My formal education is BA in European History, with my focus being on the Late Medieval, and I'm a hobbyist medievalist since. So that's why I picked this book--that, and I'm a Catholic.
The narration was what you might expect from a non-professional. I have to say that it seemed his pronunciation of places and names was somewhat random, as well as the Latin bits. Probably the most annoying part was the reading of the parenthetical notes (dates). At times, it was very distracting. I think I'd suggest/prefer leaving those out in the read version, or at least being selective as to which dates are pertinent.
The text, as I recall it, vacillated between almost story-like narrative and historical writing. I think, given the apparent popular focus, it would have been better served to have erred more towards storytelling.
All that said, it did offer a good slice of history of the period with the focus on Pope St. Celestine V, and interesting speculation about the circumstances surrounding his elevation, resignation, and death. Not a bad listen for what it was.
The problem with a collection of short stories is that just as you are really settling into a story you like, it is over. On the other hand, the ones you don't like require shortened suffering. I only skipped one story in this collection--the Coxswain one--because I don't care for ugliness for the sake of ugliness, where the author seems to think it is a dare to see how much filth you'll put up with when it has very little, if anything, to do with the actual story. I'm not squeamish, but I don't like pointless crap.
Most stories in this were "meh," and I liked a few well enough to wish they didn't end so quickly. The main value I see in this book, and doubtless why some authors participate, is discovery. You can get a sampling of each author's style and potentially find some you want to read full works from. Not a bad deal all told.
Entertaining book. I liked the sense of realism regarding the weaponry, tactics, and fights.
It reminded me to some extent of the Dresden Files, but it is definitely its own thing.
There was maybe a little too much deus ex machina type stuff going on, but it's okay.
Would recommend it to folks who like this sort of thing.
I really enjoyed this. Much more than I expected to. Saying it is like something I would write gives you some sense about how much it resonated with me.
I liked the story within a story within a story technique. That was fun in itself. I like that his characters have depth, for the most part. Let's say the ones that should have depth, do have depth. I like the balanced treatment of magic (as a fan of Tolkien, of course)--people aren't just throwing magical rays at each other all the time. It is used occasionally (thus far). It has fairly good/realistic rules. It has consequences. The prodigy-hero just doesn't master it easily, for free. It doesn't feel like a get out of jail free card.
Given the depth of the hero's background he covers, he does a great job of keeping things feeling real. There are some cliche thematic elements, of course, but he reins them in well.
I like the treatment of dragons. Very original (as far as I know). :)
I don't have many books these days that I feel like I don't want to set aside. This one kept me wanting to listen and wanting to not stop.
My only real criticism is more of a philosophical one. The author has a clear anti-clerical streak that is sadly very cliche. I suspect for most of his audience, they'll lap it up, but I don't appreciate the superficial large brush painting of an entire class of people.
The reader does a fine job, too. So well that he neither stands out to me nor gets in the way--everything you could ask for from a professional reader.
Being a long-time Star Trek fan, I fully expected to enjoy this, and I did. Beyond the basic idea of poking fun at the whole redshirt theme, I didn't know what it was about, and I was pleasantly surprised at the novel twist on that. Scalzi does a good job of keeping it fun and interesting despite what you might think of as a shallow concept initially.
Wheaton is a decent narrator, but having listened to a few books read by him, I will say that he has this one particular voice when he is being scornful or derisive that wears on the nerves. It's kind of like a petulant teenager tone, and it shows up too often and is too emphasized, even when it feels like the text doesn't support it. I mention it simply because it stands out to me, but overall, he does a fine job and is suited especially to a book like this given his acting background. That adds something to it.
Bottom line, if you like Star Trek and have a sense of humor, you'll enjoy this book.
Shades of steampunk. Mystery. Science fiction. Thriller. Historical characters. Lots of fun stuff in this story with interesting twists. I especially liked the way he tied in **REDACTED**.
For me, the most interesting/enjoyable parts had to do with the mythology underpinning the story. It was somewhat original, and I appreciated that. It was also fairly coherent, although the treatment of God and heaven was pretty wanting. Perhaps that adequately reflects the title character's perspective, given this was first person narrative, but still the angelic natures were.. odd...
OTOH, I'm just glad it didn't claim the Templar heritage for the golden vigil. That would have been painfully cliché. Kudos for not doing that, Kadrey.
The reader's performance was appropriate and professional, although the gritty voice is a bit wearing after a while.
If I had a beef, it'd be that the main character is pretty flat and doesn't develop much throughout the story. There are hints of multiple dimensions here and there, but overall, he's just the pissed off, vengeful thug.
There's a fair amount of profanity, violence, and other adult themes, so this is definitely not for kids. Adults who are sensitive to it should also avoid it. But I've certainly seen/read worse. And it's not as bad when there is some semblance of a moral order involved, even if it is being thwarted.
Do not be deceived by the title--it is actually mostly a detective story. :) Okay, I jest a bit, but after Book 1, I expected I suppose more supernatural twists.. more fantastical stuff. As it was, we were treated to a bit in the beginning and a bit at the end, but most of the book was a steampunk detective story.
Parts of the book were slow, but Howard keeps it going with interesting turns here and there. What's interesting is that while my wife doesn't really appreciate a book along the lines of the first one, I was able to recommend this one to her (she loves detective stories). She's in the midst of it now, just getting to the detective bits.
Anyways, in terms of characters, Cabal is Cabal--the 'bad' guy you've come to know and.. enjoy reading about. I like the mild interweaving of some of the story from the first book; but it's not enough so that you have to read it first (hence my wife can listen w/o doing so).
By far, for me, the most enjoyable part of the book was the last bit. Was it the prologue? I don't remember how it was framed, but it was fun--more Cabal style. That's what I look for in Cabal books.
Sachs is a different reader than the first book, but he manages a close enough continuity in voice that Cabal is still Cabal. He does the various accents quite well; I think I detected some intentional hiding and showing of a mild German accent for Cabal, which was masterful. Very well done; I look forward to more books read by Sachs. I think he is a reader on par with/comparable Guidall and Dale, which I think are masters.
Overall, I did enjoy it and if you like either detective stories or steampunk or antiheroes, you might enjoy it, too.
I listened to the old book first; I liked that one a lot. I was dubious about listening to the new one because it said in the preface that it was something like "more suitable for contemporary readers." Who knows what that would mean--super green, extra post modern, uber gender neutral. You never know..
But I'm happy to report that I got into it and ended up enjoying it--had to shake off my ideas about the characters from the original, especially the main character--pretty different. I'd say the new one had a more satisfying ending than the original, too.
In terms of performances, Scalzi read the original. His narrator voice is a little.. annoying? pretentious? Not sure, but it took getting used to. I liked his cowboy interpretation for the main character--kind of missed it in the new version with Wheaton.
Wheaton was consistently himself. I recently listened to Ready Player One--I thought he was perfect for that. This one, maybe not so much, but that, too, may have been due to the influence of hearing Scalzi first on the original.
Anyways, it was a fun listen, which is really all I look for in my audiobooks. :)
I bought this after listening to the Brothers Grimm, hoping for something similar. In that, it didn't disappoint. It was less epic, but still a fun story with interesting characters. Looking forward to the next one.
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