Part of the fun of this book was the narrator's wide range of voices for the difference characters. The other was the mixing of reality and fantasy that Gaiman does very well. This is a stand-alone book. No need to have read any of his other books, though if they're all this good, it might be worth tracking them down!
Small warning: If you're easily grossed out, there's one passage near the climax that might be too much.
My first recommendation is that, if you can read this book in print, do so. There was a lot of poetry and other stuff that, had I been reading it in print, I'd have skimmed over, and I don't think I'd have had any less comprehension of the story. When these moments came up in the audiobook, I got frustrated that I couldn't just skim forward a bit, because I didn't have the visual cues to know when to stop fast-forwarding.
Most of the middle of the book could have been squished up and summarized to heighten the impact of the important things that happen, which currently get buried in among not-so-interesting things. There seemed to be less of the author's enthusiasm showing through, probably just a guage of him growing up. It comes through near the end, though, when the story picks up again and gets back to what I was hoping for--lots of fighting and explosions and magic-y goodness. I will confess to not being taken at all surprised by the major revelations. But maybe I just have read too many fantasy books. :) There also seemed to be less humor in the story, again perhaps an effect of the author aging, but also just a reflection of the darker nature of events.
Paolini's characters are still very interesting and well-crafted (and well-voiced by Gerard Doyle). Hopefully his writing will continue to improve as he ages. I'm looking forward to the next book, which I think I'll still try as an audiobook first, if only because I get weirded out trying to read characters' names that I've only ever heard before! :)
This book came highly recommended. I had attempted it in print a few years ago, but never made it through. I had a hard time in audio format, as well.
While one could make the excuse of it being a children's book, I felt that the characters were never truly tested. I never doubted that they would succeed, and instead felt that I was several steps ahead of the story.
My other problem was with the narrator. While the other voices were mostly clear, I sometimes had a hard time following the narration segments, because of the narrator's accent.
Written before the invention of the television, this book is not for those with short attention spans, or who like to get to the crux of the mystery right away, or who like fast-paced chase scenes through the streets of Paris. (The book only leaves England for a brief stint or two in India.)
However, if you enjoy fascinating character studies with a dash of mystery thrown in, this book is a definite must-listen. Different sections are told from the POVs of different characters, each with a very unique view on the world. The narrators do a wonderful job catching the flavor of the different characters. (Though I confess the Ms. Clack section could have been shorter and I wouldn't have minded, but only because the character herself is so well-penned that she bothers me.)
Granny Weatherwax is one of my all-time favorite characters in any book. Terry Pratchett has the rare and wonderful gift for creating strong female characters who aren't simply men in dresses.
This book was a fun story, and the narrator did a good job capturing the characters. There were some indistinct spots, though few and far between.
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