The text is engaging, well-paced, and written with a wry sense of humor I find amusing and endearing. Major plot points are predictable (yes, of course those two will end up together, since all literary convention says they must; likewise, they will end up embroiled in misunderstandings and cross-purposes, because that's the trope-in-play) but to an extent that destroys dramatic tension or surprise. The fact that I made it to the second in the series despite the marred narration speaks highly of it; there's sharp competition for my audiobook budget.
The narration, on the other hand, is the reason I'm bothering to write a review.
The narrator's "voices" for each character are generally distinct and recognizable; however, many of the accents used are awkward and artificial-sounding, which ultimately detracts from the story.
Internal and external commentary by the main character are not distinguishable from each other, leaving me too often to wonder if Verity actually said that snarky/cruel/too-revealing thing out loud, or merely thought it. In a plot in which so much pivots on how much each side of a war knows about the other, waiting for other characters' replies to resolve my uncertainty doesn't work; did they not respond to that comment divulging secret information because it was merely something Verity thought, or did the other character simply conceal their reaction to avoid alerting her that she's given away something valuable?
Naturally, this confusion is amplified in a story in which some conversations take place telepathically and thus hidden from other characters in the same room. Did Verity say that out loud where Dominic could hear it, too, so that it goes on my list of "things Dominic could use against Verity if he turns against her", or did she say it mentally so only her cousin the telepath could hear and reply?
It only gets worse when the telepathic cousin sends Verity telepathic messages that Verity responds to verbally. These things are very distinct in the text, where italics are used as a clear visual cue to distinguish things said mentally. The use of a stage whisper (for example) in the narration would have the same effect.
While overall I didn't have to expend much mental energy trying to figure out who was talking, I did end up spending a considerable amount trying to sort out who could actually hear the speaker, something that bears more than usual significance in the plot.
The narrator needs to spend more time practicing certain words. As someone commented in a review of the first InCryptid book, her pronunciation of "Antimony" and "gorgon" are distracting. However, in this second book in the series, her inability to pronounce certain words would have left me utterly baffled if I hadn't had the Kindle text to refer to.
* "apothecary" became "apocethary" -- distracting but decipherable
* "psionic" became "pie-scenic" -- incomprehensible
* "grimoire" became "grimmery" -- confusing and mildly misleading, since "grammarie" is a word in its own right with a different meaning; however, "gramarye" does eventually lead back to the meaning "grimoire" if one is sufficiently familiar with archaic/genre terms.
These are uncommon enough words that their mispronunciation in a general-literature work might not be too awful, but in a genre and a story in which they refer to central concepts, it seems inexcusable not to have taken the time to learn to pronounce them properly. "He thinks he's pie-scenic" encountered in a Chuck Palahniuk novel would still convey "he's delusional" adequately, but listing "pie-scenic powers" as a thing one might have wards against in a fantasy novel does not help the listener understand how such wards might crucially affect the plot.
The narrator should realize that her own unfamiliarity with these words does not make them made-up words with no need for the reader to identify them; these words have real definitions and are used in certain genres -- including this one -- according to conventions and connotations that make them an informative part of the text. By treating them as made-up words that don't require accurate identification, the narrator is robbing the listener of the real information these words carry.
("Antimony" is still consistently "AAN-tee-MOW-nee" -- a correct US pronunciation -- instead of the British "AN-tih-muh-nee", which seems like a minor difference but really makes the name sound awkward. This one might be understandable as an attempted contrast with "antinomy" (antimony is a chemical element; antinomy is a paradox pronounced "an-TIN-oh-MEE") but the narrator's other bungled words lead me to doubt she put that much thought into choosing this less-melodic pronunciation. It's technically correct, but with all the words she pronounces badly or incorrectly, I wish she'd just extended the mangling another inch to using a proper but British pronunciation here.)
Additionally, words and entire lines of text are left out in the narration every couple of chapters, not as abridgments but as clear mistakes that sometimes gut a sentence of meaning. I suspected this was happening in the first book, but didn't have the text to check against. If I'm going to have to buy the text as well as the narration in order to find out what the author actually wrote, I might as well just buy the Kindle book and skip the audio version altogether.
No. Nobody I know would suffer through this narrator.
John Lee, who did a marvelous job with The Three Musketeers.
Not in the slightest. I might have enjoyed the narrative that way, but at nearly 28 hours it would have been an absurdly long sitting. However, I couldn't stand the narrator's reading for more than a few minutes at a time, especially when there was dialogue -- he gave all the characters pretty unpleasant voices, and it seems the more central the character was, the less pleasant the voice he assigned.
D'Artagnan is portrayed as a shouting, unpleasantly brusque man with a half-strangled, nasal voice. While the narrator may have been trying to characterize him as a military type, instead he simply made sure that the most central character was the least pleasant to hear speak. The other central Musketeers are given similarly irritating voices. It's a good thing this book is Whispersync-ready, though, because you'll still have to follow along with the text sometimes to figure out who's speaking; sometimes one character's speech is given in the voice of another for a few sentences (or a few pages). At other points, I had to consult the text to see if strange emphasis were being used to make up a deficiency in translation, and eventually considered whether the narrator might not improperly understand what he was reading; the sense of some sentences was altered or even completely obscured by strange emphasis on small, structural words that should only be emphasized for specific purpose: "The robes OF the cardinal..." and the like. His phrasing was often unnatural and difficult to parse. Really, the narrator sucked most of the joy out of the audio for me. If I'd had the hands-and-eyes time to able to simply read it and leave John Lee's voices in my head for my mental performance, I would have. It was a chore to struggle through this version on my way to the next book in the series, despite the story being not nearly so much inferior, and now instead of looking forward to the next in the series, I'm wary of getting another awful narrator.
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