Listening to this audiobook took me back to the days when I'd be a horrible moocher and han out and free read in my buddy's comic shop in Virginia and stumble onto a graphic novel I'd never heard of, and 3 hours later, find myself starving and realizing I'd read through poli-sci class. If you love suspense, cults, old gods and a colorful cast of characters who range from sounding like Duke Phillips from "The Critic" and Stu from "The Life and Times of Tim" --this is a good choice. Nicely fleshed out characters, genuine relationships within the story and a narrator/voice actor who really knows what he's doing. Ray Porter is a narrator I'll be looking out for and Peter Clines is rock solid. Check out his Zombies with Super Heroes series (yes, I just typed that out loud) for even more quick, dirty fun.
This book is a mess. Yes, the author can describe in painful detail every piece of armor that a medieval knight would wear. Yes, he can tell you the order these things are placed on the body and how it takes squires to get them on and off. Yes, he can describe weapons down to the length of the butt spike on an axe. Can he tell a story that's interesting and doesn't sound like a ren-faire worker's D&D campaign? No. This book is lazy and it's incredibly insulting to people who want to read quality fantasy.
Things this book is missing:
1) Its own theology/Gods. One of the things that makes a great fantasy novel, should it deign to talk about its theology, is a solid pantheon of gods or at least a religious system. GRRM has it in the Seven, Pat Rothfuss does it with Tehlu and all his angels, but this guy just slaps Jesus on it, mixes in a little allegory for paganism and calls it done. If you want to write about a world grounded in Christianity, then write historical fiction. Have the balls to set your story in medieval Europe and do as much research there as you did on arming coats and hauberks.
2) Original names. The queen's name is Desiderata. Come on. Did you pull that off the inspirational poster hanging in your study? Willful Murder? Come on. Did you realize "Black Dow" was taken? Maybe you could have had a ranger named Smizzt. Every other character sounds like your SCA friends (google the Society for Creative Anachronism) gave you their persona names or their D&D character names.
3) Real Worldbulding. This was the deal breaker for me. There's no real sense of place. Nothing is important, there are no footholds to make me feel like this is a world that's been lived in. This started with having Christianity and the freaking Zodiac mixed in. How hard is it to come up with your own Gods and arcane symbology? It comes off as supremely lazy.
This novel reads like its something REALLY AWESOME your buddy from the comic shop had been working on as his blog. I could see tattered xeroxes of a this passed reverently among fighters at an SCA event as something Sir So-and-So wrote and is getting PUBLISHED, did you hear! Ugh. I'm pissed that I wasted an audible credit. Just gross and lazy.
After The Heroes and Best Served Cold, I was beginning to have my doubts about Joe Abercrombie. The Blade Itself is a slow boiler but solid, Before They Are Hanged RULES, and the The Last Argument of Kings is just...unsatisfying. After that Best Served Cold, while good, gets overwritten and depressing. Watching Shivers just fall apart gets sad and just boring after a while. The Heroes was my biggest disappointment, as it was the story that took Black Dow and turned him into a two dimensional standee when he had such promise in the first three books, and Shivers becomes his version of GRRM's Sandor Clegane. Such a waste. By the end of The Heroes I was convinced Joe didn't know how to end a book and was just going to be stringing us along forever.
Red Country, however, changed that. By bringing back the one character anyone actually gives a sh*t about (besides Sand Dan Glokta) he manages to revive what felt like a stalling series of books. TIght action, a loveable hard luck lawyer, and a glimpse of the real hero of the series as a man in his 50's just trying to be realistic make for a great listen. Stephen Pacey is back too, thank the dead. No one else needs to do an Abercrombie book except Stephen Pacey.
Joe Abercrombie books promise you three things. Action, vulgarity, and torture. This book dishes all three up in great heaping, rotting piles and you're grateful for it. If you know Joe, you know you already love this book. The downside here is the performance. Michael Page isn't terrible as long as he isn't doing the voice of ANY character Stephen Pacey did. I have no idea what research material he was given to make the voice of The Bloody Nine sound like a wheedling child, or why all the northmen in a given flashback sound suddenly celtic and brain damaged. His voice for his august majesty made me want to call him up and yell things about his grandmother at him. Also, the overall sound quality of the recording is really low rent. It sounds like they set up a condenser mic in a storage unit, there's actual overhead hiss on the recording. I really wish I'd just read this one myself.
What a chunk of crap. Badly overwritten with thin characters and such a generic occult mythology that I wonder if the author did any research at all. In a world where Harry Dresden and Feilx Castor do the "guy in a coat that solves supernatural crimes" so much better than the lamely named "Jack Nightingale"--it makes you wonder what this publisher was thinking. You might enjoy this book if the phrase "devil worshipper" doesn't make you roll your eyes or snort. Someone, please, please get Stepehn Leather an editor. I have no need to hear coffee made and a car referenced by brand as many times as this guy does. The fact that his antagonist is a to the letter clone of Gaiman's character Death, and speaks as if she came right out of a fundamentalist Christian pamphlet on the dangers of role playing games. I'm listening to the last chapter as I type this and dear God, I want to puncture my eardrum. This narrator should never, ever try to do an American accent--it was so bad it was offensive. This is utter crap.
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