Gretna, LA, USA | Member Since 2006
If you've read my review of Erikson's Gardens of the Moon: The Malazan Book of the Fallen, Book 1, I stated:
"This is a stunningly powerful epic that can both capture and entrance you. Words like stirring, captivating, engaging, and memorable come to mind. This wonderful work has rich and complex storylines, characters, and descriptions. Consider the complexity of The Lord Of The Rings. Take it up a few notches, and you might be there when it comes to the Gardens of the Moon. Seriously. And this is only the first in the series!"
Well, here's the second book, and it's equally as stirring, captivating, and enjoyable as the first.
So, here's the conundrum: How do I review this book without giving anything away?
Wow. Okay. Deep breath. Here goes.
Once again, Erikson crafts a masterpiece that brings a strong storyline, rich character development, dark fantasy, the winds of war, and just plain good story-telling together.
He carries on the story beautifully and rewardingly begun in the first, but it takes place countless leagues away from where Gardens of the Moon began, with only a few of the characters from the first book along for this new ride.
Strap in, because a virtual jihad of war is on the horizon, a nightmare whirlwind, and anyone who has read the first book has figured out exactly what I'm being vaguely stating here. Yes, it's coming to pass, and characters you'll love (and hate), most new and a couple of old ones as as well, will be swept into its maelstrom. Deep magics, black plots, and machiavellian twists and betrayals lay in wait for the listener. And I HAVE to say, Erikson got me in a few places in this book - I usually play chess in my head with novels, trying to figure out in advance where the arthor is going. And often, I'm right.
Erikson, you got me good. REALLY good. You surprised me a number of times. You twisted the plot, and then twisted it yet again . You gave both heroes and villains powerful motivation and direction. The military scenes were dead on. It's...well...gripping.
And GREAT listening. Keep in mind that the sheer size of this sweeping epic requires time to set up the pawns, knights, bishops and king and queen on the gameboard, but once done, the story propels you forward. it takes you on a journey that still has eight more books to complete.
But again, it is NOT for the casual listener. In fact, it's more demanding than the first audiobook. Is that even possible? Yes, it definitely is. Is it worth the effort?
Yes, it definitely is.
It is, in a word, exceptional.
If you follow my reviews, you know that I like to roll the dice, to randomly buy a series on a whim, on the luck of the draw. Sometimes, it's a bust.
This time, it's a definite win, but if you go by how the series was created, you'd probably run in the opposite direction.
Here's one for the books: Jim Butcher is well-known for his "Dresden Files" series, created a fantastic fantasy series on a BET. Yep, a bet. Read on.
To quote the Codex Alera Wiki site, "the inspiration for the series came from a bet Jim was challenged to by a member of the Delray Online Writer’s Workshop. The challenger bet that Jim could not write a good story based on a lame idea, and Jim countered that he could do it using two lame ideas of the challenger’s choosing. The “lame” ideas given were “Lost Roman Legion", and “Pokémon”.
It DOES sound lame.
Well, Butcher makes it work. To the nines.
I've finished this first novel, and I'm enjoying this unique story line of humans with Roman similarities binding with elemental furies. Add unique races, backstabbing, politics, military battles, duels and an interwoven story line that pulls it all together, and you get a fantastic story that's simply put, a VERY VERY good listen.
The whole concept of fighting alongside elemental familiars used here is wonderfully executed. It's deep, well-thought magic-based partnership of man and magical creature is a pleasure to experience.
So, what about the writing?
Again, if you follow my reviews, you know that I love ENGAGING fantasy or scifi writing. Anything less won't do. And this is definitely engaging. There's great characters that plot, backstab, challenge, fight for their beliefs, devour their enemies, and celebrate their victories. You're taken on a great romp of a story, and in the end, isn't that what we all want in a good listen?
I know I do, and I so enjoyed this first audiobook in the series, that I bought the entire series. Yep. And I'm not disappointed with the decision.
Who knew that Lost Roman Legions and Pokemon could knock it out of the park?
Home run, Jim. Home run.
I HATE reading good scifi or fantasy writing saddled by a smothering theme.
It's like having sheet cake...The WHOLE sheet cake. It's cloying at the end of the day.
Despite the wonderful alien races, simple strong writing, interesting characters, and a great plot. THEN...That crazy wacky King of Dreams. SO much planet-spanning messages to everyone in the night, so many blurry analogies, hidden godly wills, and a mishmash of mysticism and religion.
It just pulled me away from the core of a great novel.
Please understand, religion in fantasy is commonplace. Look at Jordan's Wheel Of Time series as an example of religion woven smoothly into fantasy writing. It works. It strengthens the entire story, and is one of the essential underpinnings of the entire series.
Here, not so much.
I hate that I love this work, and am equally frustrated by it's poorly driven religion. I finished the work, and hoped that this would end in the first novel. Nope. It got worse.
I'm VERY confident that some of you will disagree, and that's okay. This is MY opinion, and I have to be true to myself.
Sorry, Robert, I really tried.
If you've not heard of Raymond E. Feist, you've either lived under a rock, on a deserted island, or just arrived in a Delorean.
Well, you also may be new to truly exceptional fantasy writing.
I don't consider it your fault. There's so much low quality "fantasy" churned out by hack writers these days, and its all a tragic substitute that's become the accepted standard (or should I say sub-standard) these days for strong, worthy fantasy writing.
Feist began this series back when there weren't as many available fantasy works on the shelves, but those available works earned their place on the shelf with rich, engaging story lines, well-developed characters, in-depth creations that made you care and want more for all the right reasons.
His work definitely stood out then, and it does so today. So many novels in this universe were birthed by this great fantasy writer, work that you simply must read (or in this case, what you simply must listen).
Bottom line: it's essential fantasy reading. It draws you in. It reads smoothly, like a well-oiled machine. It's written sparingly, efficiently. It's smart, and it expects you to THINK.
His work has been recorded in the past, but sadly, it was so inadequate, it was painful to listen to, a lesson in endurance. Not so here. We're finally getting more of Feist's work in audio format, and with better quality and a MUCH better narrator.
So, what can I tell you about this work, part of Feist's many-tomed universe, without giving away too much? Hmmm. Okay, here goes.
Imagine an elfin race that travels the stars by gates that transverse worlds. Imagine humans, dwarves and other magical races on these worlds, fighting for dominance, using high magic, religion, sorcery most foul, politics, military might and in the midst of all this, galaxy-spanning hordes of demons that are using these portals and newfound magic of their own to bring the other races to their knees.
These aren't the pretty demons you see on TV or the movies. These are horrors on two legs. Screaming, horned, hoofed, twisted, drawn from your deepest fears demons. Howling for your blood, taking no prisoners. Merciless. Relentless. The stuff of nightmares.
This is the first in the Demonwar Saga, and it's DEFINITELY worth the listen. And you'll want more. Fortunate for Audible listeners, all three of the series are now available, and the subsequent series, Chaoswars, as well.
Look, at the ned of the day, when it comes to fantasy, it's all about good writing. VERY good. Not over-written prose with flowery words. Real dialogue by unique characters. Not a word wasted. And an engaging storyline that can transcend the series and grow in the process.
This is one war that deserves your rapt attention. Buy this audiobook!
It's been a while since I've penned a review - So much listening, and so little time.
However, I'm ready to begin another series of reviews on Audible scifi/fantasy selections.
So, let's begin with Jack L. Chalker's "Midnight At The Well Of Souls."
Why is this audiobook first? Simple. It's the beginning of a FANTASTIC series that will captivate you with a rich, rewarding listen, and have you wanting the next in the series, Exiles at the Well of Souls, which is also available.
This is the opening book for a VERY powerful series, one that pushes the boundaries of typical science fiction as you know it. Imagine, if you will...
The Well World: A world created by a long-vanished race, covered in vast, country-sized hexes, each housing a different intelligent alien species. Crossing the boundaries of the hexes can change the very air you breathe, the laws of physics, technology and even magic. Each hex represents the birthplace of that species, and some are at war with others. They can take over other hexes, enslave an adjacent hex's species, and can even forcibly swap hexes with another race. Creatures of myth, fantasy and nightmare vie for control of a planet they cannot leave, but can eventually rule. Even mankind occupies a hex on this planet.
One half of the planet houses carbon-based hexes, the other half alarmingly alien hexes, and each hex is the birthplace for these races and their migration into the universe eons ago. This world is countless light years away from our own, unknown, hidden and waiting for an opportunity to rewrite the universe to its own making.
The story begins with a host of human castaways that accidentally travel to the Well World, and are each randomly changed to a new species in different hexes.
It is all part of a very large story that will soar across the surface of the Well World in its telling, as many races and hexes to vie for a rare and valuable treasure that can change the Well World and our universe forever!
Despite all this, I haven't given away any spoilers whatsoever!
Chalker's Midnight At The Well Of Souls was so well received when it was first published, that he went on to write many more novels to expand the stories both upon the Well World, and even light years beyond it. Be careful, Audible listener. Once you travel down this wonderful rabbit hole, you might very well not turn back! It truly is that amazing.
So, step through the portal, human, and be changed forever!
Rolled the dice again, and got this. Let's treat it like a flu shot, and get it over with QUICK.
Well, it's somewhat interesting, but not note-worthy.
A hodge-podge of super-heroes, villains, ninjas, mad-scientists, tech-warriors, and a zombie/borg-like enemy, all pursuing a young boy who will someday possibly turn evil and rule them all.
Good premise, but light on plot, soft on delivery. Not much to say, ultimately.
This is one of three in the series, and none of them fare better than the first. The author didn't grow much through the series. The narrator was better than the material.
It's a shame, but I have to call them as I see them. Sorry, Matt. This could have been so much more.
Avoid all three of these audiobooks.
Reader be warned - I read this novel many years ago, and I've read it more than once. Therefore, I can easily state the following with utter conviction: This, Erikson’s largest work thus far in the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, is fantasy storytelling on an epic scale, much larger and yet better than his first two novels in the series.
Yes. Much better. I know I drug many of you kicking and screaming into this series, and you discovered a unconventional and amazing fantasy writer that challenged you, astounded you, and possibly frustrated you a fair number of times. As I warned in my review of the first book in the series, this isn’t light reading. Erikson will task you, and task you HARD.
However, most of you, if not all, are extremely excited for the journey, as was I when read this series for the first time.
But, you ask, how is it better? Hmmm…
(Michael sighs, sips from steaming cup of New Orleans French Market coffee, leans back in comfy leather chair.)
Let’s settle in and get started. It’s going to be yet another longer than anticipated review.
First, what hasn’t changed: There is a veritable dramatis personae of Gods, nations, magicians, warriors, priest-kings, both old and new, who conspire, strategize, form alliances, backstab, avenge, love, care for, wage war and even do a few very bizarre things in the name of their causes (No specific here. You KNOW I don’t do spoilers!). Memories of Ice takes us back to Genabackis, where it all began in the first of the series. The south will give up a new menace, with a twisted nightmarish ritualistic religion driving them forward. It’s how these wonderful characters, both good and evil, come together, that is the sheer joy of this work.
What has changed: Erikson has grown as a writer’s writer by this third novel in the series, and it shows. His character definitions are more focused, and I feel, more robust with less weight, if you will. You will engage with them, appreciate their unique point of view and motivation, and even at times, understand why they do what they do and what they sometimes don’t do. While the war descriptions and writing are less than the previous novels, they are rich, descriptive battles that more than make up for their smaller size, in my opinion. Less can definitely be more. As much as I truly love his writing, it was a journey of growth from the first to the tenth novel, and you’ll experience and enjoy that here. He begins to enter his own, and starts to take his place as a fantasy writer of extreme note. His writing is more natural and connected, more unified as a novel. If you have yet to be convinced of this, after reading the first two novels in the series, Memories of Ice should definitely clinch this for you. Solid.
(Michael stops, takes yet another sip from cup, looks at you over cup shrewdly while he does so.)
Now. As Shakespeare aptly penned, “there’s the rub.” This is a LOOOOOOOONG novel. Certain things will take time. A LOT of time. He can be overly descriptive. Remember, he’s still growing, and will still have a tendency to expound, which is one of the VERY few problems with this novel. You’ll be tempted to skip sections or chapters. Do NOT do this. You will regret it. You have to be patient. Keep in mind, dear Audible listener, that there are three things you simply cannot rush: A master chef’s meal, a renowned maestro’s symphony, and a world-class writer’s novel.
What’s that? No…he’s not a chef, he’s an anthropologist. Yes, that’s what I said, an anthropologist…yes, REALLY…No he doesn’t write in the kitchen…Well, he MAY… No, I’m not reviewing his cooking, it’s an ANALOGY, for God’s sake! His novel…NOVEL! And hold on, I…WHAT? No, he's NOT a rock star, and no he doesn’t know Madonna! Well, he COULD… Wait. You’re missing this.
Maybe it’s me.
(Michael leans back in his chair, looks into the steam rising from his coffee, looks back up. Takes a moment, continues review.)
Maybe it IS me. Maybe it’s what Erikson does to me with his writing. It’s expressive, engaging, creative and stimulating. He has zero inhibitions in Memories of Ice. He boldly ventures forward, and makes the previous two tomes in the series seem like a launchpad for this brilliant novel. And that's a VERY good thing. He swept me along on his voyage. And is the voyage with Erikson worth it? Definitely.
(Michael leans forward in comfy leather chair, puts empty coffee cup down, finishes review.)
For your effort and patience, you will receive a writer’s greatest gift: An incredible, and what I consider to be an extremely satisfying ending that…Well, I’ll leave it at that. Again, no spoilers. As I’ve stated in the past, I’m certain that some of you will mark this as unhelpful. Oh well. I’m all about the journey, and what a journey this will be for you, dear Audible listener.
This is a writer on his way to becoming a writer’s writer. No, not a chef. Not a rock star. A world-class fantasy writer. And one of my favorites.
And, I’m hoping, one of yours.
I'm noticing that the more I love an author's work, the longer the review.
So, strap in. And be warned. This will NOT be short. This work deserves a detailed review. You deserve more than a cursory review on this series.
Keep in mind that I read this series many, many years ago, and began writing this review in the hopes that once I listened to it as soon as it hit my library, it would be a positive work. And it is. I'm glad, because I also was ready to give it a scathing review if poorly produced.
First a bit of background on the author. I've thoroughly enjoyed R.A. Savaltore's fantasy writing for many years, and consider a fair portion of his writing (and listening) to be essential additions to any Audible listener's library. Granted, no author's entire body of work is perfect, and Salvatore' is definitely NOT an exception to this tried and true literary rule. Some of his earlier work reflects an author still finding his way, and is uninspired and drifting. However, when he penned the Drizzt origin trilogy, he moved into a more masterful and inspired writing direction, creating dynamic and page-turning writing enjoyed by fantasy readers and listeners around the world.
Today, Salvatore is, essentially, a stand-apart Wordsmith among the myriad of fantasy authors to whom you've listened. Anyone who's read his DemonWars Saga, his Forgotten Realms, and Star Wars novels understands why I appreciate what this fantastic author brings to the literary table.
So, on to this first in the Drizzt origin trilogy.
Why is this series so important, and therefore, such an essential fantasy addition to your Audible library?
Salvatore's trilogy has some of the most engaging fantasy writing you'll quite possibly read. His sweeping and vivid descriptions of Menzoberranzan, the cavernous underdark kingdom of the drow elves, the intricate machiavellian backstabbing plots between the drow ruling houses, and even within Drizzt's own horribly dysfunctional family, and the spot on engaging storyline were well received by the public. The trilogy eventually launched numerous sequels and novels by Salvatore and other enjoyable novels in the crow universe by equally inspired authors (See my Audible Spider Queen series review, and expect my Icewind Dale review in the future!). This fantastic body of work has made a HUGE impact on modern epic fantasy, and it raised the bar on what we could, and SHOULD, expect from good fantasy writing.
And in this case, our very valuable Audible credits.
As usual, I do NOT provide spoilers, nor plot giveaways in review. Again, the journey, ESPECIALLY in this series, has its own voyage of discovery that simply must be experienced firsthand. I'm confident that some of you will will mark this review as not helpful for this reason. So be it. I will not spoil this fantastic journey for the rest of you. There is so much to the drow novels, that you are going to by busy, and pleasantly so. Here's one SMALL example. Here's a list of the MAJOR drow houses, and all play a part in these fantastic novels:
The MAJOR houses of Menzoberranzan, in order of dominance (There ARE others):
2. Barrison Del'Armgo
3. Oblodra (challenged by another house in another novel)
4. DeVir (challenged by another house in this novel)
5. Hun'ett (challenged by another house in another novel)
6. Faen Tlabbar
8. Agrach Dyrr (challenged by another house in another novel)
10. Do'Urden (later challenged by another house in another novel)
I challenge you - Go look on the web for the astounding collection of information and lore on the lore of these novels. It's rich. It's daunting. It's exhausting. it's consuming.
Now, on to Salvatore's writing style. He's not an Erikson or Moorcock. Those artists take their time in descriptive writing that requires strong focus to be enjoyed. Salvatore's style is more like the lovechild of Brooks and Chalker - Down to earth, a bit more to the point, yet vividly descriptive. I found myself getting wonderfully lost inside this trilogy, and I'm betting you will too.
Keep in mind that years ago, there was an earlier audiobook of this trilogy. It was intolerable, due to the unpleasant narration - It truly ruined the effort. I stayed up late to download this audiobook, and begin my listening. Here, the narrator is much better, and doesn't impede the author's work. Nicely done, and a wonderful improvement, Mr. Bevine!
So, be warned, dear Audible listener. You're going to be spoiled by this work, and you're going to demand equally good listening of your fantasy authors.
You'll also want to get the other two audiobooks in this fantastic series, and want the rest of the drow audiobooks here at Audible.
Finally, a tremendous "Thank you!" To R. A. Salvatore.
I'm still enjoying your journey after all these years.
This is a tough review for me.
I'm not so crazy about dragons, despite the fact that I LOVE fantasy novels. That's sort of a shame, but it's what it is. We all have particular quirks about what we love to read. This happens to be mine.
So. Let's do this. (Writers sighs, begins typing. Commence hisses, boos and general name-calling from writer's Audible followers.)
A lot of folks LOVE this series, and it has redeeming qualities. It's hard to deny - Just look at the Audible followers who've rated it - They can't get enough! Descriptive writing, character development and a driven plot you may enjoy. However, the fact that dragons are THE driving force in this series just doesn't feel complete as a foundation, if you will. I wanted MORE, and expected it. As a reader, I demand much more, and without sounding too judgmental, it's not for me. Again, sorry, I'm just not a dragon-lover.
However, if you love dragons, you will truly enjoy this book. It's gonna make you tingly all over. Have fun. Dive in.
Me? Meh. I've gotta go. I've got a date with audiobooks full of cursed magical swords that warp destiny, epic elemental juggernauts conjured by immortal druids and dark, dank ruins possessed by wizards thirsty for souls to devour.
Sorry, Ms. Novik. I travel a different road.
Terry Brooks is one of those writers that's strongly influenced fantasy writing, and also our expectations for what such writing should bring to its readers and listeners.
Granted. We all can agree on that. We can all also agree that on occasion, certain of his works stand out from the others, while some step back into the shadows of his better works. Granted again. All in all, though, each one of the Shannara novels is a VERY enjoyable and rewarding read.
Now, here's where I rant, but not in a bad way. You see, believe it or not, the ENTIRE series, as a whole, could be considered complete. Oh, but no. Not according to Brooks, who has, over the past few years, written a whole series of prequels, then a series of PRE-prequels, as well as other lines of books that start along the Shannara timeline, and then branch out, combining both new and old characters, blending new and old magics, and both twisting and strengthening the story lines.
Now, this isn't a bad thing. Just don't get settled. Don't think it's over, because obviously, in Brooks' Shannara universe, you never really know. And guess what?
He's done it again.
In this first book in the Dark Legacy Series, his latest efforts in the highly popular Shannara realm, New York Times bestselling author Terry Brooks has decided return to one of the most exciting eras in that series, and in doing so, presents two of his very obvious traits, starting with page one.
First, this novel shows Brooks' well-known bent for setting up a glorious quest, which may seem a bit formulaic to many of his fans. Let's understand that Brooks tends to paint on a large canvas, one that requires much room to live up to the author's, and your, expectations. He does this in Wards Of Faerie with initially modest, then broad literary strokes. Now, when Brooks does this, you can count on the second obvious trait.
It's going to get good. Really, really, really really good. And it DOES.
One hundred years after Brooks' High Druid novel, Straken, which ended with a discovered diary possibly pointing the way to the lost elfstones, we are introduced to new generations of the major players in the Shannara series. We're also treated with the twisted plans and plots that are rife in both the elven kingdom, where magic is fading, and the human-led federation, where technology and science seem to be gaining a questionable foothold.
So, the obvious question: Is this one of Brooks' Shannara novels that stands apart, or hides a bit in the shadows?
This one definitely stands apart, and then some. Brooks' writing style is on the mark, and pulls us in immediately with engaging, descriptive emotional writing that is, at the same time, not too heavy-handed. It was a pleasure to both read, and then listen to this work, and as usual, Brooks surprised me along the way with shifting plots and surprising directions. I just used an Audible credit to get the second novel in the series. And loved it. Read my review for more details on that worthy second tome in the series.
As usual, I will NOT give hints, spoilers, plots, or anything else to take away from the wondrous literary ride this new series offers to you, Audible listener. No whining.
If you want some of Brooks' best writing in the Shannara series, look no further.
This is, simply put, a triumph.
I own a copy of every Shannara book in the series, and every audiobook, as well.
Does that make me a bit prejudice? I confess that it COULD. Would I, as a reviewer, be more judgmental? Quite possibly.
Want to know more? Read on, Audible listener, as this will be a positive, yet mixed, review.
First, the Shannara series reflects Brook's attitude toward each work, sometimes strong and positive, sometimes not so much. As a whole, I truly LOVE his writing, and where he's taken, and is taking, the rich and complex characters within. I've had many conversations with his readers over the years, and some the conversations were quite, shall we say...demonstrative? It's just that people either LOVE his Shannara writings, or aren't as thrilled with them. It's pretty straightforward, and expected. When you have such a wonderful writer as Brooks to enjoy, this happens. Again, good writing causes minor but spirited controversy and major but good-natured arguments.
In this case, The Dark Legacy of Shannara, the second book in the Bloodfire Quest, I've already had two such conversations, and expect more. Why?
This book is VERY good writing, has VERY good character development, and it obviously comes from a heartfelt and creative period in Terry Brooks’ life. It's astounding to me how he can create such strong emotional plotlines with his characters and create such a sense of urgency in his writing. Regarding these aspects, this book is amazing, to say the very least, and I am pleased to have it, and to have read it/listened to it.
But. (Yes, there IS a but)...
Brooks employs a MAJOR part of the plotline that he already has used in one of his previous novels, "The Elfstones Of Shannara," and it's going to bother die-hard Shannara fans to no end. And. It starts right out of the gate. Right in your face. Once again, the mystical tree that holds off the forbidding is dying, and without giving the rest of the plotline away, something has to happen. Brooks' readers know what this "something" is, and some Brooks fans are not going to be overly thrilled at this. Please, no offense, but get over it, folks. This work is bigger than that - A LOT bigger.
Understand that this does in NO WAY take away from the wonderful work you will listen to herein - That is, if you're smart enough to crack open that dusty wallet or purse and squeak out that valuable Audible credit. BE PATIENT. As the plot unfolds, it's worth the wait, and if you're anything like me, you'll be glad you did!
As usual, I'm not giving anything critical away in this review. Again, the journey's the thing here, as important as the destination. Here's what I WILL tell you:
There is such solid, descriptive and engaging writing in this novel, that it you're like me, you'll be swept into Brooks' latest effort. I went into this very neutral, and frankly, I feel that I've made the right choice in acquiring this exceptional work, will read it again, and will wait with anticipation for the next in the series.
Also, Rosalyn Landor is a stand-apart narrator, and I for one, feel she adds to the work beautifully. If you've read my past reviews, you know I can be extremely harsh on narrators. Brutal. Unforgiving. They can enrich or ruin an audiobook. In this case, I feel there are very few narrators that could do this work (AND the previous narration work in the first of the Bloodfire novels) the justice it deserves as she has done here. Well done, Ms. Landor. VERY well done.
If you've NOT read the Shannara series, please begin a wonderful journey you won't regret! If you've read the first novel in the Bloodfire Quest series, buy this audiobook. If not, buy that audiobook first, and look for my upcoming review on book one. Hint: It's going to be a positive one!
So the verdict is in: In a word, awesome.
Once again, Terry Brooks delivers the goods!
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