Ok, it's a classic so definitely a book with deep things to say. Generally I like the classics outside a classroom setting, but I'm just not sure this book was all I was hoping it was going to be. The first half of the book (give or take) is almost entirely consumed with setting the scene of a dystopian future (can you really call it dystopia if the people living in it are 'happy'?). I think the second half was supposed to be plot, but I couldn't really tell. There were a number of main characters, but none of them really seemed to be the 'hero' of the story, or even the focus of the story. There were tons of plot holes and loose ends, and some oddities in the society described (seriously this homogeneous society is ok with just sending the intellectuals off to a random island and hoping they never cause trouble? It just doesn't ring true to me) which betray this book for what it is: not so much a book but an extended discussion of a hypothetical future. It is an interesting concept, and one of those things that you can sort of see happening in a frightening future. Long story short: listen to it, contemplate the overall concept, don't expect a riveting plot.
Well, it's a teen paranormal romance novel, that's all you really need to know about it. It's not particularly better or particularly worse than thousands of others out there. It's got everything you'd expect (teenage heroine without a family, who is shy, mousy and romantically inexperienced but is mysteriously necessary? check! supernatural hero who is ridiculously handsome, plagued by some terrible but not disfiguring curse, protective verging on misogynistic, waaaaay older than the heroine, devoted and loyal? check!) plus its got a neato setting in India.
I try not to get too caught up in little plot things in books like this (you know, like how Keshan who has spent that last three hundred years as a tiger in the Indian jungle can speak fluent, modern Enlighsh?). On the other hand, these characters are so stupid, it really aggrevated me. I mean, they've spent hundreds of years trying to break the curse, and when they find out how to do that they completely don't think anything through. As soon as they get the prophesy they a) start off without considering that the whole 'five sacrifices' thing? and b) go immediately to get Keshan even though the prophesy says specifically that there will only be ONE transformation for ONE man. Smart characters would think about these things. That sort of thing is why I won't be getting any of the other books in this series. Besides, we all know how it ends anyway...
The female narrator did a great job. Her accents weren't forced or inconsistent. The male narrator (who thankfully only did the prolgoue and epilogue) was absolutely terrible!!
There seems to be lots of great buzz and reviews about this book, so I had some high hopes going in. It wasn't that I was completely disappointed with the book, but I don't think it lived up to the hype.
I've listened to the novel several times in an attempt to figure out what exactly I dislike about it, but I still can't quite put my finger on it. Maybe it was the rather disjointed plot. Lots of things happen in the book that don't necessarily have much to do with any of the other things. The author mentions in her discussion of the book that it started as several short stories. You can tell. The storylines seemed jammed painfully together, resulting in some problems with timing (ie. look at the discrepancies in the passage of time in the Richard is first hired by the dragon chancellor and Michael Godwin's decision to take up swordsmanship).
Maybe I didn't like that you never really understand what's going on. It's hard to get too worked up about political plotting and rivalries when you get absolutely no explanation of any of the government system or positions. Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Gene Wolfe fan and if there was ever an author who didn't feel the need to burden the narrative with explaining himself, its Wolfe, but Kushner's novel just didn't cut it for me.
I didn't mind the multiple narrators so much as the stupid sound effects that accompany the narration. The addition of things like the sound of spoons stirring when characters are having tea, is so juvenile a technique that it takes away from the book.
After the book is over, the author talks a bit about writing it and says that it took her a long time to write this book and she started and put it down quite a bit. It shows. The book tries to recapture the plotting and charming romance of the first but really can't pull it off.
The plot is even more disjointed and incomplete than the first book. There are huge plot problems, like the super abrupt ending to the big conflict, and the complete irrelevance of Lucius and his lover to the entire plot. There are small plot problems, like why does Katherine think she's such good friends with Artemesia that she ought to leap to Artemesia's defense when they've only met twice and one of the times Artemesia laughed at her and won't answer any of her letters?
I suppose it's supposed to be a 'tapestry' that shows all the things that go on in Riverside, but it just wasn't my thing. It seemed like just a list of all the ways women are oppressed in the city. I just wanted more.
Leaving aside my general dislike of the whole multi-narrator premise, the production on this wasn't very good. The narration was so quiet I had to turn up the volume as loud as it would go, only to be frequently deafened by the stupid 'sword' sounds which marked breaks in the chapters. There are good narrators out there who can 'whisper' what characters say without actually lowering their voices to an indecipherable level.
So I somehow managed to make it this far in my life having never read any Anne McCaffery, so I thought I'd better remedy that. Well, they say ignorance is bliss. I was surprised and disappointed at this book. I realize that it's one of McCaffery's first novels, so I suppose that explains the rather juvenile quality of the book, but given her popularity I was expecting more.
The characters were cliche and rather annoying. That is, the ones that I could tell apart. Even by the end of the book, I wasn't sure who was who with Falar and Fanor. As for the supposed romance between Falar/Fanor and whats-her-name it's very unbelievable.
I had a roommate that always complained about the 3 terrible 't's of fantasy writing: telepathy, teleportation and time travel. Now I get why it bothered her so much. This book has all three and uses them to get out of every plot problem. The big crisis of the book is solved without any reference to ninety percent of the book preceding it.
This book seems to promise a teen steam punk novel featuring two strong female characters. Well....it fails on just about every level. The characters are horrible in many ways. The plot fails on every level. Also, I get that having fictional characters as real people is a thing in steam punk, but if you're going to have Sherlock Holmes's neice, then why not have the other character be Mina Harker (from Dracula's) relation of some kind? Why have one 'historical' and one 'fictional' one?? Really, it's not a great book, and I definitely won't be buying any of the sequels.
So to start off, the characters. Mina and Evelyn are useless, together and separately. Mina is a completely one dimensional character. I get that she's different because she's a Holmes, but the author is so busy with that, she ends up very uninteresting. Evelyn is just useless. She agrees to be a part of this secret team and then does absolutely nothing for days on end for no particular reason. Even if they have their own quirks, they're not exactly great roll models, since every time any young male character so much as looks at them they go all "fluttery" and blush and become completely useless. It's painful to read.
Then there's the plot. It's supposed to be twisty, I suppose, but it's so cliche that it's almost painful to listen to. From the word go it's pretty obvious exactly what's going on and about to happen. The only mystery in the whole thing is the time travelling, and the mystery is: why is it in the book? The time travelling has absolutely nothing to do with the 'mystery' at hand. Nor does it provide any essentials to solving the mystery. It's really just thrown in there for no reason. Maybe it's important in the second book, but I'm not going to stick around and find out.
I think the biggest failing of this book is that, while the plot isn't completely resolved by the end of the book, the big, lingering mystery (aka who is the Ankh) would be so easily solved if Mina was actually half as smart as she's supposed to be OR had the thought processes of a normal human being, she'd already know the answer. If she looked at the whole secret investigation business with any sort of suspicion she'd know that the Ankh was the one person who is continually referred to as the only person always one step ahead and who is mysteriously missing at important points of the story.
Anyway, long story short: very disappointed :(
I forced myself to finish this book all the way to the very end, in the sad hope that at some point the plot/characters would be explained and everything would make sense and come together. It didn't. Even given the low low expectations that I set for 'romance' books this one was bad. I'd say that the plot was lacking, but that implies there was something resembling a plot. It seemed early on that the book was going to be about how Ivan falls in love with Esma as she tells him how she came to murder all her lovers. Nope. Not to spoil things, but nothing is every explained. Why does the sultan murder all Esma's lovers? Why, if she feels as bad as she seems to, does she continue to take lovers knowing they are going to be murdered? The whole premise makes no sense. There is zero chemistry between the two main characters, mostly because they realistic characters in any way shape or form.
Rather than filling up the ten hours with plot, the author has fallen into the historical fiction writing trap of describing irrelevant things that may or may not be interesting but have nothing really to do with the plot that she learned while doing research. Pointless descriptions and odd tangents fill up most of the time in this book.
The only good thing about this book was the narrator, who did as good a job as she could with the material she was given.
Bottom line: don't waste your money, not even if its on sale.
Medieval zombies. That's all you really need to know about this book. If you like zombie genre books, it's a different take, although it uses nearly all the same apocalypse cliches as a book set in the present would just with horses instead of cars. If you don't like zombie books, then what are you doing even reading reviews of the book?
To be warned though, it ends kind of abruptly, or maybe not really having resolved things. So if you are the type to get really invested in characters, be prepared to buy the next book.
I was going to give the book a fourth star for plot, but then I got to the last half hour or so of narration. At the end of the plot part of the book, the narrator embarks on a chapter by chapter self-important ego trip about all the historical research he did when he wrote the book. I made it about five minutes in and then called it quits on that front. A short note with some suggested reading for those interested in social/geographical/military aspects of the medieval period would have been sufficient. Reading reviews of the next book, it sounds like the author has switched (or maybe the narration is arranged differently) and these historical notes are read at the end of each chapter instead of the end of the whole book. If this is the case, I won't be getting the next one for sure.
Well, if you're even considering purchasing this book, then I assume that you know what you're in for in the urban fantasy genre. So, yes, this book delivers everything that you expect it will. Bad-ass heroine with complicated back story, love interest, revenge, murder, etc. etc. etc. Nothing you haven't seen before, but arranged in such a way as to be sufficiently interesting. The reason I couldn't give this book more stars was how horribly horribly repetitive it was. It wasn't just that it reiterated plot points, and boy did it reiterate plot points! If you find yourself drifting off and thinking about something else for a few minutes, don't worry if you missed something, it will be repeated! Just when you think the book is about to end, it goes on. For another half an hour. Not only could the overall plot use some serious editing, but trivial things were repeated too. I'm pretty sure that I get where Gin stashes her knives about her person, you don't need to give me the exact same description every time she puts her clothes on. I get the three runes that represent her family members, you don't need to give me the entire spiel every time she looks at them. Really. I get it.
The narrator did a good enough job, but she often phrased things oddly. Frequently she would put odd pauses in the middle of sentences so things come out sounding like: "...he pushed past me. Into the dimly lit room." It was odd, but at least she didn't do it all the time.
This is definitely one of my new favorite books, and one which I will be recommending to all my friends. It was a rare treat in a genre so overstuffed with cliches and boring, predictable books! Scott Lynch has created an elaborate city-scape, stuffed it with neat characters and interesting histories, mixed alchemy, magic and crime, AND woven together several plot threads without ever being boring or getting weighed down by the need to explain unnecessary things. A quick warning, this book isn't for the faint of heart, it's fairly gory in parts and, not to spoil things, but don't get too attached to any given character.
The plot of the book moves along quickly, following a gang of con-artist criminals in a city somewhat reminiscent of Venice. Locke is a great hero, with tons of interesting backstory (which we get in very well placed 'interlude's) who also has a reasonable number of flaws. The plot was complex enough to keep you on your toes from start to finish. I see that there are two sequels. The book is certainly written with hints of other potential, future storylines, but they're neither blatant nor obviously added as afterthoughts. You could easily read this book and not need to read the rest. I'm on the fence about reading the next one. I always find that the first book is the best. I hate to tarnish my opinion of a series/author as the following books fail to live up to expectations, but I'll probably give them a try.
The narrator was perfectly adequate. I'll admit that he'd narrated another book I've listened to that I didn't particularly enjoy, so my lack of enthusiasm for his performance is probably tainted by that other book. But he grew on me as the book went on.
This book sounded from the synopsis and the rave reviews like it was going to be so great, but partway through, I caught myself continuously checking the 'time remaining', first to see if I could figure out if/when actual plot might happen and eventually to see how much longer I was going to have to suffer. Basically, the book drags on and on without any change whatsoever to any of the characters (main or otherwise) or any important plot.
I suppose it's trying to be a coming-of-age story about Eff, but as a character she doesn't grow at all. From the start of the novel (where she's the world's most precocious five year old...I mean really, has the author met many five year olds??) to the end (Eff is 18 then), neither her inner dialogue or her actions nor her interactions with others change in any way shape or form. Sure it's sort of about her getting over being a 13th child, but since she's the only one who gives a hoot about that fact after the first few chapters, it's hard to see it as a major influence in her life. Maybe if the bullying and whatnot had continued when they moved west, I could see it more, but it's mostly abandoned through the book.
My other major problem with the book was the author's cavalier attitude towards background. There were a lot of weird historical changes that were completely unnecessary to the plot (like changing it from North America to North Columbia) and weren't explained in terms of including magic into history. Whenever I see this sort of thing in books, it just makes me think that the author was too lazy to do proper research and so just changed a few things in order to claim that any rational historical criticism can't apply. Frankly, I hadn't reviewed the plot summary before I started the book and for the first few chapters I had no idea if it was taking place in 1800 or 1950.
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