tl/dr: Firm SF as told by a military genius after being fired from Disney for being too OCD.
Weber tends toward feel-good, protagonist centric plots, heavily seasoned with detail- this is no exception. This isn't hard SF exactly, but there are none of the technological eye-rollers found in most character-heavy SF. Moreover, the precision and accuracy of his tactical combat narratives are as compelling as they are verbose; I replayed a number of engagement scenes for the same reason I watched 'The Usual Suspects' more than once. 34th century weaponry on a 19th century alien planet as told by a friendly narrator with OCD? Yes, please.
This is not a post- apocalyptic fantasy, it's not science fiction, and it's not even remotely plausible. S. M. Sterling is in such a hurry to remake the world into a SCA nerds dream, that he has turned the survivors into chain-mail clad master swordsmen, powerful-but-good witches, and castle dwelling evil overlords inside of six months. That bears repeating- he feels that six months is a reasonable timeline to recast modern civilization into functioning, self sufficient fiefdoms with knights and mead and castles everything. He should have at least taken a break and learned to write inner monologue, because simply writing two paragraphs of flowery ren-fair drivel and wrapping it up with, "..., he said to himself." is awkward and confusing. I regret finishing this book because it made me dumber.
Thank you, Mr. Sanderson, for revitalizing the Wheel of Time series. Brandon Sanderson's Mistborn trilogy is one of the best fantasy epics I have ever had the pleasure to read, and his contributions to Robert Jordan's Magnum Opus is similarly excellent. Jordan had lost his muse; I felt like WoT 8 through 11 were a bit phoned in. Brandon has managed to bring back the magic of the early books while staying true to Jordan's theme and style. I highly recommend this and The Gathering Storm to WoT fans.
This is a terrific novel. The prose is outstanding, the story is enthralling and very well executed. If it were better narrated, I would probably have listened to the thing straight through- it really is that good. Apparently, however, Mr. Brick was wronged by the author in some way, for which his performance here is malicious retribution.
Imagine, if you will, the voice a kindly grandfather as he reads the last page of The Velveteen Rabbit- the depth of emotion; the moving pathos of love and loss; the crooning melancholy of a lullaby. Good stuff, no?
Now, imagine the same delivery- but this time it's not a lovable yet heart-wrenching children's book. No, no- this time he's reading a thousand or so pages about nightmarish genetically engineered dangerously insane bloodthirsty immortal vampiric monsters. Let it suffice to say I found the narration incongruous with the subject matter.
Halfway between Anthony's Xanth and Gaimon's Coraline, Abarat is too mature for kids; it's just right to rediscover the elusive feeling that only a well-told fairy tale used to provide. Cozy, hypnotic fantasy- enjoy this one on a long car trip, or on the couch with a glass of wine.
I'm usually not one to complain, but I barely made it through this one. The plot and characters were underdeveloped and unimaginative, the narration was one-dimentional and strange (Over-Enunciated), and I thought worst of all was the author's dire need of a thesaurus. I'm all for onimonipia, but not everything on earth goes "snap". I'd pass this one up.
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