I guess the other four few reviewers thought the book was great, so perhaps your feelings about this book will be a matter of taste. But if anything I describe here resonates in a bad way with you--avoid this one.
I love retellings, and thought this looked promising--after all, the author promises us early on that we're in for some unique worldbuilding and a fascinating relationship dynamic. Both are hollow promises the author puts very little effort into fulfilling. There's all kinds of potential, but what seems like it will be a fascinating mystery to figure out within the magic system of this world turns out to be only a glittery surface. You soon discover that the author didn't really put the time into working these elements out very well thoroughly and just plunged ahead with her shiny premise. In reality, there turns out to be actually very little mystery to any of it, and very, very little substance to the magic system. You'd think at *least* the romance might be at least a bit entertaining (come on, this is Beauty and the Beast!), but instead it was enormously unsatisfying and emotionally hollow--not because the characters didn't have potential, but because the author didn't put much work into developing them.
I waded through the endless repetitions of the protagonist raging on about her bitterness and feeling guilty about it--not in an interesting way, but in a monotonous way (seriously, this takes up about 3/4 of the book), hoping that the story would bloom at some point--but by the end, I was like, "That's it? REALLY?" The tidy little ending felt utterly false to me. Juvenile in the worst of ways--not in the best. No wonder, no magic, no depth.
All that to say, if you demand a little more substance out of a story--especially one that's been told many times exactly because it has such potential for exploration of its characters and themes--avoid this one, which to me was just another disappointing, hastily-written YA offering. Try either of Robin McKinley's retellings (either Beauty or Rose Daughter) if you're looking for something well-written and satisfying.
Um, "blows Tolkein out of the water"????? I should have taken that hyperbolic review as a warning.
Those of you who loved this series already will hate me, but I'm not writing this review for you--it's for any other potential members like me who will be swayed by the glowing reviews and find themselves 60 hours and $45 later regretting their high hopes. Perhaps I'm the only one who was sucked in by the first part of the first book and then kept waiting for the promised great story...only to find a great deal of mediocrity, clunky plotting, lazy worldbuilding, and writing with none of the fat trimmed. But then again, Audible won't let you write a negative review after returning a book with which you were disappointed.
I should've listened to the reviewer who warned that he/she found the endless scenes of people talking about things incredibly dull. I feel Sullivan had the writing skill and many elements that *could* have made made the series compelling, but after the initial adventure at the beginning of the trilogy, he got lazy with plotting and writing and just sped ahead to meet the demand (I believe these started out as self-published e-books).
I began to lose my confidence during the first Tris & the Galarabrin (sp?) tale as it felt very much like a thinly-plotted cardboard story, but I held on. Then the second book...felt flat and hollow...basically, being randomly made up as the author went along. But I swallowed my disappointment finally (because I liked the protagonists) and bought this book, hoping it would make everything right.
Instead, it promises much and delivers little. It gives off the sense that it's a great adventure, but it plods with endless discussions and backstory that never manages to convince. As much as I liked a number of the characters, they began to fell like stock characters and I started to care less and less what happened to them. Even the competent narrator began to sound bored, and it showed--his reading speed slowed so much that I had to listen on 1.5x for most of the 2nd and 3rd books.
Such a wasted opportunity--again, probably due to hasty writing for the sake of commercial demand.
I really enjoyed the first Riyria book, as simple as it was, particularly for a few of its interesting characters, promising set-up, and what felt like competent writing. This sequel promised more of this--but suffered from a complete lack of focus (or editing). The first part's plot dragged (prepare for discussion after discussion) so that very little occurs until nearly midway, but I was willing to just listen (on 1.5x) and wait, believing that the pace would pick up and everything would come together more elegantly in the second.
Instead, the second part of the book sounded as if it had been cut and pasted out of some ridiculous 50's maritime jungle island adventure book. A it was just that--ridiculous. As soon as they got of the ship, I don't know how many times I rolled my eyes or wondered when something was actually going to happen. Predictable and/or flat plot 'twists' galore are dragged out for no reason other than to take up another full book so that three can be sold instead of one or two. It seems like Sullivan wasn't sure where he was going with the story and just wrote in a lot of filler for fun. (Hmm...I've gotten my fun with the dragon-fighting adventure, ticked off the generic sea adventure gun battle part...now let's put Royce and Hadrian on a jungle trek with typical challenges and lots of shifty 'savages'! Wouldn't that be fun?) No.
The characters are really the only compelling aspect of this rather flat book. If not for my affection for a few of them (namely Hadrian and Arista), I would have zero motivation to find out what happens in the third installment. I'm still not sure I care enough to find out after this disappointingly typical middle book.
Unfortunately, these days this is becoming normal in this genre. The author has an idea for a story...and it gets broken up into 3+ books which makes 3x the money. This here is like a first draft of a part one of an interesting story idea. I really like the world and the concept, but there's very little story arc, and a whole lot of endless repetitive inner dialog. For example:
"I can't believe I'm talking to a mage!" x 535
"Mages are wrong about mechanics!" x 623
"Mechanics are wrong about mages!" x 624
"No way, Mari, you can't like a mage!" x 625 in the last few chapters
Etc etc etc.
There is also endless repetitive detail. For example:
"Alain said such-and-such in a toneless voice without any emotion." x 752
You get the picture. I did care about the two main characters, and I want to know what happens...now that the premise has been set up. But I can't bring myself to spend another $15 to get another barely edited segment that isn't a full story. This book could have been easily a third or even a forth of the length and moved along much faster. But Audible could care less--they're makin money!
I really love Richard Rohr, and was happy to see a bunch of his books on Audible. Sadly, most of them are read by an atrocious narrator, so I've stayed away. However, when I saw that some of the titles here are not audio books but rather, audio teaching, I was excited to try one out. This one was fairly enjoyable, and Rohr's voice is pleasant to hear on 1.5x or 2.0 (otherwise, it's painfully slow on this one as he's reading a script, unlike the others that feature live teaching). But the content--inspired by Francis of Assisi's life and teaching--isn't by far as profound as Rohr's brilliant book Eager to Love. I'd highly recommend buying this book instead (but not the audio book due to said atrocious narrator who sucks the life out of the content) if you're interested in this topic. It's profound and even life-changing, whereas a lot of this content is forgettable.
Brene Brown is great, but sadly, this really has no real new content beyond what you will get in The Power of Vulnerability. If it wasn't so expensive I would be fine with it as it's always a pleasure to listen to her, but this is really not worth the price. It seems like SoundsTrue is just trying to make more money by offering new shorts by Brene that are just more of the same, unfortunately. Just get the latter audio book which is more than 6 hours of teaching, and you'll get all you need on this topic.
Was surprised that the narrator was considered by Audible "Narrator of the Year." Correct me if I'm wrong, but I was amazed that she would pronounce the Danish/German name of one of the protagonists so horribly (Kai sounds like "Ky," not "Kay"). It's a pretty common name. I was able to double-check this within a minute of googling, so it It bothers me that this is often an issue in Audible productions--I'm not sure why it isn't considered important to the narrators--or even that Audible would check on that sort of thing. Not like they have to pronounce everything perfectly--but I'd like to think Audible would care a little more! Shouldn't this be a standard?
I kept thinking this story would get better--after all, the basic plot had so much potential, didn't it? A secret library! Well, no real spoilers, but the book--which ended up taking me FOREVER to get through (I almost quit so so many times but kept thinking maybe it would take a turn)--was a whole lot of nothing.
No real story at all. Just a couple interesting characters--and no real story. You keep thinking something interesting will happen--some twist, some connection between all the random pieces--but there is no real mystery, no real wonder, no real anything.
There are enough negative reviews on Amazon that I should've listened to, but I ended up wasting a great deal of time trying to give this story a chance. What a shame.
If only this were a full-length audiobook of Storycorps' best...that would definitely be worth the $10/credit. If you enjoyed these fabulous stories, make sure you subscribe to Storycorps' podcast. It's an ongoing project that 10x worth whatever grant money they're getting to produce--makes you have hope for humanity!
This is the 2nd book in a 4-book series by the Dyachenkos, but unfortunately it's the only one that's been translated into English so far. Still, the story works as a stand-alone, and is strong in spite of the mystery of the Wanderer--whose identity we would know sooner had we read the first book in the series (which is about his story).
To get to the real meat of the story, you'll have to get past a significant part of the protagonist being excessively beastly--but once the story catalyst takes place, the plot picks up considerably. I'd highly recommend listening at 1.5x (via the Audible app)--the narrator is great, but I found the pace to be far more enjoyable a tad faster. I've discovered that only extremely experienced narrators are able to get the pacing just right--it requires a massive amount of preparation--and good ones sound far more natural--more like they're telling the story rather than reading it--at 1.25x or 1.5x. Try it out.
There were certainly a few significant holes/loose ends in the story, but I expect that this is only because the authors were planning to write two more books after this one. We can only hope that Tor invests more in translations.
If you enjoyed this book, there's a new Kindle book by the Dyachenkos that's currently available in English (called Vita Nostra--not sure why it hasn't been printed yet, though, as it won all manner of Russian awards and has been optioned into a film), as well as a free novella (The Burned Tower).
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