CONTENT: About four explicit sex scenes, several scenes of murder and mayhem, including violence against a ten-year-old boy (a major secondary character), minimal or no swearing, minimal or no typos in kindle book.
Those who love Pamela Clare's MacKinnons Rangers series might really like this book -- the first in a series of three. For me, there was a little too much grim villainy. Too many mayhem scenes. Yet well done, for all that. The writing is of decent quality. The plot is coherent, at times poignant, and the smexy times sizzle -- especially in the hot springs. The historical aspects felt authentic, too. More so than most books of this genre. More so than PC's Rangers series. However, unlike Clare's writing, I felt this author revealed too much. I predicted *almost* every single bad thing that happened. She needs to keep her cards a little closer to her chest, instead of revealing everything the villains are up to, as the third-person POV switched from hero to heroine to villains.
AUDIO: I listened to this book and also read it, switching between book and audio. The narrator is Keith Tracton. He could be superb, in terms of his ability to perform character roles. Good rendition of Annie, the heroine. Unlike some narrators, he didn't make his voice all squeaky and high pitched for her. His voice for the boy was good, too, as was his impression of the hero Michael, a Johnny Reb, even though I would rather he'd used his normal voice for Michael, with a Southern accent overlaid. His normal voice is pleasing on the ears, and has more depth, texture, and resonance than his character voice. At one point he had to sing — a great little a cappella performance. However, for non-dialogue, he frequently sounds almost robotic, sometimes like a machine. So, narration gets 3.5 or 4 stars, I'd say.
STORY IN BRIEF, NO MAJOR SPOILERS:
Set in Wyoming just after the Civil War, the story spans 1865-1867. It begins with Confederate Captain Michael Coltrane, our hero, listening to his beloved General Robert E. Lee address the troops with a "farewell to arms" speech. The author made this authentic historically, including the papers Michael carries, stating that he will never bear arms against his own country again (something like that). Michael lost his entire family and is heartbroken, so he leaves Dixie and heads west on his noble steed, Jet. A year later, he happens upon Annie Devlin and her ten-yeat old brother Robbie, under deadly attack. The siblings are alone in the world, because their schoolteacher mother died six years ago, and their horse-breeder father died one year ago. A corrupt landowner wants the Devlin ranch, but Annie stubbornly won't sell and won't cave to threats and bully tactics, so the corrupt Colonel sends out his worst thugs, including a nasty piece of work named Skinner.
In the nick of time, Michael rescues Annie from rape and Robbie from murder, but he gets badly wounded. Annie takes him home and nurses his wounds. This happens early in the story. At first, Michael is aloof and distant, because he doesn't ever want to feel any more loss or pain. However, the Devlins win his heart. He becomes a brother to Robbie, helping him with homework and horses, etc. Eventually, Annie and Michael become lovers and get married.
SOUNDS LOVELY, RIGHT?
Well, yes and no. It's a fairly grim story, with splashes of joy. Like a Pamela Clare historical romance, there is no surcease fom the wicked schemes of amoral men. All three protagonists -- even Robbie -- must repeatedly battle various vicious villains. Too many times, in my opinion. However, there are some brief joyous scenes in between the mayhem. Some laughter. Some warmhearted at-home scenes, bonding with Robbie and Annie. Some fairly humorous banter between Annie and Michael, and I loved the comaraderie between Michael and his older roommate from West Point, the local Calvary Major he calls "Chief" (and Chief calls Michael "The Brat"). Eventually, some sizzling sexy times. Then a wedding at the Fort. The reception scene was quite something! Chuckles all around! There is also a lot of "coming to terms" with past deaths, and with all the Yankee men in blue -- especially the horde at the military outpost. The author neatly portrayed Michael's sense of anxiety and unease around the Yankee regiment, and his slow adjustment to them, and inclusion back into the fold.
GUILT: Michael, only 24, was a prime cadet at West Point Academy before war broke out: top of his class, tall, strong, lethal. Dark blond hair and deep blue eyes. He was born into a prosperous and loving Virginia family that didn't approve of slavery, but did uphold states rights. During the war, he lost his entire family, especially his little brother Gavin. Michael blames himself for Gavin's death. I really dislike maudlin, self-glorifying guilt-tripping scenes -- and it seems to prevail in romance books -- but in this case, it was handled fairly realistically, and the cause was believable: Michael shouldered the blame for Gavin's death because he was the one who pulled strings to transfer Gavin to the unit that came under the heaviest fire. So, Gavin, long dead, plays a major role in this book, albeit a ghostly role. Literally. There are a handful of paranormal ghost scenes -- Gavin wants Michael to be happy. I liked the scenes with Gavin the ghost. I liked Gavin's personality.
EPILOGUE: I did NOT like the epilogue, because it was just another sex scene. Who cares? The sex scenes are well written in this book -- I could feel the heat -- but after the first time or two, I lose interest. This book had about four sex scenes. In the epilogue, I wanted to see the family settled safely, with scenes of prosperity and productivity. I wanted to see Michael doing what he was born to do -- breed horses. I wanted to see MORE of Robbie, recovering nicely from his grievous emotional and physical wounds. After all the hell these guys went through, I wanted to close the book with a satisfied feeling of healing and happiness, and all I got was an explicit sex scene and a baby.
The sequel is Terms of Engagement, where Robbie, a grown man, meets his match. Haven't read it. Might do so.
A murder mystery, with strong characterization of central characters. The author writes around varied themes: Overcoming anger, long-term ostracism, parental love, second chances, redemption, faith, child abuse, the foster care system, and the ravages of HIV and hepatitis.
Set in Brunswick, Georgia, near the Atlantic coast and in the Buffalo Swamp marshlands. Takes place in current time and in the past. Told in first person POV, by Chase, a journalist.
This story is heartwarming. The portrayal of Uncle Willy's devoted fatherly love for little lost orphan boys -- and girls -- is beautiful. I loved seeing joy come to the little mute boy, so badly abused. However, his trust came too soon, I felt. After so much abuse at the hands of a man, he'd be slow to hold another's hand.
There are several references to the Bible, but the characters didn't feel preachy at all.
I liked the car, a snorkeling Land Cruiser named Vicky. I liked the funeral scene. Enjoyed the midnight hunt through the streets of Atlanta. Interesting resolution to the stolen diamond necklace.
But the story is also frustrating. Some plot holes. Some long info-dumps about the history of St Simons island and Sea Island. There's an info-dump on how terribly painful it is to die of aids.
As for the villain, this plot has a very disappointing resolution.
Also, I sometimes couldn't tell whether the author was describing a past or present scene. The story kept hopping around in time. This time-hopping drew me out of the characters, away from the story. It reduced the emotional impact.
Narration: Anderson portrayed the character voices quite well. He's not in the same league as Simon Vance, but slightly better than average, except for some poorly placed pauses and a few mispronounced words. Dulcinea, the whore esteemed by Don Quixote, for example. Easy enough to find out how to say it. Listen to the soundtrack or watch the movie, Man from La Mancha. The title was stated in the story.
Another book about an abused child who finds joy and love is ** The Good Dream ** set in about 1960 Appalachia. Loved that story, with only a few quibbles. Loved the narration, too. It's here on Audible
I've read the book several times; it's a favorite Regency-era classic by the immortal Georgette Heyer. The dialogue and plot is light and sparkling with humor. The narrator is superbly talented, but I expected a younger voice for the heroine, Arabella. Nash simply doesn't suit a debutante. I'm puzzled at this mismatch.
Fabulous narration by Simon Vance. I've heard the whole series. Was worried this book would be too depressing. Not so. Liked it more than expected. Profound at times, as Laurence deals with ostracism from folks he'd once called friend — or family. But despite the deep injustice and sadness, I often felt good while reading this one. It's heartwarming and mildly amusing in several scenes, offset by desperate bloody battle.
"Colonel Temeraire" of the 81st division steals the show, along with Perscitia the brainiac beast (a mathematically inclined female dragon who plans transportation and battle strategies, despite her personal aversion to warfare). Loved the idea of all these dragons — considered useless — leaving the breeding grounds (old folks home) to serve under Temeraire's command.
I liked the scenes with Lady Allendale and was pleased to see Gong Su again. The fat Lords of the Admiralty were as obtuse and hateful as ever, especially Mulgrave. Wellesley / Wellington seemed fairly realistic. Admiral Jane Roland was in high form throughout the book, too. Her teenage daughter Emily -- always a favorite of mine -- did not disappoint, nor did young Demane and Sipho. Granby and his fire-breathing dragon Iskierka play key roles, as does Tenzin Tharkay. Hoorah for Tharkay!
There are a few battle scenes, most notably the final confrontation with Napoleon, who managed to invade England (a departure from history). The battle formations (squares) felt authentic, despite the surprise (!) in the center, and Wellington's precise timing did not fail. Admiral Lord Nelson plays a key role in the battle, too.
I could have done without the chapter involving Edith and her husband.
The ending is poignant, set during the voyage to New South Wales. Laurence finds peace of mind about his just act of treason and feels nearly overcome with emotion in finding himself surrounded by a few true-blue friends.
This book reminds me of Lord Thomas Cochrane, the historic figure in naval history. The whole series does, in fact.
Now, we wait for the final book. Book 9. League of Dragons, or bust!
Fabulous performance by Simon Vance, who narrated the entire series. Yay for consistent voices! As for the story, about 3 stars. Good to see the crew rejoined, and lots of vivid scenes in the ocean and in South America. We travel from Sydney, Australia to Peru and Brazil: Lake Titicaca, Old Cuzco, and Rio. Lots of action. Battles and duels and dire straights. Surviving on the edge of starvation. Some deaths and some wonderful feasting and glad reunions. Also, the soothing leaves of the coca tree / bush provide for some mildly amusing bits.
One of the best scenes is towards the end, when the British dragon teams capture several French ships and dragons. Nicely detailed, but not too long or drawn out. I loved the way the dragons worked together, ensuring their crew's safety while taking down the French.
However, I couldn't get into the larger plot: Napoleon allies with the Botswana-based Tswana tribe (who travel to Brazil to free their enslaved kinsmen). Napoleon also attempts to ally with the Incan empire.
Still, I do love this juvenile dragon. He tries so hard to be a better beast, for Laurence's sake, despite his innate fascination with shiny bling, his possessiveness, and his easily ruffled pride.
Simon Vance brought Naomi Novik's fantasy to life. I'm learning more about the Napoleonic War from this series, despite the fictional dragons. It's an entertaining alternate history, close enough to the "truth" in some scenes to trigger my interest (so I look things up, comparing the historic account with the fictional).
I liked this 3-part plot, even if the pacing got bogged down in Prussian campaigning (by committee, with outdated strategies). Loved the characters. Here be dragons! Huzzah for the beast-baby Iskierka and for shrewd, swaggering Arkady! We also get a close encounter with Napoleon and threats from Lien, set on avenging her dead captain.
And here we meet the inscrutable Tharkay, half-Nepalese, half-British, fully ostracized. Totally hot.
Hopeful ending, when Team Temeraire finally gets to go home, escaping from besieged Danzig / Gdańsk. They have been away from home a full year. The journey has been fraught with fear, hunger, cold, assassinations, accusations, betrayals, avalanches, bandits, feral dragons, fire, and bloody bloody battles.
"But the sky ahead was opening up to a fierce, deep, cloudless blue, an endless road of wind and water before them. A signal was flying from the mast of the Vanguard: "Fair winds, sir!" Turner said, as they passed the ships by. Laurence leaned into the cold sea wind, bright and biting. It scrubbed into the hollows of Temeraire's sides to clean away the last of the eddies of smoke, spilling away in gray trailers behind them...
Out ahead of them, Arkady began something very like a marching song, chanting lines answered by the other ferals, their voices ringing out across the sky, each to each. Temeraire added his own to the chorus, and little Iskierka began to scrabble at his neck, demanding, "What are they saying? What does it mean?"
"We are flying home," Temeraire said, translating. "We are all flying home."
"It's a kind of consumption," Lord Lenton said tiredly, turning to the window.
“How widespread—?” Laurence asked.
“Everywhere,” Lenton said. “Dover, Portsmouth, Middlesbrough. The breeding grounds in Wales and Halifax; Gibraltar; everywhere the couriers went on their rounds; everywhere.” He turned away from the windows and took his chair again. “We were inexpressibly stupid; we thought it was only a cold, you see.”
Narrated superbly by Simon Vance. I've listened to the series. This book is among the best. It rocks, even despite the cliffhanger conclusion.
The story begins in England, 1807, then to Africa via the Gold Coast (slaving forts or "castles") to the Cape, then back home.
Perfectly paced, with action scenes nicely spaced by restful times (not quite enough happy bonding times). Some surprising twists in both plot and characterization. (Pastor Erasmus and his wife, Hannah, especially.) I felt the characters more deeply -- their inner turmoil as they made tough decisions, mourned losses, faced death, etc. I found the plot quite absorbing, partly because Novik offers such a wonderful picture of how slavery might have been abolished, in Africa.
Dragons are dying of some sort of deadly flu, so Temeraires and others journey to Africa for the cure -- stinky mushrooms. Big ones. They wind up in Capetown. From there, into the interior, to Tswana territory, Botswana, home of Moshueshue, prince of the Tswana tribe and leader of the Tswana-Sotho alliance of sub-Saharan African tribes. (Somehow, I think he is Shaka Zulu. Or related to him.)
Across the chapters, some characters die, some new characters sign up, alliances formed and broken, a special "egg" conceived. Towards the end of the book, Laurence and Tem are forced to make a tough decision.
Back home in England, Wilberforce and Allendale strive to prohibit slavery, despite Lord Nelson.
On the continent, Napoleon continues to attack, planning to invade England.
Oh, and in Dover, Arkady and the new band of feral dragons settle in. Somewhat.
Temeraires still wants a nice pavilion, just as he saw in Peking.
Cliff: What will become of Laurence and Temeraire? What will come of the two African boys, Demane and his little brother Sipho?
I read that a movie may be in the making. Peter Jackson?
Besides the superb narration, the best thing about this book is Kulangili / Demane and Temeraire / Laurence. Also, an incredibly vivid lightning storm and the wildfire. And such gruesome sea serpents!
But too much bickering among the characters as they trekked across Australia. Traversing the Blue Mountains, the valleys, and the outback from Sydney to Ayers Rock and hence to the northern coast, humans and dragons grew so tiresomely nasty. Ugh. Caesar deserves Rankin. Even little Sipho was a jerk, and Emily Roland.
But I love the valiant, long-suffering Temeraire.
The pacing is slow. Meandering. Chasing smugglers and thieves across the outback. Easter egg hunt gone Aussie.
Also, too many scenes involved the bunyip, or kianpraty, a large man-eating creature from Aboriginal mythology, said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes. Cool tunnels and trap doors, though.
I wanted a better sense of Captain Laurence and Tem coming to terms with their exile. But there are some good conversations and thoughts about this watershed. I wanted more scenes at their new homestead, building a life together.
I chuckled when Caesar hatched. Great scene with Rankin!
I have a soft spot for Forthing; as a homeless orphan boy, he slept in the dragon coverts to keep warm.
Five stars for narration by Simon Vance.
Excellent narration! Hats off to Simon Vance for his Asian accents. Much like the stubborn Brit -- McCartney? -- who dismantled Chinese-English relations by refusing to prostrate himself before the emperor, I won't kow-tow to Vance, but he IS nearly divine. (Even though I wanted the dragon's voice to deepen as he matured.)
In this episode, set in 1806, Captain Will Laurence is ordered — by no less than First Lord of the British Admiralty — to gives his beloved dragon Temeraire (see prequel) to Prince Yongxing, brother of the Jiaqing Emperor. According to Yongxing, the Chinese emperor wants his rare Celestial dragon back, or he may block trade routes, restrict and restrain the East India Company, seize ships and merchandise, etc. According to Chinese law, Celestials are only companions to royalty, and Captain Will Laurence is not royalty. (Or is he?)
They go to China via the British transport ship Allegiance, captained by Tom Riley (see prequel). They are accompanied by Sir Hammond — irritating interpreter and Orientalist — a very protective lieutenant John Granby, and about a dozen other airmen, including cadet aviator Roland, a young female sporting aviator britches.
En route, along with French sea-battles, we get hostility between Captain Riley's sailors and Captain Laurence's aviators. The voyage is long, the ship manned by superstitious sailors. Was that a ghost? Is the Allegiance cursed? And spirits drop further when they get word that the British suffered great losses to the French and the Prime Minister died. (Pitt, if memory serves -- a historical figure.)
We also get super-sized sea serpents, several attempts to kill Captain Laurence, a fabulous fight scene, and dueling dragons. The author created vivid descriptions of the palace, the theatrical stage show, the dragons' palatial grounds, and exotic food, especially the stinky mushroom dish that helped Temeraire get over his flu.
Temeraire meets his mother, his twin brother, and takes a lover, named Mei. Lol. He decides he wants British dragons to have the same rights and benefits as do their Eastern counterparts. His strong sense of injustice is partly prompted by the slave-trade he witnessed as his transport ship rounded Africa.
Sir George Staunton (a historical figure) and Sir Hammond (a credible invented character ) help build an accord between China and England. These characters lend some authentic historical context to the book. The plot thread about Imperial rebellions and potential fratricide / regicide is a stretch, perhaps. Or not. The name and character Yongxing is historically based. Quasi.
Although entertaining, I felt somewhat disappointed in this alternative history. Slow pacing at times, and it was hard to keep track of all the different Chinese names -- for humans and dragons. I needed a cheat sheet.
I said dragons were too much like humans in book 1. Well, this characterization rendition is magnified in book 2. Now we have dragons as full citizens of China, reading and writing, engaging in learned discussions, eating human meals with full complement of exotic spices, side dishes, beverages (tea). Personally, I like dragons to be dragons, with an "otherness" to them. Extreme anthropomorphism here.
I've read the book several times. It's an old favorite by a beloved author. The narrator, Georgina Sutton, has a lovely British accent, and portrays the heroine, Pen, beautifully. She portrays the hero, Richard, fairly well, too.
However, the listening experience was slightly unpleasant to my ears for some of the secondary male characters. Raspy, scratchy, twangy, and in Cedric's case, also goofy. Sutton mispronounced a few words, like inebriated and babble (unless the British pronunciation differs from American English).
I'd go 3.5 stars for the narration, I guess.
As for the story, about 4.5 stars. So much fun! Never formulaic, Georgette Heyer wrote a wide variety of romance novels. This one feels suspenseful yet lighthearted and adventurous. A run-away, a masquerade, a robbery, murder, and a rescue. A fish-faced man, thieves' cant, and cross-dressing.
As with everything Heyer writes, the romance is clean and the relationships develop naturally. Richard is forced to treat Pen like a sister almost, because of their situation.
The murder-robbery plot is sound enough, but nothing special.
As with all Heyer's works, the secondary characters are nicely textured.
Final scene is funny, especially when one considers the societal norms of the time. "Richard, Richard! They can see us from the coach!"
Lighthearted escapade. A romantic road trip. I could almost smell the onions in the crowded coach.
Simon Vance is fast becoming a favorite storyteller, even though I wasn't totally satisfied with how he portrayed the dragon, Temeraire. But maybe as he grows into an adult, his voice will deepen —the hatchling, not Simon.
Alternative history of Britain's battles with Boney. Based in history, but not. A fun story, mixing Napoleonic wars with endearing but deadly dragons, and with Regency-era British society. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Fast paced and easy to follow. I'd give the story 3.75 or 4 stars, and the narration a bit more.
One quibble is that the dragons are too much like humans, but with wings. They didn't feel like something "other" to me. Another quibble is with the "dreaded" training camp in Scotland: for all the foreshadowing, it fell fairly flat.
As a reader (listener), I was privileged to discover what kind of dragon Temeraire would become and what he would eventually be able to do. He's a very rare breed — virtually unknown in England — so this was a little mystery unwinding across the book. No info-dump poured down upon my head in the first chapter. Thank you.
Cool transport battle scene. (Shocking winds at the white cliffs of Dover.)
Sweet bonding between Temeraire the dragon and Captain Will Laurence. I loved these two lead characters, as well as poor, neglected Levitus. I wanted Captain Rankin to lose his seat. At 1000 feet.
Nice blend of action scenes and quiet bonding times between dragon and man. Several secondary characters added nicely to the mix.
This book won several awards and it was Novik's first science-fiction fantasy. Celestial!
It's even funny sometimes, but never slapstick.
I may read the entire series. Or listen to it.
By the way, there's reference to complicit adult sex. Not explicit.
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