I really enjoyed the book when I read it, but the narrator gives every male character a harsh whispery tone that really turned me off. Ugh.
The "Dragonsbane" is the hero of song and story, about whom bards sing ballads. He's the great warrior who slew a dragon ten years ago.
Gareth, a young nobleman from the king's court, is fond of dragon ballads. Idealistic -- and desperate — Gareth comes north to seek aide in killing a new dragon ravaging the king's southern territories. However, he is surprised at what he finds, for the legendary warrior — bane of the dragons — is simply John Iverson, bespectacled, bookish, plain-speaking, hard-working lord of the north, caring deeply for his people, carving a hard-won life from the winter lands, the hinterlands.
Gareth also finds Jenny, a witch, the love of John's life, the mother of his two young sons. But not his wife.
Although Gareth and John play key roles, as does the dragon himself (cool creature, great characterization) and the villain (a credible cretin, and so very vile), this book is primarily about Jenny's journey of discovery.
Across the chapters, she discovers her powers ("the heart of magic is magic. A Mage does magic"). In the end, she discovers her heart.
For some reason, her dawning realizations didn't deeply engage my own mind or tug on my heart. Maybe she thought too much, repeating herself, leaving little interpretation or guesswork for me. Maybe it's because her sons were never brought to vivid reality, so I couldn't care enough about them. I thought Jenny almost foolishly wishy-washy.
This is a fantasy, complete with kings, wizards, gnomes, dragons, and treasure, but there's a touch of romance. Almost a lover's triangle, in some scenes.
Great narration by Derek Perkins, except he made John sound like a country bumpkin — which he is according to the text, and by his own frank admission — but I couldn't fall in love with him because of that portrayal.
This book brought to mind Raven's Shadow and Raven's Strike, a duology by Patricia Briggs. An emperor seeks help from a country farmer in ridding his lands of a shadow. However, I liked the Raven series more, because I grew to care more about the characters.
3.5 stars for this predominantly heartwarming coming-of-age-in-politics piece, but fantastic 5-star narration by Kyle McCarley. Well-modulated British accent fit the characters nicely.
The story itself was not what I expected. I thought this would be a politically-focused fantasy, with magic and mystery abounding. Well, there was a wee pinch of magic, occurring only once or twice in the entire story. There was a mystery, but it stayed in the background for the most part.
This book could be any realistic narrative about day-to-day events as a young, untrained, unwanted boy (named Maia -- pronounced Maya -- age 18) takes over his suddenly dead father's throne as emperor of the elves. The light-skinned, white-haired elves. But Maia is only half-eleven, since his mother was a goblin. His skin and hair is dark. This brings to mind racial tensions, but honestly, the author didn't expound much on the potential for bias.
Instead, Addison chronicles the day to day transformation of Maia, from a frightened, under-confident, ignorant, and yet kind-hearted young emperor to a wise, compassionate, confident, beloved, and grace-fueled leader. The entire book chronicles the first season of his reign, from winter's first snowfall to the heavy spring rains.
Maia was ignored by his cruel father (the elven emperor) from birth. The emperor rejected Maia and his beloved goblin mother. At age 8, when his mother died, he was sent to live far away in the marshlands with only an abusive drunk and some servants. He received no proper education.
When he arrived at court to rule at age 18, he was regarded with suspicion and disdain. However, he consistently strove to repudiate his ego and repress his need for vengeance against those who ridiculed him, abused him, attempted to kill him. Instead, he focused on fulfilling his duty to the people. This included building bridges -- of one sort and another.
Quibbles: It grew a bit boring at times. The characters were difficult to remember. Too many similar sounding foreign names and words to keep track of, and the audio has no glossary, unlike the book. Also, I saw no reason for his abusive cousin Setheris to reasonably expect anything from him. I didn't like his constant need to apologize or beg pardon for no good reason. It grew tiresome and didn't befit an emperor -- as he was advised by his capable secretary, Scevat. (Plus, I don't like being around people who apologize continually. Makes me feel irritable.)
Maia was almost too good-kind. Not quite credible, nor fully likable. I'm not necessarily a huge fan of grimdark fantasy, but this went too far the other way. I liked Maia best when he showed his "human" side -- expressed interest in beautiful girls, delighted wonder at the model bridge the clockmaker built, grew irritated with having to wear so much jewelry, missed his mama, and told Severis off.
Probably won't read a sequel, if one is written, but maybe. Despite my quibbles, I found it oddly compelling. Would probably like it better after a second listen. Quite decent writing, easy to follow (except for the exhaustive and highly confusing invented language).
Kingdom-level fantasy with strong elements of magic, mystery, and political conspiracy. Pitch perfect narration. Easy on the ears with discernibly different voices. No irritating breathing sounds, affectations, or mannerisms.
As for the story, it's got vengeance, vivisection, resurrection, and insurrection. Political intrigue via golems and hedge witches, science and sorcerers, magical paintings and magical trees (a lá Hogwarts), and steampunk-ish spheres melding magic and technology. There's Unsealie Court Dark Fey and cute garden fairies, too (but not a dragon in sight).
(I listened, didn't read, so names may be misspelled.)
It's captivating, somewhat heartwarming, fast-paced and coherent. The story is set mostly in a fantastical rendition of old world London (Lodun) and Vienna (Vienne). Horses and carriages, ball gowns and butlers, telegraphs and ... sewers. (Lots of action down in the sewers.)
The good guys are a band of thieves, a likable cast of ne'er-do-wells reminiscent of Robin Hood. The leader of this gang is Lord Nicholas Valliard (aka Donaten the mastermind thief). His team includes Madeline, an actress and master of disguise (his lover); Cusard, a lock-pick thief; Captain Raynard, a calvary officer wrongfully discharged; and Crock, a prison escapee framed for murder.
Then there is Nicholas's friend Ariselde, an opium-addicted sorcerer, and Isham (Ariselde's manservant). Eventually Madele, an old hedge-witch, joins in.
And there's a queen -- fabulous character. In fact, nearly every female in this story is strong: Madeline, her grandmother Madele, the queen.
Plus, serving the queen is the tenacious and perceptive Inspector Sebastien Ransward, along with his discerning colleague Dr. Halle.
The villains are varied and many, but Nicholas primarily is after Lord Montesq, who fabricated evidence to frame his beloved adoptive father Edouard, which led to his hanging. Of course, he's first got to put a stop to the Necromancer.
I like how this author writes, slowly revealing character traits and pertinent life stories, weaving these tidbits into the story over time. Also, she avoids long info dumps, doesn't try so hard to convince me that her magical theories hold water, and goes easy on the internal dialogue, so the pace isn't mired in needless and redundant thoughts. She lets me draw my own conclusions about what the characters might be feeling and thinking. I appreciate this so much.
This is straight fantasy suspense. Sometimes gory, gruesome, scary. No real romance, since Madeline and Nicholas are already openly in love and cohabiting on page one. Yet their devotion is cool!
There is a touch of bromance, however, among the members of this Ocean's Eleven team. Crack loves Nicholas, especially. And an intriguing relationship sprouts between Nicholas (channeling a kinder gentler Moriarty) and Inspector Ranswald (a more socially adept Sherlock).
Some good plot twists.
My only quibbles are minor: A little too pat at the ending, and I'd be willing to sacrifice some high-octane action scenes and skullduggery for bonding time around the fire. Phew! These guys never get to rest! (Except for poor opium-soaked sorceror, Arisilde -- another fabulous character). Some parts are predictable.
It's all good. Not sure I would listen to it again and again -- as I do with favorites -- because it didn't totally pull on my heart strings. But maybe I will.
Superb narration by Derek Perkins. A five-star performance! The narration improved on the story, I believe, which is saying something. His voice is easy on the ears and distinctly different for dog and man.
This biographical account is based on personal diaries, BBC footage and reports, and military documents.
The "story" begins in France late in 1939, when native Czech Airman (bomber) Robert Bozdech is shot down in France, over enemy lines. Hiding out with his wounded pilot in an abandoned farmhouse, he discovers a starving newborn German Shepherd, whom he names Ant / Antis. Unable to abandon the puppy to certain death, he hides Ant inside his jacket and crawls through thick snow across "no man's land" -- bombs dropping from both sides, narrowly missing Robert, Ant, and his pilot Pierre. Within fewer than 24 hours, the young warrior pup is already defending Robert and Pierre.
In the months and years that followed Antis would save lives several times. This decorated dog rescued civilians buried under rubble in shell-shocked, battle-worn Britain, alerted men and women of incoming attacks at various Royal Air Force bases, and flew alongside his best friend in Wellington fighter planes.
This account focuses more on the tight bond between dog and man, less on the war itself. Still, there are some interesting war nuggets: Hitler's Czech invasion, Czech airmen joining the French Air Force to fight Nazis, France falling to Hitler, French and Czech soldiers fleeing to England to join the RAF and continue to fight Nazis, the bombing of Britain (so much bombing!), various bomber planes (Wellingtons, Liberators, etc.), and the place of dogs in the military during war (most pets were not allowed during war, so this story is unusual).
Various secondary characters added much to my enjoyment of the story.
The quality of the writing is good, not great. The story felt heartwarming. I chuckled several times, and held my breath with worry a few times, too. The pace flowed quickly. I learned something about the war from this unlikely perspective.
However, some overused phrases (e.g., "he looked deeply into his dog's eyes") cost the book one star, along with the rushed ending. I wanted to know more about Robert's wife and son in Communist Czechoslovakia, and more about his postwar life in England.
Fabulous narration by Mary Jane Wells. In 1919 England, at a lonely mansion where moors meet sea, 21 "mad" soldiers convalesce from WWI, suffering PTSD. But ghosts that reek of rot and whisper sweet suicide in the patients' ears really inhibit their recovery.
To this bleak place comes Kitty Weeks, age 20-ish, masquerading as a nurse, fleeing her own murderous father. She's resilient and courageous, but not foolish. And she recognizes the mysterious "patient 16" immediately. Soon enough, they join forces.
Engrossing, this dark gothic suspense novel. There's even a lovely bit of romance. Heartwarming in a few scenes, as the "madmen" bond against evil and remember who they are.
Quibble: The characterization of the hospital matron shifted midstream. What??
Some reviewers felt the plot faltered in the second half. Not so for me. Maybe Wells' narration made the difference. Plus, in the second half we got some heartwarming soldierly scenes and some tender love scenes.
Excellent narration by Jennifer James Bradshaw. She differentiated the voices, and sounded not "sexy" (as someone said) but mellifluous, with a smoothly modulated voice.
As for the story itself, please excuse any misspelling of names, since I listened only. I liked the developing relationship between the healer Tristan (a sylvan, a green magic user) and the empath Riella (escaped slave turned horse whisperer and spy). That was nicely handled, even though Tris pulled a fast one, and should have had to grovel more.
However, the plot is weak. The final resolution didn't hold together well, because of a sudden character shift. I couldn't see "the prophet" as anything but a slave trader and rapist. His link with "the night god" didn't make sense, since this god was known for providing refuge for the weak, by covering them in darkness, hiding them (not raping or enslaving). Thus, the prophet's characterization went wonky, when Briggs tried to re-draw him as benign, just because he helped... Never mind. No spoilers here. Also, the whole cats plot thread went nowhere, really. I expected more of that.
This is part of a series, but it can be read as a stand alone, no problem. Overlapping characters are the spymaster (Wren) and the aeMagi.
Contents include rape, murder, and torture.
Ignore the title. No dragons, except in a game and a memory.
I liked this one, but didn't feel thoroughly engrossed. Didn't bond deeply to the characters, but I liked them quite well, and bonding may occur in the sequel. My favorite characters are the wild cat (a ralynx?) and the young empathic "sensitive" Cammon. (Spelling may be off.)
The fantasy elements are somewhat interesting. The plot to overthrow the king made sense, and I was intrigued about the old queen's sudden death followed by the king's hasty new marriage. Intrigued by the princess, never seen.
The romance was okay, but a bit uninspired. The dialogue is decent. Some good fight scenes. Some cool fire-Mage magic.
No swearing. No sex. Nothing too violently gruesome. A clean family-safe fantasy.
Fabulous narration. Top notch! As for the story, this is book two of two, a short fantasy series with wizards, ghosts, vampirism, trolls, mistwraithes, wolf-shifters, elemental gods, specially gifted "Travelers" and a little romance. I really bonded with the characters, first introduced in the prequel, Raven's Shadow. They became real to me across these two books. I want to see more of Seraph, Tier, Jes, Hennea, Lehr, Rinnie, Emperor Phoran the 26/27th, and his two loyal guards. I even loved the big black dog and the old war horse.
Suspenseful, heartwarming, engrossing, and fairly novel. Some grim scenes. Some black magic. Some bardic storytelling, song, and campfire camaraderie, to balance the darker bits. A villain not immediately obvious to me. Great scenes of fierce marital love even after 20 years. Authentic and well-sketched kids (ages about 10, 18, 20) play key roles in both books. Loved watching this family fight shadows together! Loved seeing the kids come into their own. Young Rennie learns to control winds and weather. Lehr learns to hunt, track, and open locks. And Jes learns to integrate his two opposite personas: empath and warrior. Kudos to Briggs for these two books.
My only gripe is that sometimes the author goes on too long, trying to explain how her magic works, what the "orders" are, who the gods are, and how to bind -- and free -- a person's spirit-entwined order (gift).
A lovely ending to this duology, but I wish it wouldn't end yet. How about another, dear author? Maybe Lehr could get a story. Or Rinnie.
Fabulous narration. Top notch! As for the story, this is book one of two, a short fantasy series with wizards, elemental gods, specially gifted "Travelers" and some romance. I really bonded with the characters introduced in this book. They became real to me across the two books. Wish Briggs would write another book, making a trilogy of it. I want to see more of Seraph, Tier, Jes, Hennea, Lehr, Rinnie, Emperor Phoran the 26/27th, and his two loyal guards. I even loved the big black dog and the old war horse.
Heartwarming, engrossing, and fairly novel. Some grim scenes. Some black magic. Some bardic storytelling, song, and campfire camaraderie, to balance the darker bits.
My only gripe is that sometimes the author goes on too long, trying to explain how her magic works, what the "orders" are, who the gods are, etc. But that happens more in book 2 than in this book.
The narrator is probably fine for most listeners, based on the reviews and ratings. For me, her voice modulation was a bit shrill. After 30 minutes, it began to grate a bit. Also, I didn't much care for her vocal characterization of the hero, Sam.
The story itself was better when I read it, compared to audio. I love the beginning chapters, where Sam and Jane get to know each other. Great car wash scene! Some funny one-liners. Decent dialogue.
Some parts of the book are skip-worthy, so when reading, I just skim past the sections involving the other three women (Marci, Lena, and TJ) and their love life. I grow impatient with the pages (and audio minutes) spent on this. Instead, I focus on the main characters, Sam and Jane. I also flip past the pages depicting the bloody murder. Repeated explicit sex gets boring, so fast forward there, too.
So, I'd give the book almost 4 stars (because I skim past the sections I don't care for). In audio format, it's hard to skim over unwanted sections.
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