It takes a good while for the story to get going. The author could have developed the characters more given the length of the story. That said, the author did create interesting settings and a good plot. The book would have benefited however from tightening up some of the overview descriptions and incorporating events from the characters' histories and memories. While wheeler is better than most at shifting between plot lines of the disparate groups and individuals, I'm tired of authors using a cliff hanger to get you to buy the next book. I'd rather buy a book in a series because I have come to like the characters and story line.
Cliff hangers are noxious. Tolkien's format is better. Frodo is stung by Shelob and is dead. A contemporary cliff hanger would end there. But Tolkien built the suspense as Sam tries to continue the quest and overhears orc soldiers talking. It end's with Frodo captured and Sam covertly infiltrating the enemy stronghold. It ends on hope. The reader is left with hopeful anticipation awaiting the next book. Alliance ends with almost complete defeat.
Secondly, the background is becoming overworked in contemporary novels: the majority of the world is clueless, the world world is in jeopardy and the bad guys are better organized, more persistent, and have greater numbers and resources. Frost's first book was better balanced with small assists from marginal characters like Nondo. Alliance draws too heavily on the strengths of the first book: character development and social interaction. An excellent narrator helps too.
Hobb is great at character development and this story builds well on those that precede it. However, the author takes the entire book before he begins the action and then stops on a cliff hanger. As Tolkien demonstrated in the Twin Towers, a cliff hanger can be a legitimate literary device. However, when there has been little action before hand it feels like a cheat to make you buy the next book. I personally would have waited for the series to be complete to purchase (and maybe waited for a sale).
The author does a flip-flop between the 1st and 2nd book. In the first the main character has no sympathy for the semi-criminal leeches in the projects from which he hails. Like many who leave their ghetto crime ridden neighborhoods, he is looking for a way out. He succeeds and uses imagination and breaking convention to make opportunities for himself.
In the second, he becomes sympathetic to murders who unaccountably got and used military grade weaponry to kill his team mates in the first book. How they got this equipment, the author never explores. It would have make a good plot and setting development, but somehow people who can't buy meat, food, or clothing can get their hands on high power machine guns. Even the belt-feed tripod mounted WW-II 50 calibre machine guns are not readily available today. Yet somehow, the hoods have no just 1 but several such weapons. The hereo's company can beat the tar out of other professional soldiers but can't beat civilians. The super-advanced tracking and target recognition equipment is somehow inadequate on the home turf where the government no doubt has had years to plant stealth monitoring equipment. So, the first book has plot holes. But it's a fun light read. The second book characterization holes make it less so.
A Closed minded & incompetent military is so overused as to be unimaginative but also unrealistic. The U.S. military officers I've known were skilled, thoughtful, and good leaders. Marko Kloos would have done better to look to the failures of history when setting his plot. Political deadlock (recent history and pre-civil war) and reduced military spending (post WW-I and post Bush I era) would make a better setting. The appointment of an ambitious Defense Secretary who distorts forecasts to meet political directions could have been the last piece of the puzzle.
The solution to the Alien invasion was also far fetched (or at least poorly handled). Remote guidance of a projectile across light years of space would be a DIFFICULT shot. The original moon launch found a challenging indeed. While guidance systems continually improve, range limits increase not disappear. Solving this problem could have made the ending interesting and less simplistic.
Unlike Tolkien, the author writes only the style of Tom Clancy were narrative breaks across the actions of disparate groups. Unlike Tolkien or Clancy, the story line is clearly held together by a clear plot line or narrative thread. It's more like Dune, multiple parties doing totally unrelated things that eventually are effect the total story line. OK in print, no fun in audio where you can't go back to pick up the story line. In reality based epics such are WW-II or the invasion of Rome by the Visigoths, the reader (or listener) has an intuitive understanding of the events, geography, and people. Tolkien was a master in that he achieved this intuitive grasp of the story and worldscape
A disparate story line is appropriate in historical fiction. But with fantasy, the author must exert greater literary skill to link the story.
A jaded view of people and the world set to fantasy. Perhaps, the author will pull a rose out of it in the end, he certainly spreads enough fertilizer.
The setting and plot deviate from the rest of the series. With the new narrator, Dresden seems like a completely different character. John Glover can not capture the emotions or attitudes of Harry Dresden. The story and Dresden do not resonate.
Dresden in the earlier books uses simple spells to track individuals and find lost items. Yet in book 7, he fails to consider anyone applying the same trick to him. Rather than using his friends, the Alphas or the Knights, to protect the medical examiner. He keeps him near himself. Why doesn't he use his "Sight" more? Or keep his dog "Mouse" with him to sense traps or ambushes? It's as if he has begun to trust in luck. As a result, he is manipulated throughout.
Throughout the book he is committed to giving the most dangerous magic book collection of all time to one of the worst baddies... Surely Murphy wouldn't approve. Why not consider an alternate solution? Finally, the incapacitation of the wardens so that Dresden must be the one to take on the Necromancer gang is a stretch. Fantasy is great. But it's better when the characters ring true.
Yes, Marcus Didius Falco comes across as a real person whom one would like and respect. The deception is unraveled in a practical yet piecemeal fashion.
Falco in the later books becomes more cynical (and less effective). The early books are the best.
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