First off, George Guidall does an excellent job of narrating the book. He really channels the characters; a rather harder job than most narrators are faced with because Wecker has done such a fine job of crafting distinctive characters. Most narrators employ pitch and accent to differentiate characters: Guidell employs pitch, accent, timbre, intonation, pace, and emotion.
In the book the impulsive fire of the Jinni discovers the timorous clay of the Golem and each is forced to change their outlook to accommodate the other's. This while the wide cast of supporting characters dance their parts in precise choreography to achieve (almost) full closure.
The book has its flaws, but to dwell on them would be a gross disservice to its many merits.
Gregg Hurwitz is capable of writing well, but this book does not reflect it. It is poorly paced, the characters are caricatures, the dialog is stilted, and the subplots detract.
The reader is competent enough, but not good at differentiating between voices or infusing the story with enthusiasm or emotion.
I found it tedious and skipped ahead to the final chapters for closure. If I missed anything it wasn't evident.
Fantasy is in some ways an extremely forgiving genre; the reader is generally far more invested in enjoying the story than in critiquing its logical consistency or literary merit, and fantasy is seldom competent or compelling.
Also, problems that hide themselves from the casual reader only become obvious when you listen to a reading. Incessant unnecessary attribution (he said, said John, Jill asked,...), repetitive phrases intended to add some kind of cultural verisimilitude but conveying no real information (God willing, Insh'Allah, ...), pseudo dialects intended to differentiate between characters etc.
Blood Song suffers from none of these flaws.
Having dismissed the technical issues that destroy most fantasy, we can address the substance: the fantasy itself.
A feudal world harboring warring kings and emperors. Six (or seven) sects that train their disciples in specialized skills ranging from healing to war. A boy is trained in the harshest school (the Sixth) and comes progressively to learn of an ancient and awful enemy he must face.
Not much on the face of it, the skeleton common to so much fantasy, but this one is different. The characters are distinct, their dance complex.
The narrator tells the story without embellishment or artifice, and it suits the story well; it needs neither.
The writing is competent and the story has some merit, but not sufficient to drag on book after book. Three books down and no closure in sight.
I am frankly now too bored by the series to pursue it any further.
Pro: The author has talent. His characters are distinctive. He crafts his plots and the timeline with skill. His invective is extremely inventive.
Con: The main protagonists are not compelling. All lamps are "alchemical lamps" to the point of utter redundancy. There are other flaws, but the first three books have sufficient merit to bear them.
Ultimately, where the author fails is in crafting a story with a beginning, a middle, and an end. An interminable saga with no closure is not a story, it is a soap opera script.
There are lots of books whose main merit is that they pass the time. They are not great literature, but they entertain nevertheless. There are very few authors who can make characters come alive, can plot a storyline that entrances the reader, who can describe events or a scene so that they leave the page and enter the imagination. I know this, I accept it.
But the writing in this book is truly awful, even by my unexacting standards. The noise to signal ratio is overwhelming. The characters are flat and interchangeable. The dialog is riddled with "shrugs" and "chuckles" and every other kind of meaningless body language that detracts from meaningful dialog. The utterly empty phrase "without hesitation" is repeated ad nauseam. The hero has every physical accomplishment but lacks everything else: libedo, intelligence, self awareness, humor, ...
The reader does a very creditable job but the book is unsalvageable.
Heyer's magic is woven in dialogue, a cast of disparate characters, and a web of events that culminates in full closure. Abridge the dialogue, characters, and events and you destroy the story.and its closure. The Grand Sophy is one of Heyer's best works: abridging it maims it.
Long winded with very little resolution. No strong protagonists or antagonists. The phrase "we push ice, that's what we do" is supposed to resonate strongly with the reader. Heavy emphasis on tablet-like computers called "flexies" - people are always flicking out their flexies or charging their flexies or taking photos with their flexies. Unlikable, interchangeable characters.
Another one of those thrillers which takes an unlikely path to achieve a tortuous but entirely predictable twist in the plot. The characters are interchangeable and the plot is irrational.
I discovered Kage Baker looking for authors similar in style to Jack Vance. Can't say I detect the similarity.
As for the story. The narration is superb. Raouf has a great emptional range and her diction is clear and compelling.
The story itself is labored in places, but Baker raises some interesting points extremely well. Her premise (that immortals work amongst us mortals and that they too question the meaning of life) works well, but she gets a bit bogged down in romance and religious hysteria.
If you enjoy this book then I recommend Jill Payton Walsh's Knowledge of Angels.
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