I'll admit it, I have been a longtime fan of the Chronicles of Amber, in fact since I was in high school and finally found something I loved in the Library. I read the first five books like they were coal to my flame. As a gamer, I still play Amber Diceless Roleplaying (and still attend their conventions well after that game went out of print).
So I'm biased. You should know where I'm coming from after all.
But the Chronicles, in particular the first half of them (Books 1-5, which is Corwin's tale at the edge of Chaos; the underlying conceit of the first chronicles is that it is all a sort of extended flashback with Corwin as his own narrator) have earned a special place in my heart for a reason. I would recommend them to others, and in fact have done so many times. I have gone so far as to buy them for others as gifts. They are that good, and this is the first part.
A note on the narration: At first, I was not sure. I thought Corwin should have more weight, more gravitas. But as I listened to the books, more and more I got over that. Alessandro Juliani does a great job with the characters, he differentiates them relatively well with a few exceptions (his Lord Rein and Prince Random are not identical, but they are close; but luckily they share no scenes together in the books so that is immaterial). I would very definitely not think twice about getting a book that was given voice by this narrator. Kudos, Mr. Juliani, and to quote the meta-narrator (Corwin himself) "...you will be remembered in Amber forever!"
Molly Harper and Amanda Ronconi have hit it again with Driving Mr. Dead. I loved the story, the characters and the situations the mismatched pair of characters got into. The writing is compelling and witty as usual and the delivery sublime.
Part of the Lost Lords series, this is a well-written (and well-read) story by Mary Jo Putney. As usual, the characters are the best part. The female protagonist Cassie had a moderately sizable role in the last book of this series, definitely a supporting character there but very much a strong and viable heroine here. At the same time, Cassie isn't Buffy the Vampire Slayer or one of the 21st century kickass heroines; she is smart, resourceful, and dedicated to her craft without having to defeat hordes of enemies in hand-to-hand combat (not that she's a slouch). Wyndham, in a nod towards Monte Cristo, comes out of his desperate situation a changed man: Powerful in his own right, but definitely damaged (just as in her own way Cassie is, just in a healed-over-scars sort of way). They suit one another very well, as the people of that time-period would say.
The reading was well-done, just as all the other books in this series have been. Sometimes I wonder if it is better to have the same narrator through a series, but the Lost Lords readers, all different so far, have all been very good (thus demonstrating that it isn't always better to have all of them from the same reader).
The author does a good job with the pacing of this story; we have long-buried secrets revealed, the perspective of both protagonists, and multi-character input in the ongoing situation all in the same kettle. Keeping all that together into a harmonious storyline took some talent for pacing and storytelling. Without revealing anything, we get a good insight into all these characters, and yet despite that there is still some dramatic tension.
This was a good book/listen right up to the moment that they said "To be Continued..." I'm a pretty understanding listener, but had I known this was just the first part I may not have bought the book. There are series books, in which one story follows another, which is fine. But this is not a complete story, and does not have even the immediate resolution of a series-book. This is actually the second time this has happened from the same publisher, and I'd kind of like a heads-up in the future when this is the first part of a story that may or may not continue. On that point: "Celine" on goodreads was good enough to ask the publisher about that and reported that "they told me that the second part in the series is being currently written, and it will probably release in 2013" which I appreciated, but it isn't a done deal either.
Which is all somewhat unfortunate, as the story was good until the sudden stop. The voice of the performer (Kate Fallon) grated me somewhat initially, but I got used to it very shortly. In all fairness, the performer's voice matches the female character very well and thus was likely a deliberate choice: I can see the dreamy, slightly jarring cadence come out of a character with that background. Her male voices are definitely decent, and she seems to have a good range.
This is a very early example of scifi, and it was truly groundbreaking in it's day. The style of it however IS somewhat backward to the modern listener. To a modern listener it can sound a little clunky, characterizations are flat and all that sort of thing. But it was a trailblazer, and can be forgiven some of that due to it's age (this was written in 1934). The fact that it is "listenable" at all to modern audiences is a testament to the tale's quality.
It might not be good for every listener. Someone interested in sci fi, especially how things get from the rather basic stories of this era (of which this is a cut above, trust me there were a lot of these early tales that really stunk) to the more polished tales of the modern era. I'm finding Lensmen an overall good listen.
Concerning the Narrator: I rather like him, he has a lot of different characters to do and must have a pretty broad repertoire of voices. Although some listeners for this or some of the other books in this series have been critical, McColm has done a great job with some tough material (in the sheer number of characters alone).
An enjoyable supers listen, the narrator took a bit getting used to, but once I did get used to his style I had no problems. The story is very solid, fast-paced and introspective at the same time. It is one of the better deconstructions of the hero-game without making anyone either all good or all bad. The character stays true to himself even though he technically "reforms", which is a nice touch.
I have listened to all of the Motor City paranormal series thus far, and enjoyed them all. This particular story was both well-written and well performed. Storywise, the pacing was good, and the action scenes well done. While all of these Motor City Paranormal stories are interconnected (characters and an overall arc), this story sets up the meta-arc moreso than the first in the group (which built the world up initially and introduced the range of characters, so it was not deficient by any means). Although those interested should also know that this is a perfectly good stand-alone listen, as are the rest of these stories. The reader was also very good.
While there are definitely elements of various other classic regencies here (Jane Austen and all that), the idea was to blend them together, along with the magic of glamour, to create a story that is entertaining because you want to see how it plays out. Not how it turns out mind you, that is a pretty foregone conclusion, but how it plays out. What are the various turns of the story to be? How will the characters react to the foreshadowed events? It was like watching a story one is familiar with redone in a truly engrossing way. I found that the story immersed me, and I wanted to see how the author was going to pull the various strands together.
I also found that the magic of glamour, which I think is central to the story, was perfectly suited for the era. For a society so wrapped up in appearances and concerned over image this was a perfectly suited form of magic to emphasize. It also allows a different take on some of the events we know are going to happen as the story plays along. The scene involving the "tableaux vivant" (won't give more details away in a review) for example smoothly integrates glamour into a historical parlor entertainment (dressing up and posing as a sort of living statue). That was a nice bit of setting detail, but the scene itself -- how the characters perform it and so forth -- says quite a lot about the characters involved as well. Overall, I thought "glamour" was a good selection for the author to make that was also quite well executed within the story.
The performance was also very good. I was interested in that it was the author performing the narration, and I think that added to the story (it doesn't always, but it did in this case). I am interested in seeing what other work the author has narrated.
Contrary to the other review listed for this book, I found Tempting the Enemy to be a good read. In as much as plot, I found no special weakness or plot problems myself. The characters are well-written (dialogue and character development) and the pace moves nicely without being too bogged down in places. It grabs you up front and keeps you moving along well. All in all a pleasant summer read. I really liked the narration as well and hope to see more from both author and narrator in the future.
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