Anyone who needs a very fast-paced writing style (like Carl Hiassan) might dislike it, but anyone who can tolerate Tolkein would have no trouble.
Temeraire is delightful, and Lawrence is such a good man. His gradual shift from the navy to the aerial corps is believable and involving; his struggle with integrating himself into the new culture is fraught with pitfalls that are paralleled nicely by Temeraire's difficulty with being a rare breed.
Lawrence's stiff manner and preoccupation with propriety stem from a powerful and selfless desire to do the right thing, both for his country and for his loved ones, making behavior that would come off as pompous in another man seem heartfelt and honest from him.
What little aerial combat there is (surprisingly little if you're expecting a war, but for the story and Temeraire's age it's appropriate) is occasionally paced a bit oddly, but in truth, the action sequences are exceptionally easy to follow, dramatic, and realistic, with real consequences and believable decision-making, none of the absurd posturing of the usual fantasy battle scene.
In short, Naomi does an excellent job of convincing the reader that her world is real, that dragons are real, that we know a guy named Lawrence, that he has a dragon named Temeraire, and that we care about them both.
TL, DR version: Kevin Hearne has really matured into an amazing writer. This has his best plot yet, and best action by FAR, in the very highest class.
Also, for new readers, I think it's okay to start here if you don't have time to start at the beginning. You can always go back and read the first three later, and might even enjoy them more, since this book finally explains some things that have been bothering me since day 1, especially the issues with eternal youth.
The first books in this series were marked by a very specific pattern that I've observed in a lot of new writers (I'm an editor).
First, the author is hesitant and lacks confidence in certain specific areas, usually battle/action sequences, often punting them off-screen in self defense. That happened in "Hounded."
Next, the author is emboldened by success, and attacks material he used to shy from, this time with great enthusiasm and regrettable lack of restraint, such as in "Hexed" where pregnant women are stabbed in the uterus (yes, they're demon babies, but still).
After that, the maturing author has come to terms with whatever material used to worry them, and now turns their attention to being creative with plot. "Hammered" contains Kevin's experimentation with new plot techniques and concepts in world-building.
Next? Well, next comes awesomeness.
"Tricked" is creative, exciting, funny, adventuresome, and dramatic. None of its plot elements disappoint, and Kevin's battle scenes are reaching mastercraft. All his earlier promise is fulfilled. All the horrible cliches that I have come to dread from reading other, less enlightened authors were neatly avoided and left me embarrassed for not trusting him.
Which is really the central issue, at least for me. For me, it's about trust. Can I trust this author with my feelings? Does he want me to enjoy his work, or is making his readers sad some sort of power trip for him (George RR, I'm looking at you)? I am hesitant to try any new author with audiobooks because I can't easily skim through any bits I don't like. If I pick an untrustworthy author, I'm in for a really bad day.
Basically, Kevin Hearne has, with "Tricked," proven himself trustworthy. I can let myself relax and put my heart in his hands and know that he will take good care of it, and if anything hurts, it'll definitely be the good kind of hurt. I don't have any higher praise.
The performance is excellent, and the book is very well-written and colorful, which is why I gave it so many stars. However, it has serious problems.
- The overall plot lacks the fun and adventure of the previous books.
- Africa seems so horrible, I don't know why anyone would want to go there. It makes the explorers seem totally barmy. It's also not much fun to read about bugs and ulcers and watch the horses die one by one.
- Bad thing after bad thing happens, with no relief (except the parakeets), making for a tiring listening experience.
- The author switches focus to the Eugenecists and their plant machines. That's fine, except... they are impossible. It isn't genetics that keeps a tree from reaching 30' maturity in 2 days, it's plain old physics. I could ignore the tech-y impossibilities, imagining they found some way around it (Fornby coal), but the existence of the plant-things broke my suspension of disbelief repeatedly.
- All the female characters in this series have 2 purposes: Serve the hero's supper, and/or die for the hero. Really? In 2012? We can do better.
- The ending. Without giving anything away, I can tell you that it is a complete non-ending. Nothing is resolved. Also, disappointingly cliche.
Reading back, it does sound like I hated the book. I ... guess I did. Thing is, I know myself and I know that I object strongly to things many people actually like. For example, I hate Game of Thrones for most of the same reasons (grim, dark, women are stupid, animals are abused and killed, everyone dies). I think, if you can enjoy books despite, or because of, unrelentingly grim storylines, then you will probably enjoy this book.
Ending still stinks, though.
SPOILER-ISH WARNING: (Lots of characters die here, so brace yourself, or don't read it if that kind of thing ruins a book for you.)
This book had a lot of promise. The narration part of the writing is excellent, funny, and descriptive; secondary characters like Lif, Perry and the fantastic Oberon are vivid and very well written. Many concepts are cool and the druidic take, along with the restrictions on druidic magic (what it can do, what it can't) is nice becaue it feels possible. Things don't happen "just by magic" and there are some things Atticus just can't do, at least not if he wants to stay a druid. It's incredibly well performed, one of the top three I've had the pleasure of hearing. I really wanted this to be my next favorite series.
Ultimately, though, it's got a couple of flaws that would not have been so disappointing if I hadn't set my hopes so high. Atticus never met a contraction he liked - it's always "do not," "is not," "I am" instead of the contractions that actual people use during all normal conversation except when being very adamant, so he comes off as ALWAYS being adamant. His dialogue was pale compared to Oberon's. Also, I think Hearne lacked confidence when writing this book, because many actions take place off-camera and we have to imagine it. In my experience as an editor this happens when the author worries they will not be able to do a good job describing it, but as a reader, I really wanted to SEE the werewolves transform, not listen to howling and then have the wolves trot into the room. I want to SEE the final conflict between the two groups at the end, not hear it in the distance while Atticus takes forever to get there.
If the good parts were not SO good, I would give up on the series. However, I really want to see if Hearne gains confidence in his next novels. I think he has potential to be as fun and exciting as Jim Butcher (high praise from a fan), and much more stylishly written. Hearne already has a better vocabulary and writes dog and canine characters WAYYY better.
The ghost angle made the newest entry in the Dresden Files fresh and exciting when I'd been beginning to feel like they were edging into formulae. It's also good and long, which I like because it's good value for money! It doesn't feel long because the plot has many parts. Jim's style is occasionally laborious, however, and this is no exception; action and adventure runs freely, but whenever anything sensitive or philosophical comes up the writing screeches to a walking pace until it's time for more excitement.
Unfortunately, enjoying the story was severely hampered by the reader. When I read everyone complaining about him, I thought they were just being sour because they didn't like change, but it's true: Glover is just not very good. His voices are so similar that I lose track of conversations, and his diction actively gets in the way of following the plot. He pronounces everything like a revelation, like "She was wearing a coat... with BLUE buttons." Like the blue buttons were a huge big plot point and I needed to remember them. After a couple of chapters I learned to tune that out because I realized I was wasting my time trying to figure out what he meant - he didn't mean anything, he just talks like that. I hope they use a different guy next time, if not Marsters then at least someone who reads calmly and doesn't actively get in the way.
That said, if you enjoy Dresden files, you won't want to miss this. It's important to the overarching plot and has a lot of new stuff and new ideas that made the serious freshly interesting and fun. You might want to read it in dead-tree format, though, so you won't have the comedic timing ruined by the reader.
A great character voice, thrilling action (more than once I paused it and ran to excitedly tell my husband "And then there was this giant scorpion and he cast this awesome spell and-") and a very interesting magic system. The magic captures the joy I felt when first reading Harry Potter, yet developes it into something that feels real and complete, somehow beyond mere fantasy.
I've listened to a few more of these and there's two consistent flaws. One is that the reader keeps breathing heavily into the mike, and the other is that characters keep having extended conversations during the time it takes a monster to run across a room. Either that's one slow monster, or they're talking at lightspeed. In general, the pacing of action sequences is often askew, with characters having time to do things that they really would not have time to do, and events being described as though in slow-motion.
But that doesn't stop Butcher's action from being some of the most creative and exciting I've ever had the privilege to read, and that, combined with the overall extremely high quality of the work, makes me heartily recommend it to anyone who enjoys mystery, action, fantasy, paranormal or noir.
My favorite in the series. Naomi begins to shift point-of-view to Temeraire occasionally, and that is delightful. His mind is clearly a dragon's and works slightly differently, yet easy to understand and identify and sympathise with. The battles and strategies are great, some of the best I've read and I'm pretty picky about such things. I really don't have anything bad to say.... Yeah, no, I really don't. If you haven't started Temeraire's series yet, start it now, it's worth it.
He's back in the game - after Nation, I was afraid my favorite author was too discouraged about life to write any more of the joy-filled work I so loved. He's been proving me wrong ever since and I am heartily ashamed of myself for doubting him.
Tiffany's adventures are perfect for young girls, unlike most fantasy marketed to young adults.
Characters are well-drawn. The village and its culture on the Chalk feels like I could book a plane ticket there, it's so real. Magic is well-developed and believable, as are its limitations. Tiffany's strengths and flaws are balanced and leave her as a lovable, yet strong, young woman and a great role model, too. I also love Preston, one of several new characters, whose mind works in its own unique way - that's quite a feat of writing, in my opinion, to show us so clearly that one character is so different from another.
In short, strongly recommended. Buy it for your niece, too, like I did!
I loved the other entries in this series. I loved this one, too, right up until I realized that all those reveiwers who complained that it went nowhere... were absolutely right. The story concludes at a dead end. Is it the end of the series, or what? Poor Lawrence seems so depressed and discouraged. I feel like the next book will consist of him gardening or learning to crochet, because he's too world-weary to leave his front porch.
Even so, enough events are enough fun that it is worth a listen. Fans of Temeraire himself won't be disappointed, nor will fans of Ischierka (sp?) and the two new baby dragons are delightful. I just hope Lawrence gets a new lease on life in time for the next book.
The characters are interesting, the plot is pretty cool. I love Sazid (sp?) and Ham. The magic system is unique and plausible. The ending is exciting and I loved how he pulled all the pieces together.
What's the problem, then? Sanderson desperately needs a thesaurus. I feel like a shell-shocked victim, I twitch whenever I hear the word "paused." Characters pause on average four or five times a conversation. Another reviewer suggests making a drinking game out of it - I don't recommend that. You'd die of alcohol poisoning. Oh, and "crystalline," that one got me, too. Everything that even remotely relates to anything mineral is "crystalline."
Considering how long the book is, I should know and love everyone in it, but the prose is long and slow with the result that I barely got to know most of the characters. Another reviewer compared them to David Eddings' and that is apt, except that Eddings' characters are more fun.
The story takes place in one small geographical area, giving me no sense of "world" beyond the fact that Luthadel is kind of depressing and ugly.
Exposition re: the magic system. Oh God, the info-dump. Find a way to work it into the story! Show, don't tell! The best part is Vin's initial misunderstanding about her own powers, calling them "luck" and using them instinctively. That was cool. Then Kelsier came along and drew up a spreadsheet.
Action sequences are hit-or-miss. Some, like Vin's desperate flight across the spires of the palace, are suspenseful and vivid. Others are rote descriptions of metal objects flying through the air, with many stops to describe the physics involved.
I'd have given it only 3 stars, except then the ending was just that awesome. If you can tolerate the kudgy prose, and you have a long attention span, then you should enjoy the book. I personally don't regret buying it at all, but I don't think I'll get the next 2 books for a while. Maybe after a break I will enjoy it more and not be bothered by the stylistic problems.
I have to say, I figured out what the McGuffin was really early, and then had to wait and wait for Laurence to figure it out, too. That was annoying.
But, once they got going, Africa is her best world yet, and their desperate search for said McGuffin is exciting, their plight afterwards is cool, the British Government thoroughly despicable and Laurence's patriotism and Christianity conflict in a way that is totally in line with his character, creating very real tension and no sense of "manufacture" that most series have by this point.
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