Kell is one of the last Travelers - magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes. As such, he can choose where he lands. There's Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, ruled by a mad King George. Then there's Red London, where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. There's White London, ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. And once upon a time, there was Black London...but no one speaks of that now.
Officially Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they'll never see - a dangerous hobby and one that has set him up for accidental treason.
Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cutpurse with lofty aspirations. She first robs him, then saves him from a dangerous enemy and then forces him to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.
©2015 Victoria Schwab (P)2015 Tantor
"There is much more to explore in this amazing world from the acclaimed author of Vicious." (Library Journal)
I thoroughly enjoyed the character of Lilah. She was driven by real world needs and not by some stupid infatuation. She is a badass in her own right and can take care of herself in most situations. I liked how the male lead and female lead worked together without wading through layers of sexual tension. A very enjoyable listen.
I very much enjoyed this book, and not just because I got it free via the Ford Audiobook Club. It's very well written and well-paced, and was an interesting take on the old high fantasy trope. I loved the alternate dimension Londons and how they reflected different emphasis on aspects of humans and their interaction with magic. Kell's story and Lila's were both compelling and richly resonant with the themes of the books: entitlement, responsibility, the search for identity, self-reliance, social commentary, etc. I loved their banter and thought they worked very well as foils for each other. I appreciated that the romance is kept to a minimum, more a loyalty than a swooning uncertainty.
The "feel" of this book in pseudo-high fantasy historical setting, atmosphere , and writing style reminded me of Michael Sullivan's Riyria series, but Schwab put her own stamp on them. Very enjoyable.
The narration by Stephen Crossley was well done, particularly for Kell. I'd have liked a second narrator for Lila, but Crossley did fine for a single person narration.
Two great passions - dogs and books! Sci-fi/fantasy novels are my go-to favorites, but I love good writing across all genres.
Victoria Schwab starts this high fantasy with a great concept. Four parallel worlds whose only commonality is a central city called London. When Black London is consumed by magic, all the other Londons are sealed off from each other to prevent the spread of the consumption leaving only the Antari who can travel between the 3 remaining Londons. Oh, and there are only two Antari left. One of the Antari, Kell, travels regularly between the Londons delivering messages between the monarchs and doing a bit of smuggling on the side. But Kell's side job leads him into a trap that sets up the plot and introduces him to Lilah who joins him in the adventure.
I think this basic scenario could have been developed into a really interesting tale, but that potentiality is NOT realized. First, it takes a full 4+ hours for the book to progress to the real starting point; more than four hours to find out almost nothing more than I just wrote in that first paragraph! Schwab writes with some classy, lyrical prose, but just doesn't really say much. She is downright stingy with information so you get a lot of description, but little understanding about the characters, the magic system, or the point of anything.
The two Antari, Kell and Holland, seem like they might be interesting, but Schwab seems to want to keep these two so mysterious that you don't get a chance to know them. It's hard to invest in characters you don't know. Lila has a lot more personality, but she's hardly likable. A cut-purse and occasional cut-throat, she's very cavalier about taking a life.
Steven Crossley has a nice voice, clear diction, and decent character voices (fitting accent for Lilah especially). Only one minor bone to pic with the narration. Crossley uses a rather rough voice for the character of Kell which made me picture a man of 35 - 45, but Kell is actually very young. I was shocked to remember this a couple of times when the author referred to the character as a youth or a young man because I kept picturing him as much older due to Crossley's voicing of the character.
Ultimately, I spent 11+ hours with these characters and this story and just never got engaged - at all.
A great first read for a new fantasy world, with interesting characters and excellent world building. The narration was nuanced and smooth, but the one downside is that Crossley has a gravely deep British accent that makes his female characters just a bit tough to identify with. This is one of the sacrifices of single narrators though, and after a while you stop hearing the Monty Python men-dressed-as-women effect!
Todd W. Brown
While I was not overwhelmed by this book, it offered a decent premise and an interesting story. K L is the focus with the ability to move between the various Londons that exist in this magical realm. As I said, there was nothing groundbreaking, and often I found myself sort of waiting for something to happen, but in the end, it proved to be a satisfying read/listen that entertained me.
Probably not, at least not until the next one comes out. The story was pretty simple and the narration wasn't great at times in my opinion. It seemed like he missed the tone of a lot of the interactions of the characters at times, though I'm not sure how much of that was me misinterpreting it or him.
I liked the concept of the story. The idea of multiple London's was cool, and I liked a lot of the backstory of the characters. As far as how events played out in the story, I think there was some weird stuff that happened that maybe wasn't a direction I would have expected but that's not necessarily a bad thing, and it definitely kept things interesting. I was concerned by about the halfway point because it seemed to me like the story was slow to start, but overall I was satisfied with how it turned out. Towards the end I didn't want to put it down.
The performance was ok, but at times I found it hard to listen to. For certain things like spell names and words in fictional languages I understand it can be hard to have a good interpretation of what things should sound like, but I definitely found it difficult to stay with the narrator when he was reading them. I appreciated some of the things he added, with details such as a mostly clear voice for each character - though like I mentioned earlier it seemed like the tone was not always conveyed correctly to me. Also accents for some characters sometimes seemed like they were slipping - which I also acknowledge can be difficult to keep straight. It didn't ruin my enjoyment, but there were definitely scenes where it took me out of the moment.
There were definitely a few moments which made me crack a smile but nothing extreme like laughing or crying.
I'd say it is a worthwhile book to pick up if for no other reason than it's a cool concept. I'm probably likely to at least try the second one when it comes out for what it's worth.
Why did they have someone who's 60-70y/o reading for characters who are mostly in their 20's??? Plus he made all the women sound so whiny, every time Lila talked a cringed. Thank god this was free. I'll listen to the second book of they have a different narrator, otherwise I'll just get the book.
I'm always looking for a well written fantasy book. And I find them very hard to find. But I really liked this book. She's a great writer and the story is really captivating. The characters are likable and complicated and the world is fantastic. The ideas are rich and the plot keeps twisting and turning. Best of all the author has a strong moral compass and although there are battles and fights--they are fighting for good.
If you love the Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter and even Howl's Moving Castle you will be delighted to discover this great new fantasy book.
I can't wait until the next in this series comes out.
Also, the reader is superb.
I had my hopes set too high for the second book by VE Scwab. It was a good story, the performance was excellent, but it was too reminiscent of other dark magic stories by any number of authors like neil gaiman or ransom Riggs.
It's definitely a good story but if want to read something mind blowing read her first book, Viscous.
I probably shouldn't even review this since I'm typically not a fantasy genre aficionado. I received this book free as part of the ford audiobook club. I liked lord of the rings, Harry Potter series. Some zombie/vampire books. But to get my attention they have to be smartly written. Keep you thinking. This book seemed like there were no rules. Like the author just wrote and made stuff up as she went. Introducing random rules (like magic has to be verbal) and then breaking those rules in the next chapter with a "hey here's a new rule". It seemed just sort of silly. Maybe I'm just looking at it too literally.
The performance was just fine with the exception of his strange need to rasp out the magical incantations in the same weird voice for every character. It grated on my nerves.
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