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).
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.
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. ;-)
Report Inappropriate Content