My name is Landon Hamilton. Once upon a time I was a twenty-three year old security guard, trying to regain my life after spending a year in prison for stealing people's credit card numbers.
Now, I'm dead.
Okay, I was supposed to be dead. I got killed after all; but a funny thing happened after I had turned the mortal coil...
I met Dante Alighieri - yeah, that Dante. He told me I was special, a diuscrucis. That's what they call a perfect balance of human, demon, and angel. Apparently, I'm the only one of my kind.
I also learned that there was a war raging on Earth between Heaven and Hell, and that I was the only one who could save the human race from annihilation. He asked me to help, and I was naive enough to agree.
Sounds crazy, I know, but he wished me luck and sent me back to the mortal world. Oh yeah, he also gave me instructions on how to use my Divine 'magic' to bend the universe to my will. The problem is, a sexy vampire crushed them while I was crushing on her.
Now I have to somehow find my own way to stay alive in a world of angels, vampires, werewolves, and an assortment of other enemies that all want to kill me before I can mess up their plans for humanity's future. If that isn't enough, I also have to find the queen of all demons and recover the Holy Grail.
It's not like it's the end of the world if I fail.
Wait. It is.
©2013 Michael Forbes (P)2014 Michael Forbes
I like scifi and urban fantasy. I don't like romance novels. If you are the same my reviews should help.
This describes the main character. He goes from being a part-time security guard to being one of 3-4 people who basically have the entire universe against them He has to help maintain the balance between good and evil because if either side wins humanity ultimately loses. Combine this with a scenario similar to Greatest American hero, where the good guy loses the instruction book for his powers and you have an interesting ride ahead.
This is a well written book. The story is action packed and the author knows how to write a good fight scene. The world is interesting and takes a worn out old trope and breathes some new life into it. The main character has to fight both heaven and hell, so you get a perspective most books never cover.
The narrarator did an excellent job. He had a great range of voices and each was a distinct character. My only complaint would be that the character development was pretty thin. Hopefully this will improve as the series develops. There is a lot of potential for conflict. Right now the bad guys are winning so it is easy for the protagonist to justify what he does. it will be really interesting if the good guys get the upper hand and he has to start thinning that herd.
Overall, a fun and entertaining book. Balance is definitely worth a credit if you are looking for a new series to follow.
The author was able to take the cliched theme of Heaven vs. Hell and give it a refreshing twist. The addition of a third side to the classic war between good and evil, a side that can never win but must always prevent one of the others from winning, really gave this theme the shot in the arm it needed. Heaven vs. Hell stories are a dime a dozen, but this one really shined. The characters in the story, despite their supernatural nature, were believable and felt very real. The protagonist, Landon Hamilton, quickly becomes a fleshed out and viable character that one can enjoy routing for.
There were several moments that count as memorable and it hard to pick just one. However, the initial scene between Landon and Josette stood out. Their interaction was particularly well written.
Another difficult thing to answer. So many good scenes! If I have to pick one it would be the scene during Rebecca's birthday party. Landon really begins to shine during the climax of the scene, showing that he's more than just a 'one trick pony.'
I found myself laughing often. Subtle and well placed references to modern real-world pop culture not only were entertaining when they came up, but helped make the world the author created feel authentic and just as real as ours.
There isn't a specific place for this, but I want to point it out. The narrator did an outstanding job in my opinion. His voice characterizations were varied enough that each character felt unique, and he gave each a personality that made them feel authentic. By the end of the first chapter I was sucked into the story, in large part of how well it was being read.
[Just to be above board, I got a free copy from the narrator. I've tried not to let that fact sway my review.]
First off, the story: Balance is a very quick pace supernatural action story. The story starts where many finish: with the death of the main character. Upon dying he finds himself in purgatory before being told of an epic battle between Angels and Demons. Yes, the same one people have been writing about forever. But this is a little different, in that Landon is told there is actually a 3rd party that is in the battle - one who sole purpose is to ensure that neither of the other sides win and that the fight is always kept in balance. Landon is roped into being on this side (to me a rather depressing thing, because there is no way he can ever win. there is no end game for him). As an enemy of both angels and demons he is sent back to earth to keep the world in balance.
I found the characters all interesting and varying. the only one that struck me as too unbelievable was the most normal of them all. Or at least the only major non-paranormal one. The friend, Obi, is a ex-military drill sergeant, crack shot, computer hacker, paranormal specialist. There can't be many of those in the world. But then maybe there is only one and the fact that Landon found him is some sort of divine gift.
The action was great and (mostly) unrelenting. It did slow down at times for a few deeper conversations and moments. And also for a few "info dump" world building moments. The only one of these that felt really off and forced to me was one of the early ones contained in a letter/instruction book.
The only other annoyance (I'm mostly mentioning things that annoyed, but I really did enjoy the book) was the cliffhanger ending. There was some resolution to the book but not that much. It clearly is set up as part 1 of 3 or something, rather than a self contained book that happens to have a sequel.
Over all 3.5, edging towards a 4. Audible's lack of nuance in scoring makes me give it a 4.
Narrator (and audio production): This was really good. It was clear the narrator put a lot of effort into the narration and the production. Effects were used for monsters voices to give them a stronger sound, each character had a clear and distinguishable voice, and inflection on things like sarcasm or fear or anger were clear.
The only thing of it that I found a little off and jarring was laughter. When characters laughed the narrator did the typical chuckle that narrators do, but also added an additional laugh on top of the narration. Possibly to make the laugh sound more real, but if didn't really work for me.
Overall the annoyance with that was minor, so I would say narration etc is 4 / 5.
The newness of the concept. The grey-scale story of a black and white world.
Obi was because of his humanity and interesting background.
Josette. He did such a fantastic job of the young girl's voice.
I giggled a few times.
Think the show Supernatural on a larger more balanced scale.
The best part of this book is that it takes the mythology of our current spiritual ethos and turns archetypes into relatable characters. In the story it's effortless for me to suspend disbelief about concepts like heaven, hell and purgatory. I feel like the story might be plausible even though I particularly don't really view those concepts as a part of reality, just by the frankness and cadence of the book.
I found the scene of Rebecca's birthday party was the most memorable, with that world of the well-dressed vampire class. The whole book has that charm of "Interview with a Vampire" or "Buffy the Vampire Slayer", and the action is just as riveting.
I have listened to several of Jeff's books now and I find this to be one of his most technically precise performances. I realize this is one of the more challenging pieces for him to read, partially due to all of the different female characters and strange beings and the amount of time he has to focus on portraying them. I like the female character Josette's portrayal the most.
Every day the battle between Good and Evil wages on, but when you look closer you see the real battle is the one fought by those who know it can never stop.
If you are very much, good is the only way of thinking and all others must die, stay clear of this book. If you're like me, and you've got an open mind but you still lean towards good, you'll kind of enjoy this book. If you have no opinion at all, this book is for you.
Killing demons - I'm on board with that. Killing bad humans - I'm okay with that. But the idea of someday killing angles and other creatures widely considered good and that idea being a good idea...I struggled there. I'll grant you that Balance is a strange and original idea of Religion and the battle between good and evil, it's just not one I want or choose to like.
Let me continue by praising what I should. The characters are fantastic. I'll give Forbes credit, he truly made you see the world and especially the character and who they were on both a spiritual and physical reality.
The idea of this book is fantastic. A new idea in a new system. If it wasn't for the idea of some day killing angels and thinking that it is somehow the right thing to do, I'd love this book.
In the end, there's a reason Forbes is getting praised for this series. I just can't deal with the idea that Angels are no better than demons.
I was a little hesitant at first, I find that sometimes this particular genre of sci-fi can be a bit trite and rehashed, but BALANCE was awesome. For starters, the author does a great job of steering clear of the redundancy of traditional angel/demon movies and books. Each side, good, evil and neutral, is developed within the traditional constraints of the group, but by adding such human characters and free will to each group, the traditional lines between them become blurred. In terms of an audiobook, I really like this. I felt as though Landon, Josette and Rebecca were my traveling companions for the week. While I was fighting traffic on K-10, they were fighting fire demons from Hell rifts, which is essentially the same thing. But seriously, the character development really allows the listener to bond with the characters in a unique way. In terms of narration, it couldn't have been better. The booming and echoed audio mimics the demons ubiquitous voices perfectly (or so I would imagine, I don't have any personal experience with demons). The accents applied to dialogue were perfect and really added to the character development. I highly recommend this book to avid sci-fyers
Again I'm looking for a series that will knock my socks off and I hope I've found one to just that. Story stays on point and their is no whiny hero. Excellent narration by Jeff Hays and the cutting out of all the HE SAID & SHE SAID is something every director should do.
I will probably listen to more of the series, not sure I would go back and listen to this one again or not.
I really liked the narration in this book. I personally think Jeff Hays made the book better than it was, fantastic job by him.
I was surprised at liking the book. Several of the angel books are utter crap and this one was pretty good. The ending was a little bit of a surprise, figured something was going to happen, but that was a nice twist.
Some of the Dante parts are somewhat strange, in as far as the mythos is concerned. I like books when the good guys aren't all good and was pretty happy with how the character developed throughout the book.
I'll say this, his idea of having a 3rd player in the good v evil tale as old as time was great. BUT his characters all seemed very simple. The lead just going along with everything and not having any intense emotion for this massive change to his life/afterlife was crazy. He sort of doesn't have any real emotion through the entire book except in the end which I can't describe for obvious reasons. That being said, I am going to get the second book in the series because I want to see how or IF the author further describes the mythos of purgatory. Also, I don't understand why the author brought in a character ex-marine/hacker when the lead is supposed to be a hacker to begin with. Its like, why?
I don't know if I can actually credit the narrator on this because I think the tech used to modify the angels/demons voices did most of the work. His voice was smooth and soothing to listen to though. A bit lacking in emotion , but I think that was because of the writing and not the narrators fault.
I'm going to give the author another chance to hook me into the story with book two. Hopefully he fleshes out the characters and story more in the 2nd.
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