It is the 1630’s. After several decades of Christianity being welcomed in Japan, a number of Japanese Christians were involved in a rebellion and as a result Christianity was outlawed and forced underground. The story begins with two priests in their early 30’s heading off to Japan to serve as missionaries. About half of the book describes the trip from Lisbon to Japan through the underground missionary activities of the two priests, with the other half describing the experience in captivity.
On the surface the book asks the simple question will the priest stand up for his faith or will he apostatize? Yet, this is a multi-layered story with many more issues at play. At one level there is the question of the relationship of missionary work to the political and economic imperialism of the nations who support the missionary work? At another level is the question of the extent to which any religion, that is part of the culture of a people in one part of the world, can be transferred to a radically different culture and still be the same religion? To what extend do the polarities among Christians and the related in-fighting destroy the credibility of the Christian witness? What does martyrdom mean? What is more Christ- like—to allow innocent people to suffer and die in order for you to maintain the purity of your faith or to act in a way that violates everything that you believe, that is despicable in your eyes and the eyes of your family and friends but will make it possible for the innocent to live? At another level the book asks where God is in the midst of all this suffering and death. It seems that the sound of God’s silence is deafening! Each layer of this tale is as urgent and demanding today as it was in the 17th century, as it was after World War II when this book was written, and as it was in the early Church, when these same questions were being wrestled with by the Church Fathers.
The author is a respected Japanese novelist and a descendant of the ancient Christian community about which he writes in this novel. Thus, be brings a unique perspective to the story and a depth of understanding that enriches the tale.
The narrator speaks with a British accent that lends a certain dignity to the story and for an American audience gives it a sense of foreign mystery that adds to the Japanese setting. He does a good job overall, though in a few places it was difficult to distinguish between shifts from one scene to another.
This is a good book that sets you thinking and is well worth the read/listen.
“Shadow of Night” was a thoroughly enjoyable sequel to “Discovery of Witches”. While “Discovery” had a certain charm, my overall impression of it was not positive. There was little action, the main characters were irritating, neurotic and there was little development of either the characters or the story. The concept was interesting though and there were flashes of brilliance that caught my attention. So, I decided to give the sequel a chance. I’m glad I did.
The second book of the trilogy is well paced, there is plenty of action and the characters show real development. The reasons for the neurosis are revealed and they are worked through to the point where you actually care for the characters. Several new characters are introduced and nicely developed. The book is set primarily in Elizabethan England and an engaging sense of the period emerges by the end. There is humor, drama, pathos and a much deeper immersion in the magical world that the author is weaving. I was sorry to see the book come to an end but am looking forward to the final installment of the trilogy.
The narrator is excellent with a wide range of distinct and believable voices that fit the characters and bring them to life.
This is a difficult book for me to review, as it pulls me in a number of different directions. My initial reaction was to dislike it. The first half of the book comes across as a “B-grade” romance novel, with the tall, dark stranger and the feisty young woman who resists his charms until suddenly she finds him irresistible. There is even a castle and a tower bedroom scene with hundreds of lit candles with their golden glow…how cliché! The basic story has strong echoes of Dana Gabaldon’s "Outlander" series. There is almost no action in the story until over half way through the book, then again once or twice before the end of the book.
The surface story is that of a love relationship between an ancient vampire (looks 37 but is actually closer to 1500 years old) and a witch (36 and looks her age) who is in denial that she is a witch. A real world analysis of the main characters leave the reader/listener with questions--can a Narcissistic vampire with relation addiction issues and Obsessive Compulsive traits have a meaningful love relationship with a woman who suffers from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Panic Attacks, as well as serious identity and abandonment issues? Can their relationship be anything other than a classic case of codependence? The relationship difficulties are exacerbated when the couple jumps into marriage about three weeks into the relationship…talk about impulsive! It’s a fictional romance…I know… but if this is some romantic ideal…and some people will take it for that…it is a dangerous and unhealthy ideal. I probably sound like the heroine’s aunt Sarah but she seemed like the only character with an ounce of common sense.
This is a long book, running about 24 hours in the audio edition. It could have been edited to about half that without serious harm to the story. Indeed, judicious editing would have significantly improved the book.
All of those frustrations and complaints noted, I have to admit that the book has a certain charm. The author does a decent job of creating the separate cultures of witches and vampires and the characters are consistent within the context of their respective cultures. Her description of the various periods of history which play into the story create a vivid sense of the periods. Her quotes from the literature of the various time periods are appropriate and not an intrusion. Further, as the story developed and more secrets were revealed the eccentricities of personality in both of the main characters, and a number of supporting characters, began to make sense. By the time the book ended, setting the reader up for book two of the trilogy, I was ready to move on to book two. I’ll probably be irritated with the second volume in the trilogy, as I was with the first, but no doubt I’ll want to continue on to book three and see how the trilogy ends.
Complements to the narrator. She does an excellent job keeping the voices for the characters distinct and believable. Her handling of the accents is admirable.
The Enchantress is the sixth book in the Nicholas Flamel series by Michael Scott. It does a fine job of bringing together all of the loose ends in the series and putting everything in its proper context. There are a fair number of surprises in this installment.
The narrator does a good job of creating distinctive voices for the characters and helping to make the tale come alive in your imagination.
How do you make the myths of many cultures come alive in a way that is meaningful for a contemporary audience, that does honor to the ancient mythological traditions and doesn’t devolve into a comic book? That seems to be Michael Scott’s self-chosen task with this series. He achieves that goal, at least to my way of thinking.
The main characters start out as normal high school students who get summer jobs and over the span of a week have their lives and world transformed into a world of magic, mythological heroes and find themselves challenged at every turn. At a basic level the series is the classic hero quest in which you discover who you truly are and become more than you ever imagined you could be. It is about growing up. It is also about discovering that the people around you are a lot more complex than you ever thought they were…another insight about growing up. Scott brings all of this together in a delightful tale, filled with humor and epic adventure. Even the villains (well most of them) have a personable side, in the end its almost sad to see them go.
When I first saw “11-22-63” advertised I found the title off-putting. I knew that it was about the Kennedy assassination and the last thing I wanted was to read/listen to another book on that topic, even if Stephen King was the author. After several months of putting it off and reading a list of other books, including “The Stand”, I finally got up the energy to at least give “11-22-63” a try. I was hooked after the first 10 minutes!
King has two stories interweaving throughout the novel. The basic premise of the novel is that is is possible for the protagonist to travel back in time from today to 1958. He is talked into making the trip by a fellow time traveler who is too ill to do it himself. The goal of the time traveler is to save President Kennedy from being Killed by Oswald in 1963. Our protagonist agrees to take on the adventure and save the world from the scar of Vietnam, riots and everything that is wrong with the world since the Kennedy assassination.
Once he steps into the past two stories emerge, one is a love story between Jacob, our protagonist, and Sadie, his love interest. The other story relates to the plotting and obstacles that arise in attempting to prevent the assassination. The assassination story was serviceable; standard Steven King prose, which is much better than the prose of most authors in any case. However, when King is focusing on the love story, the purple prose flows. More than a few times the images King creates are breathtaking and the writing is poetry. There is a real passion and deep love that comes through the writing, perhaps tapping into the emotional well of his feelings toward his wife. He took what could have been gimmicky (time travel) or boring from over-exposure (Kennedy assassination) and weaved it into an engaging and powerful story. Bravo!
I rarely say much about the narrator of a story. Most are either a neutral medium for telling the story or an obstacle to enjoying the story. On rare occasion you encounter a narrator who makes the story come alive and whose interpretation is a major contribution to the enjoyment of the story. Craig Wasson is one of the rare gems of a narrator. His reading of the story was engaging. His regional accents were spot-on. There were dozens of characters in the story and each had a distinct voice. Indeed, some of the voices for his characters hinted of various historical figures that added a depth of irony. As I lisented to the audiobook it didn't seem like someone was reading a book to me but that I had been sucked through the time portal along with Jacob and was listening to what was occuring. Wasson made the story real and present. An excellent job of narration. I will definitely look for his work in the future. Craig Wasson added a great deal to the enjoyment of this audio book. Again, Bravo!
Set in Victorian London, this is a collection of three different tales of "time travel" that are interrelated, each influencing the other. HG Wells is the central character that weaves the three tales into one broad story arch. The book is well written and the characters are engaging. I particularly enjoyed Palma's involvement of the narrator as a self-conscious participant in the telling of the story. The audio narrator also does an excellent job of bringing the story to life.
Another reviewer was concerned that the story isn't a thriller and lacked some of the action he would have liked, I found an adequate degree of action for my tastes and there were plenty of twists and turns in the story; however, what I really enjoyed was the development of many of the main characters in the story. They drew me in and got me to care for them (or dislike them--the villians, that is). After about 20 hours and the story was drawing to an end, I was sad that it was time to leave Felix Palma's fantasy world and wished for a bit longer stay in his version of Victorian England.
Overall the book was quite good. It was very informative with regard to both Teilhard's life and the paleontology that was the greater art of his life's work. The only frustration for me was that it discussed almost nothing of the content of his attempts to unite science and religion in his theological writings, such as the Phenomenon of Man or the Future of Man or the Divine Milieu. If those ideas had been worked in along with the biography and paleontology it would have been excellent, as it is...its still quite good.
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