This audiobook was an engrossing but subtle and somewhat slower-paced listen. The conflict is strictly emotional but it avoids the trap of manufactured emotions that create conflict for the sake of plot progression because the interpersonal drama that drives the story feels very true to life. By the end, I was deeply absorbed in the dynamic between the sisters.
Told in first person present tense, this is a story about love in its many forms. The chapters alternate between Melanie and Brody's story as Melanie worries about and tries to shield her sister Anne from discovery and the seemingly unrelated story of Janet and Cooper - two teenagers whose difficult living situations are made bearable by their friendship and developing love. The two perspectives end up tying together but each was interesting enough on its own. This isn't a supernatural shape-shifter sexy-times book but rather a compelling re-imagining of our world with shifters who live a hidden and, as another reviewer put it, rather hardscrabble existence. More than a story about an alternate reality, however, it's about these specific characters and the lengths they go to for those they love. This was one of those books that lingered in my thoughts after I finished it and each time I thought about it, I liked it a little bit more.
Erin Moon’s narration was very good overall but the strong point for me was how realistic the dialogue between Melanie and Anne sounded. My ability and desire to connect to these characters was significantly enhanced by being able to hear the laugh in their voices as they teased each other and the complex emotions that siblings often share were very evident in the delivery. Each character was easy to identify when they spoke and they seemed very realistic in the back-and-forth of dialogue.
Every now and then I pick up an audiobook that just sucks me in and when I emerge from the other side of it, all I remember is the rush of the ride and none of the rocks I may have bounced off along the way. This is one of those books. The slow build of tension, the moments of lightning quick violence, the vivid settings, and the well-developed characters that seemed almost real kept me listening until all hours of the morning.
Munroe is a fascinating character and in the second book in this series the reader gets more insight into the complexity of her psychological makeup as well as the changes she’s undergoing based on events in the previous book and the choices she makes in this one. The story plays itself out with both a sense of inevitability, like a boulder building speed down a long slope, as well as sharp moments of action. Layered in with the physical action that drives the story forward are the instances of recognition and connection the reader can find with any/all of these fully-formed characters.
Hillary Huber’s narration was excellent. I often take issue with the performance of narrators who present with a very specific and structured cadence but in this case, Huber’s rough voice and deliberate pacing and delivery admirably ratchets up the tension and adeptly portrays Munroe’s moral ambivalence and matter-of-fact attitude toward doing what needs to be done. The characters are easy to track through sections of dialogue and I experienced an almost physical shiver while listening to the voices given two specific characters whose belief in what they were doing, combined with the fact that what they did was just wrong, was masterfully blended together to create a complex vocal portrayal.
The story in this audiobook brings a breath of fresh air to the genre. What might appear at first glance to be a "been there done that" storyline for a historical romance (an upper-class woman who is unappreciated by her family but whose loyalty to them comes before her own happiness and a hero who is determined to have revenge upon that family but finds himself conflicted when he falls for the heroine) is turned into something unexpected by above average writing and atypical characterizations. Although I found the hero to be a bit idealized (he has surprisingly modern-seeming sensibilities) that was offset by the fact that he certainly had flaws and was a very well-developed character. The interactions between the protagonists was fun to read and the external forces at play in keeping them apart were unique.
The narration was above average and I was surprised (and vastly disappointed) to find only two other audiobooks narrated by Rebecca De Leeuw on Audible. Her character differentiation was excellent, her voice is very pleasant, and her ability to traverse the entire emotional spectrum in both male and female character voices without over-dramatizing was stellar.
The third book in the Dreg City series is an intense and visceral ride with well-written action scenes and a tremendous amount of tension that builds as we watch events play tug-of-war with Evy and Wyatt’s relationship. The author has done an outstanding job of creating layered characters who reveal themselves gradually and who grow based on events in each book. It is difficult for the listener not to feel as if they know them and have a stake in their continued survival and eventual happiness. Because Evy and Wyatt are constructed with human flaws, their struggles resonate and Evy has a LOT to overcome in this book. There are events int his book that aren't for the squeamish but the payoff at the end is significant.
The narration in this one is excellent. The characters are all given unique voices, the action scenes are relayed with a strong but not overdone dose of vocal tension, and there are several painful or down-right creepy scenes that had me flinching away from the speakers. The narrator seems to have completely assimilated these characters and portrays them in a way that more than met my expectations.
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