I have listened to and read most of Hamilton's works, and though I enjoyed this one a lot, it doesn't stack up to his later Novels. Hamilton's brilliance is in crafting expansive epics with a diverse cast of brilliant and intrepid characters. This novel, while imaginative, simply lacks the scope, scale, and depth that lend greatness to some of his later works. I am still sincerely hoping that an audio publisher decides to put his Night's Dawn trilogy on here eventually!
In the first book the characters developed individually and in their relationships in a moderately satisfying way. The protagonist's naive nature and feckless enthusiasm were excusable because he had grown up in a sheltered environment. In this book ,however, all of the characters just act as foils to progress a very predictable plot. Caldan is shocked, over and over, that he isn't taken seriously by people in power. This is really painful to read. It's like watching a bad horror movie where the irrational actions of the characters just make you want to punch them. And it is made worse by the fact that Caldan is supposed to be this strategic genius who is great at reading patterns and people. And he shifts between offhandedly slaughtering enemies, and being appalled that he has done something so callous as to strike a lady! (The lady in question being a murderous sorceress).
All this ends up just making it impossible to understand his motivations or maintain respect for a character which the first book managed decently. Hogan got lazy with this book and instead of working on character development and finding ways to flow forward the plot from there just makes up absurd situations and conclusions to ram forward to the next story line.
Also, he repeatedly uses the "I don't have time to explain right now" ploy to avoid characters from understanding what they need to, when there is never actually a shortage of time. Usually these phrases occur during the middle of journeys or preparation periods that are days or weeks long, and the explanation would take maybe 30 seconds. No time while making a campfire, or during eating, or before sleep? I don't mind suspending disbelief but it's much easier to get lost in a story if you maintain realistic premises for inter-character tension and lack of clarification.
Wyman has a good voice and keeps dialogue going smoothly. He isn't as good as some in switching between male and female characters, but overall does a pretty good job of processing the story.
The healer. She just whines and moans and has really flimsy motivations. Basically playing the part of "moral compass" (badly) to keep Caldan from treating Bells like the villain she is and getting crucial info out of her.
Expansive. Imaginative. Exciting.
Neal Stephenson's books are really only comparable to themselves. His style of writing wherein he crafts a multiperspectived storyline that slowly weaves among itself until it comes crashing together in a final climax is reminiscent of a Robert Jordan, George R. R. Martin or Peter F. Hamilton saga, but handled in a much different way. Stephenson also introduces numerous political, philosophical, historical and technological themes that are expanded on or alluded to at numerous points throughout the novel. If you read some of his non-fictional work, you can see the brilliance of Stephenson as an interpreter of the trends of the modern world, but he manages to slide these ideas in unobtrusively throughout his fictional adventures. His earlier novel Cryptonomicon is the closest overall comparison that comes to mind.
Brilliant reading. Hillgartner conveys Stephenson's wry humor and the aggressive brilliance of his characters with perfect aplomb. Dodge will always sound like Hillgartner's rendition of him in my head.
With most fantasy novels, you get bogged down in remembering the complex mythos of the world's history, the ridiculous lineages and names of the characters and ruling families, or in suspending disbelief for the system of magic that governs the world. This book leaves all of these issues behind, and crafts a world of magic and politics as easy to believe in as our own.
Rothfuss' brilliance is that for all of the fantastical elements of his story, he spends his greatest effort crafting complex and imperfect characters that we can empathize with, and grow to care about. Kvothe the child is recognizable in the innkeeper Kote, underneath the weight of years, experience and sadness that weigh him down. This layering of depth is difficult to craft, and all the more precious when it's done right. When you are done reading this book, you want nothing more than to find out more about what happened, and I fully expect that when this series ends I will return to it again and again because I will miss the friends that I came to know in reading it.
Master Iloden is a brilliant character. Whimsical and mysterious, he is the best kind of teacher, and the best kind of inspiration for the young and the brilliant. He may be mad, but he understands the world better than any of the sane, real or imagined.
Nick Podehl articulates this story to perfection. His variations in cadence, accent, and emotion convey the brilliance of the story and the personalities of the characters as well as any narrator I have ever heard. Having listened to this performance, I would find a different author reading the future installments as difficult to countenance as a different author from Rothfuss completing the series.
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