The name "Maeve" is pronounced "May." This inaccuracy really throws a monkey wrench into the enjoyment of the story. The producer needs to be flogged.
This current installment of Chicagoland Vampires has moved Chloe Neill from the "purchase on sight but read it when I get to it" list to the "read before I sleep" list. In a single volume, Ms Neill advances her storyline farther than I had guessed she would in the next three books while avoiding a problem common to many long term series -- all good things come to the main characters. With many of my favorite urban fantasy series winding down or already complete, the Chicagoland Vampires has risen consistently in my estimation and I now find myself wanting the next book almost immediately.
As in previous volumes, it is well written and well performed, but is probably not the best place to start reading. If you are not going to start with book 1, Some Girls Bite, the previous (book 9) would be a better start point, but still not totally satisfactory.
Without too many spoilers, this book resolves the issue of Ethan trying to wrest control from the GP. Several new Masters and their Houses are introduced in this book, extending the reach of the series and the resolution was as unexpected as it was welcome. The hook to future volumes is a little obvious but is no less welcome.
Now the reason for the review title: Early in this book, Merrit goes to a huge Chicago game convention's dealer room and many of the participants think that she is cosplaying herself. She runs into multiple tables of Cadigan oriented merch, including multiple artworks of herself. I found myself laughing uncontrollably as I recalled a similar spectacle that happened at Origins almost a decade ago. Once upon a time, the husbands and wives of Big Daddy Thwak's Millennial Army had a bet and the guys lost. The penalty was memorable. The men, many with full beards, had to go through the dealer room in Sailor Moon fuku (Japanese schoolgirl sailor suits). Please understand I am good friends with most of the Army. Thank you, Ms Neill for planting an image I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I also find it interesting that Ethan and I both have a soft spot for 18 year old Glen Moranjie.
Sense this is an Audible review, let me start by explaining why I gave the performance one star while I wish I could have given it zero. First this book is narrated by a new voice, and all though I understand why the previous readers might not be available, this was welcomed for several reasons. First, no one gave her access to the name pronunciation guide from the back of one of the previous volumes. This is probably not just her fault alone, so blame for this should be shared with the incompetent that produced this book. The most egregious and unforgivable mispronunciation was Ivy, a former vegetative deity, who's name is pronounced like the plant, not pronounced like a pokemon with a polymorphic evolution. That's right folks, she pronounced it Eevee. Additionally, the reader seems to have but one Irish accent in her repertoire and I found this very distracting. Please do your best to bring Claudia Black back for the next book.
The story was astounding. Although, I find it ironic that if you read the first three chapters and the last five, you basically got the entire story in a nutshell. I could go on with more details but they would be basically one giant set of spoilers and I choose not to do so. Please listen to this book. The performance is flawed, but the book itself is solid and I look forward to the next Merry Gentry book. May it not be five years for the next one.
Simply put, Skin Game is fun. The story line is rich, very convoluted, and full of fan candy. The author makes his usual barrage of pop culture references, my favorite being an oblique reference to Cheap Ass Games' zombie restaurant farce, Pass the Brain.
The audio performance is its usual solid job. It's always good to see James Marstars returning to read this series.
From this point on this review contains many spoilers so continue at your own risk. The primary story line is payback for the events in Small Favors. For some reason, Mab owes Nicodaemus a favor and Harry is the repayment of that debt. Basically, Nicodaemus is putting together a crew to break in to Hades secret vault where he keeps some of his valuable collections. Many familiar faces make appearances, but my favorite scene in the book is Waldo Butters, Knight of the Cross.
I have stated previously that Donaldson is one of the yardsticks against which I measure all other writing. In many ways, his propensity for manipulating the English language is getting in the way of the story.
The main focus of three quarters of this book is the continued degeneration of Linden Avery's character. Her monomaniac charge to redeem her son has already doomed the Earth at the end of Fatal Revenant. She continues to ignore consequences and her indifference finally leads to the death of several companions. The story seems to tread water for the majority of the book, and only advances in the last two chapters.
The many seemingly insurmountable problems Linden and Covenant face continue to magnify. Without spoiling the specifics, the problems of Esmer and Joan are the only things that redeem this storyline from irrelevancy.
The specific problems of this novel are many. The biggest issue in my opinion is that this story seems to exist to jam every background note ever written by Donaldson into published form. In many ways, the previous novel as well as this one suffer from the same problems that doomed The Silmarillion. I am not saying that it is not interesting, but it can be done better. I refer to the Brian Herbert/Kevin Anderson expansions of Dune. Additionally, as stated in the headline, Linden Avery seems to have forgotten everything she learned during her previous sojourn with Covenant under the Sunbane. I found this highly distasteful, and I have to go all the way back to the 80s to Night and Fog (the 5th Cenotaph Road book) for such a sad evolution in character development.
My final objection to this work is that Donaldson's contortion of the language stabs him in the foot. His constant description of all magic as "theurgy," magic of divine origin, rather than "thaumaturgy," or general magic, as well as refering to an oversize sword as a glaive, a polearm consisting of a stick with a knife on the end, are the most obvious problems.
Finally, directly related to the audiobook and its performance, please do whatever is necessary to bring back Scott Brick for the last book. This reader speaks with a noticeable and distracting Irish accent. His only apparent ability at characterisation is to enhance this accent.
First, let me say that Donaldson is one of my three favorite SF authors for use of the English language. Along with Lovecraft and Gene Wolfe, they form a triad against which I gauge almost everything else I read. This book continues Donaldson's masterful manipulation of English.
The story rather parallels the beginning of the Second Chronicles. It's been ten years since Linden Avery redeemed The Land from the Sunbane, some 3500 years in The Land. Her life has drastically improved since she returned to Earth. She has a good job which she enjoys and has adopted one of the children who maimed their hands in Foul's fire in The Land. The story opens with the appearance of Roger Covenant, who wishes to redeem his mad mother from the mental hospital Linden runs. For some reason, Avery balks, so he kidnaps his mother, killing some of the hospital staff, and kidnaps Avery's son as well. Linden Avery is summoned back to The Land, but is joined by her son and Roger Covenant, as well as the mad Joan, who is actually inhabited by Turya Raver. Avery is shot through the heart as she is summoned. She heals herself using Thomas Covenant's ring, which she wears around her neck, returning White Gold to The Land, but she is not unique in this: Joan carries the twin to Covenant's ring. Much has changed in The Land. Linden first encounters an inately Earth powerful mad man named Aneal. She looks down on The Land and sees a yellow cloud of smog covering it as far as she can see. She and Aneal are captured by two Haruchai and taken to Mithil Stonedown, and when she awakes, her health sense is dead. She learns that the smog is called Kevin's Dirt, as the Haruchai fear this is the first step in another act of Desecration. Linden and Aneal are held prisoner by the Haruchai who now call themselves the Masters of The Land, until Linden proves she is the Chosen returned to The Land. Aneal, however, remains a prisoner and begs Linden to protect and free Aneal. Aneal refers to himself in the third person as part of his madness. The Haruchai's Mastery is based on the belief that all use of Earth power ultimately serves Corruption, hence, Linden finds the stonedownors ignorant of their history as well as their traditional abilities. She escapes with Aneal during a violent storm and flees to the Southron Range accompanied by a stonedownor and pursued by one of the Masters.
The remainder of the book, Linden finds allies as well as learning that many, many new threats face The Land. Several beings seem to possess Aneal, providing interesting insights into these threats. With two main exceptions, the entire book is set up. It is unfortunate that this vast story does not move the story forward in any truly significant manner. Additionally, Thomas Covenant shows up in less than fifteen sentences in the book. This is the reason I gave the book four stars instead of five.
For those seeking the missing second book, Fatal Revenant, it is only available on Scott Brick's website along with several other books not available on Audible.
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