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.
I like Jack Reacher style characters regardless of setting. Put them in outer space, in modern America, in a military setting, on an alien planet... no worries. Book has non moralistic vigilante-justice? Sign me up! (oh, I read urban fantasy, soft and hard sci-fi, trashy vampire and zombie novels too)
It's not poorly written. The characters are not just stereotypes. The premise is different enough from urban fantasies...
So, why was it so darn uninteresting?
There is no glaring annoyance that ruins this story, it just is too... "I don't really care what happens to any of them". There is no real sense of angst or pressure and, while it's technically a story about good versus evil, we aren't really led to care one way or the other about which side prevails.
It might just be that the main character rode a middle ground (sat on the fence) so we couldn't root for him to "win" - especially since "winning" required, really, that he not win at all (a.k.a. his goal was to keep the balance, not to defeat one side or the other). And, if you can't root for the protagonist to "win" against obstacles, why read it?
I won't be reading any more in the series - I need to root for someone in order to enjoy a story. I need there to be a winner and a loser and some tension that makes me care one way or the other.
The narration is very good. There is nothing gory or graphic. No sex, and I don't recall any swearing.
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.
Good narration. The accent took a little to get used to but was well read, good speed and gave life to the the characters and the story.
No extreme reaction but it held my attention.
I didn't love the book. The story was interesting and had a ok plot line but I didn't love it. It was unique though. A good listen I just didn't love it.
This was a purchase made on a whim since I am such a Sandman Slim fan and have exhausted all of the current books of that series. I must say that from the moment the author began and on till the end, I was captivated. The protagonist, contrary to my expectations from previous entrant novels, didn't whine and moan about how life is unfair and instead was willing to stumble through various trials and challenges head first (a real go getter). I am quite pleased with this read and will surely be devouring the entire series. If you are a fan of Harry D. , Sandman S., or Atticus O. then this series is worth a shot.
What do you even say about yourself on an audio book site? I like books? I don't have time to read anymore so I listen?
I am always finding myself madly in love with anything narrated by Jeff Hays. This book particularly was astounding both due to his narration and the fairly good writing.
If you have read Interstate Dreams recently then I suggest giving it a little time before you jump into this book. I could not help feeling as though the main characters sound very similar at times. So much so that it was occasionally distracting. Both are great stories and performances however, so don't let the similarities discourage you.
I'm hooked on the series, despite what I found to be an obvious ending. I'm torn between picking up the entire series and listening back to back or getting into some of the other books in my awaiting library.
I really enjoyed the way the author took a new spin on the battle between Heaven and Hell, with having the main character be a balancing force and a new perspective on Armageddon and the Rapture.
What intrigued me was that M.R. Forbes could have ended the book about halfway through on a cliffhanger, but I really enjoyed the build-up to a major scene and then brought us back down and then built up to the final confrontation and battle.
Jeff Hays did a very good job vocally, clearly enunciating the words and not over acting the characters actions. Jeff's voice is also smooth and there was no jarring breaks or cracks during the reading.
His ability to perform all the characters including both male and female added to the immersion in the story and he was able to distinguish the different characters that I had no trouble following a conversation without needing to have it clarified which character was speaking at which time.
I would have liked to listen to the book in one sitting, but at just over 9 hours it definately would not have been feasible.
This was my first foray into Audiobooks and it won't be my last. For a first audiobook this experience was very enjoyable and I will definately listen to more audiobooks.
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.
Good idea, however so many holes in the story leaves you frustrated that he doesnt use his other powers..
worth a listen tho
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