I read this book several years ago, and actually enjoyed it more in this format.
This is not the very best thing Le Guin has written (_Always Coming Home_ and the Earthsea books are my candidates) yet it's a clear 5 star listen for me. Le Guin is one of the masters of SF-Fantasy; she transcends the genre while usually remaining a fun read. The plot is moves fast, with considerable pathos and suspense. The main character is a quiet, rather passive, man, and yet I came to like and respect him and care what happened to him and his world. What stays with me most, thought, are certain dream-like images, both visual and conceptual. They still float occasionally to consciousness, though I listened to the book several months ago.
The philosophy behind the book seems Taoist to me - and Le Guin has mentioned in her non-fiction that Taoism appeals to her. Sometimes the intellectual sub-text seemed a bit heavy-handed, but over all the book is a thorough success.
I myself found the narrator understated, but excellent. She added value to the book.
Many reviewers have complained about the meandering plot, lack of clear conclusion, swearing etc.
I don't like the novel because of any of these things, and yes, I usually prefer a more sympathetic main character too.
Yet the novel is worth reading if you like good writing, both in descriptions and in characterization.
I loved Lovecraft and Poe as a child, but have long since rejected the first for his laughably bad writing and see no reason to reread the second because his characters have so little depth.
In comparison to Kiernan, Stephen King spins a better plot, but I don't think a compelling plot is what Keirnan is trying to write here.
In terms of description, both literary quality and ability to convey creepiness, she writes as well -- better, I'd say -- than the best of King, and she does a better job revealing the tragedy and especially the ambiguity that lurks in relationship.
Yes, there is some sweaty sex that may titillate or disgust the reader, but the really compelling and heartbreaking thing about the novel is the portrayal of a tentative new friendship that is a shadow of hope threatened by horror.
The tension lies in wondering whether the narrator will be saved, go down with her friend, or be left even more alone in the darkness.
The author's many, sometimes almost contradictory, talents, his imagination, his sentiment, his ironic touch, his grasp of horror, and his ability to write characters we can root for, all come together perfectly. I would have loved it as a child, and I love it now, as an adult.
It is closest in feel and style *Stardust,* but set in a world of modern magic and horrors, seen through the eyes of an orphan boy given "the fredom of the graveyard" and growing up among the friendly dead.
Slower than most fantasy novels, especially at the start, but gathering strength and momentum as it goes. You will probably want to hear or read the first novel first . . . even more so than one needs to read the _Curse of Chalion_ before tackling _Paladin of Souls_.
The magical background of this world and the terrible threats to it from the malices come more into the fore, with some exciting scenes and even more interesting revelations.
The romance and family relationships that sometimes seemed a little stereotyped (or at least schematic)in the first novel also become richer and more complex.
All in all, this sequel is better than the first book, and leaves me hoping for a third, which would possible but not necessary. This book leaves some issues resolved, but further adventures possible.
I am very sensitive to language, both written and spoken, and here were my small problems.
First, Bujold opts for a sort of folksy Amercian frontier lingo in a land very different from the American frontier, though there are a few similarities. To have mages and patrollers say things like "I reckon" was jarring to me, and thoguh I finally got used to it, it didn't add anything. I don't know whether that would bother most people or not.
Secondly, I found the reader only fair-to-good. Her expression was decent, but her intonation was only so-so.
But if you find the reading OK in the sample, and you are content with a slower-than-average paced book, you will find great rewards in the listening.
This is a wonderful character study of a naive but good-hearted young woman with many sly asides and jokes, especially in references to the Gothic novels of Austin's day (which didn't have explicit sex, but much scandal and melodrama).
The novel is well read, and I appreciated the humor more when hearing it than I did when reading it.
I got this after liking the first "Magic Time" book, but I haven't been able to finish it.
The narrators are intrusively melodramatic, and every situation is just a little bit too cliched, too Holywood, to allow me to suspend disbelief.
While I agree with the other reviewers that you'll do better listening to The Curse of Chalion first, this is not the conclusion of a cliff-hanger. Both books stand alone, with different protagonists and different plot lines.
The plot here is a mixed bag - sometimes fast, sometimes slow. At times I caught on to the next event almost too fast; at other times I was completely surprised.
The strengths of the book are the protagonist, the style, and the religion Bujold creates.
The protagonist begins as a depressed and cynical middle-aged woman, yet someone one can sympathize with - she becomes something far more, and far happier . . . while remaining entertainingly cynical.
The style is nearly word-perfect, creating a magical, courtly world unlike our own, but peopled by real individuals with distinctive strengths and weaknesses.
The religion is complicated, yet plausible (and I speak as a professor of religious studies). More than that, though, Bujold treated the heroine's spiritual journey in ways that made me think, and enriched my own spiritual life, speaking as a liberal Christian.
The narrator is a woman with a British accent, very good.
This is one of Dorothy Sayers;s earliest mysteries, perhaps the first she wrote. It is lighter and breezier in style, with more silliness than some of her later mysteries, but not without a few serious touches. It should appeal to all fans of the classic English mystery, from Christie on up.
Lord Peter Wimsey, Sayers's aristocratic amateur detective, is called in by his mother (a marvelously scattered, but actually very intelligent woman, not unlike her son). An _unknown_ body (contra the book description) is found in the bathroom of an unsuspecting London architect. The financier has disappeared at the same time, and Lord Peter's friend Parker, a Scotland Yard detective, is investigating that other case. Though the cases at first seem unrelated, novelistic convention makes us suspect that they are indeed tangled up in one another . . .
The plotting is good, and intricate. I did guess the murderer rather early on, but I read the book long ago, which probably helped. The real joy, however, is in the writing, which is witty, imaginative, and simply a pleasure. Most, listeners, I think, will be completely taken with Lord Peter, his "upper class twit" act, his brilliance, and his lingering post traumatic stress disorder (or shell shock, as they called it after WW I). A few may find him a bit tiresome, but if you like classic British mystery, this book is sure to please.
The narrator, David Case, is British, and does the accents wonderfully well - to the point that an American listener had to listen carefully to catch every word. It was worth it, as he read with excellent rhythm and emphasis.
Caveat: the missing financier is Jewish, and though Sayers portrays him as a good and well-respected man, she wrote in the context of pre-WWII England, where casual anti-Semitism was a fact of life. Stereotypes, and, among villains and some bit players, anti-Jewish slurs, run throughout the book. If this sort of thing bothers you, you may want another book.
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