This book has so much potential to be totally awesome: a convent of assassin nuns, political intrigue, some romance for those who enjoy that sort of thing, and a badass protagonist. Let's tackle these claims point-by-point, shall we?
- First, the education in assassination is skipped over completely by a three-year time jump from when Ismae arrives at the convent to when she is sent out on her first mission. It would have been really cool to get a glimpse of the education in the convent, Harry Potter style: worked in between chunks of character and plot development. And for a book about assassin nuns, there weren't enough assassinations in this book.
- For all the hype about political intrigue, it wasn't all that intriguing. Maybe I'm just blessed with the powers of 'whodunnit,' but the traitor was painfully obvious from the get-go so there wasn't much in the way of surprise there, either.
- The romance was so cliche that it hurt to read about it. Since I listened to this on audio, I found myself turning to the radio when the romance cliches came in. What is it about a guy radiating heat that makes him sexy? We're told multiple times that Ismae feels the heat of Duvall's body when she's not touching him. Also, the whole 'girl meets boy and they detest each other until they realize they're in love' thing has been done to death. And, there really wasn't anything about Duvall that was particularly sexy or interesting; he's just the main guy in her life so he has to be the love interest.
- Ismae is no badass. Sure, she's trained in weapons and poisons (or so we're told; see above), but she's more of a sit-around-and-wait kind of girl. Other than one time that she takes the initiative to follow Duvall to the castle, she doesn't really make any of her own decisions or do her own investigating. For the most part, she just waits around and life and this supposed intrigue just happen to her. In fact, for two major events in the book, she is only on hand because she was warned by Sibella, another assassin on assignment. Now, maybe Ismae's lack of action is because there is a lot of focus in this book on the will of the gods and her passivity is intended to throw light on this and illustrate the few choices that are open to her, but I don't really like protagonists that aren't agents of their own destiny. To be fair, Ismae takes much more of an active role at the end of the book so I haven't completely ruled out reading the second book in this series when it's out, but I think I'd enjoy it more if it were from Sibella's point of view.
I don't want to leave the impression that the book was all bad. It wasn't. After all I did give it 3 stars. The semi-accurate history was a plus, Beast was a pretty fun character for the scenes when he was around. Learning a bit about the old Breton gods was cool. I'm sure I can come up with more...
All in all, I might read the second one, but it's nowhere near the top of my to-read pile
Can a book be both literary and genre? Yes. Can it be both successfully? Yes, see: The Last Werewolf.
I originally heard about this book via an NPR review and it languished on my to-read list for a long while until, when in need of my next book, I reviewed the synopses of the books on my to-read list. This one finally had it's turn to be what I was in the mood for. I loved it from the word go. The Last Werewolf was, for me, a perfect fit between what I was in the mood for and what the book (and the wonderful reader since I listened to this one) delivered. Beginning this book was like slipping into a warm bath mood-lit by aromatherapy candles, perfectly steeped cup of tea in hand. Or whatever your perfect scenario might be. I'll admit that my tranquil depiction makes for a strange juxtaposition with the violence and gore of the book, but such was my satisfaction with starting The Last Werewolf.
For starters, Jake Marlowe is a werewolf. And,I don't mean a Twilight werewolf, running around with no shirt, well-oiled muscles glistening in the sunlight kind of werewolf. He is an ancient, pragmatic, animalistic, savage monster who has no delusions that he is anything else. Glen Duncan wrests the werewolf from the teeny-boppers and the romance novels, and successfully returns him to the horror category. It is Jake's acceptance that he is an evil monster that makes him so unnerving: he is neither an unthinking beast (quite the contrary in fact, since the whole book is filled with his musing and ennui) nor is he in denial of the monstrosity of his true nature. In fact, the frank tone with which Jake describes killing and sex add to the discomfort.
The potential reader should be aware that this book is graphic. I blushed more than once. There is sex in this book, but it is not the sex of romance novels; there are no corsets, or 'throbbing members' here. There are, however, multiple mentions of the c-word. Be forewarned.
A Note on the Audiobook:
I often wonder what I may have missed by listening to the book that I would have gained if I had read a physical book. e.g Would I have enjoyed that passage more if I had re-read it? Not so with this book. I believe that listening to this only enhanced my enjoyment. In fact, I'm not sure I would have enjoyed it at much if I had read a physical copy.
The thing that I would change can't be changed and have the book be the same book. The first part of this book was very slow and then part 2 is absolutely explosive. So, I might be tempted to say that part one should be trimmed down or something, but then part 2 wouldn't be as explosive.
I found the very end just a bit dissatisfying, but still definitely worth the read.
I didn't really care about either protagonist. Then again, I don't think the reader is supposed to 'like' the characters. They are created to be pretty unlikeable people.
I don't think that what made this book awesome (namely the plot twist the different points of view of the two main characters) could be conveyed very well in a visual format. I'd still probably see it anyway.
I've read so many reviews that said it got better halfway through. I was expecting it to slightly improve and then it would dawn on me that it had gotten better. Not the case. This book got suddenly and instantaneously awesome. I had just gotten to that point when I pulled into the driveway on my way home. Can I drive around the block for an hour?
Let me just say: this book was amazing. I have not read the Fables graphic novels because graphic novels aren't really my thing, but this book was truly able to stand alone. I loved everything about it. The characters are interesting, if a little one-sided (it is a fable after all). I was completely immersed in the story from the very beginning and actually couldn't wait to go back to work so that I could listen to this in the car. Let's put it this way, I enjoyed this book so thoroughly that I'm reconsidering my stance on graphic novels, that's how eager I am to be back in the Fables mythos.
A Note on the Audiobook:
Wil Wheaton was a great reader. Archaic dialog is perilous for narrators because it's hard to read without sounding stilted. Wheaton did an excellent job and actually enhanced the story rather than just reading it. Bravo, Wheaton.
First and foremost: I promise not to ruin the mystery by reviewing this book. As such, I won't really mention the plot (not that I do often in my reviews because I take it for granted that anyone reading my review who would like to know about the plot can easily find a synopsis).
I listened to the audiobook version of this book and I picked it up solely on the weight of recommendations by listeners on Audible. I'm so glad I did. I would never have listened to this book based on the synopsis; it just doesn't sound like a 'me' type of book. Even now, after having listened to the book and loved it, the synopsis just doesn't do anything for me, and it certainly doesn't do any justice to the book.
The book centers on Nate Tucker and an apartment building in Los Angeles that is full of oddness. And it just gets better from there. A lot of reviewers draw comparisons between this book and the tv series LOST due to the myriad mysteries to be unraveled. I can see where they're coming from, but I actually enjoyed this book unlike LOST after season 1. And yes, some of the plot points are far-fetched and a few are a bit tired. So while none of this book is really new territory, the story was a wonderful exercise in immersion. If you want a novel that will absorb you in the story and maybe creep you out a bit, this is the book for you. Give it a chance.
The plot twist! This book has the best kind of plot twist: the kind where you could have picked up on it if only you'd been paying enough attention.
Maybe to the Shadow of the Wind by Miguel Ruiz Zafon. Not for any similarities in the plot or setting, but because of the feeling one gets having finished them. I was so wrapped up in both stories and amazed in how each author ties together so many loose ends at the conclusion of the book and multiple, disparate plot lines come together in the end. I also had a bit of trouble getting into both books; it takes a while to set up so satisfying an ending.
Jill Tanner: in a heartbeat. She was absolutely amazing as Vida Winter.
Bianca Amato: possibly. She wasn't a poor narrator, but she pales in comparison to Jill Tanner.
Vida Winter. She is the enigmatic protagonist and unreliable narrator in her own right. To say more, would be to spoil the discovery for future readers.
At first, I was afraid that I had made a mistake in choosing this book. I'm not a big fan of gothic novels. I've never been able to get into Jane Eyre or Rebecca, and when this book started out slow and focusing on a wishy-washy, overly sentimental narrator, I thought I was in big trouble.
But I kept reading. And then I became engrossed in the story of Vida Winter and forgot all about my dislike of Margaret and her story. I'm not entirely sure if that's because Margaret's story improved or because I was so enthralled with Vida's story that I endured Margaret's to get back to it.
The twist for this story was so good that I want to listen to it again just to follow along all the clues that foreshadowed it
I really didn't enjoy the wrap-up to this series as much as I enjoyed the set-up to this series. I can't really articulate why, though; I just didn't enjoy it.
Update: I've spent some time trying to figure out exactly what it was about this book that was unsatisfying. One might suggest that it's the blatantly anti-religion aspects of the third installment. I mean, God (or The Authority as he's know in the book) literally dies in the course of the plot. In addition, Mary Malone explains in great detail to the children why she stopped being a nun and became a physicist (and mind you, these things are certainly mutually exclusive in the worldview the author presents). Her rationed speech is full of sentiments along the lines of 'why waste our time on earth not enjoying ourselves when there is nothing to go to afterwards.' With these anti-religion aspects and many more, it is possible to see how they would be the root of someone's dislike of the book. The thing is, they didn't really bother me; atheism has been a theme from the beginning of the series and is organic to the story being told.
For me, it was the Mulefa (forgive my spelling; I listened to the audiobook and thus am not sure how to spell it). I'm good with an alien race of sentient beings that don't look like humans (check out my review of Out of the Silent Planet for proof). Not just the Mulefa, though; The Mulefa, the Gallivaspians, the journey to the world of the dead. The plot just seemed over the top, and not in an exciting way. One can almost picture the author at his desk saying to himself, "I can't think of what should logically happen next so I'm going to invent a new thing and go from there." There was no real goal for the story as there had been in the previous books. Golden Compass: find Roger. Subtle Knife: get the alethiometer back. Amber Spyglass: ???.
So there it is, this book was unsatisfying because it really didn't have a goal. Without accomplishing a goal, it's impossible to have a satisfying ending.
I loved the rich setting details and multicultural scope of the story. More than that, I loved that these details were presented in an organic way rather than spoonfed in large chunks to the reader all in one sitting as sometimes happens in lesser works of fantasy.
Since this is a work of fantasy, there are a lot of strange names for both people and places in the story and the author was able to read them in a fluent manner. Also, her voice expressed the perfect calm of a gatherer.
Yes! Too bad I had to break it into chunks for my commute.
I would absolutely recommend this book to a friend, but only a friend that has read the other two books in the series. While The Prisoner of Heaven and the Angel's Game are often billed as being able to stand on their own as complete stories, this claim isn't entirely accurate. They do function as mostly self-contained in their respective plots, but the significance and implications of certain events is lost if the reader is not familiar with the events from the previous installments.
His voice for Valls was absolutely perfect for the character: soft, but still menacing.
Fermin. He's got the best stories.
Since the book are so interrelated, it may be a good idea to be fresh about what happened in the other books. I really wish I had re-read Shadow of the Wind and the Angel's Game before starting this one.
I would absolutely listen to this book again, and have plans to do so on a road trip so that my husband can hear it, too.
Enzo, of course, because he is so wise and endearing. Other than Enzo, Luca was probably my favorite character because for being in the novel for such a short time, he is a very well-developed character.
I'm not particularly emotional when listening to audiobooks, but if I were, I'm sure I would have cried.
Give this book a shot. You won't be sorry.
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