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.
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.
Wow. Animal lovers, listen up! Awesome narration by Simon Vance. I could listen to him forever. Utterly captivating and heartwarming animal story / memoir.
This "true" account is absolute joy, even though there are some anxious and sad times. Deeply profound. I felt so good while reading it — never wanted it to end. I cried a bit, too.
(Be advised, invented spelling -- I've no clue how to spell Zulu names, given the audio format).
While the main focus is on the supposedly rogue elephant herd, there is much more to this book: fearless family dogs, deadly crocs and snakes, several rhinos, Zulu traditions, uniting five tribal lands, post-Apartheid ravages, assassins and poachers, flooding rivers, raging fires, etc. Never a dull moment.
Hoorah for Lawrence Anthony, instigator of Thula Thula animal reserve, in Zulu-land, South Africa. He wrote his story without conceit. He seemed grateful for his good fortune and honest about his mistakes. I felt his joy, frustration, anger, and pain. There's some preaching or soap-boxing, but it's minimal and bothered me not at all.
Lots of love to Nana, the wise old matriarch elephant, and to her fiercely protective sister Frankie. Love to Nanzham the adolescent orphaned bull, and to baby Thula, wrong-footed but right-hearted. Highest regards to my poor traumatized orphaned adolescent girl, ET. Huzzah for all the brave dogs, especially Max and Penny.
Kudos to the local Zulu chieftain / king and his equally noble son: Oonkosee Bielah and his son Thee-why-Oonkosee-Bielah (no clue how to spell Zulu names).
Hats off to Françoise, and to the rangers David, Brendan, Bekkah, etc.
What a book! What a fabulous narrator!
3.5 stars for entire narrated anthology, with some 5-star selections. A mix of old and new material. I didn't like paying again for stories I've already bought and read -- and even listened to some cases -- in order to obtain the new stories.
Unlike many listeners, I'm not nuts about Lorelie King. Her voice gets a bit abrasive after awhile, and she doesn't differentiate enough from when Mercy is thinking to when she is speaking. The male narrator was fine.
Below, the title and my rating for each story. The story synopsis comes directly from the author's website, patriciabriggs.com.
Previously Published Stories
Alpha and Omega. 4 stars. Good story, but I liked Holter Graham's narration much better. From Briggs: The first novella about Anna and Charles, which led to a whole spin-off series.
Gray. 3 stars. I'm simply not a big vampire fan, unless it's Stephan. Briggs said: A vampire buys the home where she lived with her husband, which has fallen into disrespair. She begins remodeling the place, only to find that old and beloved ghosts still linger.
Fairy Gifts. 3 stars. Not a vampire fan. From Briggs: Mining towns are rough and human life is cheap. In the turn-of-the-century Butte Montana, a young man, turned to a vampire, struggles with his nature and eventually finds a measure of redemption in an unlikely place.
Seeing Eye. 5 stars. A scary and slightly heartwarming story. From Briggs: White witches are rare, and seldom as powerful as their morally-compromised counterparts. In this story, a blind witch teams up with a werewolf on a mission.
The Star of David. 5 stars. Great Christmas story. From Briggs: Being a werewolf can wreck havoc on family relations. This is a story of how murder and deception can bring a family together . . .
In Red, with Pearls. 4 stars. Interesting, with surprising plot twists, and intimate scenes with Warren and Kyle. From Briggs: Warren is a werewolf, and a private detective. This is a noir-flavored story about some truly terrible neighbors and why you should always treat a werewolf nicely.
Silver. 4 stars. A bit long, but it served the purpose of laying the foundation for Samuel and Arianna. Cool Hobgoblin, Haida. Sorry to say that we didn't get to see Bran go Berserker. From Briggs: This is probably the only depressing story I've ever written, and it was a hard story to write. This covers how Bran and Samuel were first made into werewolves, and how Samuel first fell in love with the Ariana. Of course, as we learned in Silver Borne, things have to take a tragic turn.
Outtake One, from Silver Borne. 3 or 4 stars. Well written and poignantly sweet, but so short. From Briggs: After the tragedy of Silver, I had to remind myself that with long life comes the opportunity to overcome the past, and forge a better future. Samuel and Ariana have another chance at love, and they're determined to make it work. This is an outtake from Silver Borne
Roses in Winter. 5 stars. Brava to Azil and young Kara. Plus, glimpses of Bran and Charles. From Briggs: A young girl survives a werewolf attack, and is transformed into a werewolf. When she wasn't able to control the wolf, she was moved to Bran's pack. The law is absolute: if a werewolf cannot learn to control the wolf, they must be destroyed for the safety of all. With hope fading, Asil intervenes.
Redemption. 2 stars. 14 women?? Really??? As written, I cannot quite buy into Ben's characterization or his redemption. Too simplistic. And for limited space, far too much text is wasted on IT / technology filler. From Briggs: Ben's got a quick temper, and a quicker tongue. He's also made a bet that he can stop swearing for a week, and it just might change his life.
Hollow. 4 or 5 stars. Good little ghost story, suitably scary and sweet. Briggs: A wealthy recluse is haunted by a terrible ghost, and asks Mercy for help. What could possibly go wrong?
Outtake Two, from Night Broken. 3 stars. Nice enough. Very short. Nothing too surprising or especially memorable here. From Briggs: A bit that I wrote in Adam's viewpoint for Night Broken.
I would have enjoyed this enchanting, heartwarming, and occasionally funny paranormal regency romance much more if I'd read it, because the narrator gradually wore me down with her über-articulation. Every syllable sits up straight — even the ones that should be more relaxed — every t is ttttotttally sharp, every d is dddistinct. She pronounced the word ducal wrong every single time -- at least a dozen. "Doo-call" she said. The doo-call crest. Gahh. And she totally mispronounced livery! Hello?
What a shame, because this narrator has a voice I could listen to for hours on end with pleasure. Mellifluous. Expressive. Authentic portrayal of various emotions. Male voices are credible.
But the overly stressed pronunciation distracted me from the story.
An amusing yet poignant story, if predictable and redundant. I thought the heroine was stupid at times, but I liked her interaction with Stephan. Wish he'd shown up earlier.
Lots of explicit sex. Lots of roses.
Nothing to sneeze at. ;-)
Superbly narrated by Derek Perkins. He's a pro. As for the story, it's action-packed, coherent, and mildly complex. Good dialogue. Gruesome. Some sections are vividly gripping, some parts went on too long, and some scenes are just plain sad. I think King Roland -- so lacking in self-esteem -- made the greatest impression on me. His portrayal felt realistic.
However, the weak king is a secondary character. I didn't get into the main characters. I wish Wells would devote a greater percentage of the text to characterization and relationship development. She is strong on plot and action -- which is important -- but I need to care about the characters, and that means I need to know them, individually and as a team.
So, after half a dozen false starts, I finally got into the characters just enough to stay the course. This is primarily a kingdom based fantasy, with a romantic relationship on the side. I didn't get deeply drawn into the story of Kade and Thomas, because his past affair with Queen Ravenna overshadowed it.
The fantastical elements include shape shifting, wizards, wards, dark fey from the Unseelie Court, light fey from the Seelie Court (Tatiana and Oberon).
Lots of unnatural disgusting creatures. Lots of bloody battles. Treason, court intrigues, and various betrayals. A few kisses. Cool scenes of the castle, home of the Queen of Darkness and Air (aka Kade).
I liked this book, but not as much as her award-winning The Death of the Necromancer.
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).
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