Bitterwood has spent the past twenty years hunting down dragons, one at a time. But he is getting old and the hate that he has carried in his heart since a group of dragon-soldiers killed his family is beginning to fade. When he kills the royal prince dragon, the king decides the only retribution is genocide of the human race. Bitterwood is forced to enter the Free City, the grand trap designed to eradicate mankind, with thousands of others. Can he lead from within, or can a select few dragons unite to stop the king's madness from becoming reality. Full of rich characters and drama, this is an amazingly astute vision of our own culture by way of a feudal kingdom where dragons rule, and humans are used as workers or pets.
©2007 James Maxey (P)2013 James Maxey
I am an audiobook enthusiast who reviews audiobooks for his blog, The Guilded Earlobe. You can find me on Twitter @guildedearlobe talking about zombies, robots, monkeys and audiobooks.
On the surface, Bitterwood is a typical fantasy revenge thriller. Bitterwood, the main character, is on a mission to kill all the dragons in the world. The dragons rule the earth, and keep humans as slaves or pets. Plus, they killed his family, so what kind of fantasy character would he be if he didn’t vow to wipe them off the face of the earth. So, for years he carried out his revenge, until, the rumors say, he died with a band of rebels in the Southern Rebellion. Then, years later, during a competition to determine the next heir to the throne, the King’s son is slaughtered, his dead body found riddled with Bitterwood’s signature dragon feathered arrows. That of course, pisses the King off. So, he decides the best way to deal with Bitterwood, and those who harbor him, is to wipe humanity off the map. While many dragons find his genocidal policy abhorrent, few are willing to stand up to the King.
Maxey piles layers and layers on top what seems like a typical fantasy story. He builds one of the most intriguing Post Apocalyptic worlds I have seen in a while, yet, doesn’t dump it all on your head in one big scoop, but doses it out expertly, changing the story both subtly and drastically. By the time you reach the satisfying ending, you aren’t reading the book that you thought you were. One thing that I found intriguing in this book is the dragon’s portrayal. Not being a huge dragon fan, I had no biases or expectations on how dragons should act, yet, if I had to guess, it wouldn’t have been like this. What struck me early was the Anthropomorphism. These dragons displayed some shockingly human traits and emotions that I wasn’t sure how to react. Was this just bad writing? I highly doubted it, being the book was so well written. The dragon characters, no matter how human like, were well developed personas. If fact, their complexity, and political savvy rivaled many of the human characters that show up in the Big Fat Fantasies like Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire. Yet, as the world became more and more revealed, the dragons become more and more understandable, and by the end, these dragons were exactly what they should be in this tale. Don’t make the mistake of comparing these dragons to what dragons should be. Their character is what is important, not being able to fit them into comfortable stereotypes. Fans of Stephen King’s The Dark Tower, and David Gemmell’s Jerusalem man series should cheer this offering by James Maxey. He fills a much needed void in the world of Action Sci/Fi Fantasy.
So, did I love Dave Thompson’s narration with the heartfelt joy of angels and comfy pillows? Well….No. But, I liked it… I swear, I did. There is definitely a rawness to this production, just a touch of a hiss in the background that isn’t super noticeable except for during breaks when it falls away. Yet, I feel this rawness served the story well. What Bitterwood may lack in the polish of a big time studio production, Thompson makes up for his grasp on the story and these characters. He brings all the vast wonderful dragon characters to life in ways I didn’t expect. One of the reasons I feel I enjoyed this story more was Thompson had a gruffness to his voice that gave these dragons a quality that separated them from the human characters, When I read it in print, I sometimes had trouble remembering that these characters were not in fact human, and this was an issue I never had in the audiobook. I liked that Thompson also knew his limitations and stayed true to a minimalistic style. He didn’t try to go all girlish and falsetto for the kids and female characters. In fact, I thought he did an excellent job with Jandra, just softening his voice, allowing us to know it was a women speaking. This method gave her a soft confidence that worked well with her character. Thompson definitely knows how to tell a story, and the finale of this book came alive in all its gruesome detail. Again, I was mesmerized by the ending, both sickened and surprised by what was occurring, often frustrated with the characters while fearing for their safety. All this came across well in the audio version, with nothing feeling rushed. As I said upon finishing this book, Dave didn’t give me ear herpes. Which is a good thing! I am glad to finally get a chance to revisit this novel in audio form, and am quite happy with the production as a whole.
I have enjoyed both the print and audio versions of Bitterwood. I would gladly experience either, but audio books are so convenient and bring the action to life.
I got back into epic fantasy with James Maxey's Bitterwood, Storm Front by Jim Butcher and Elantris by Brandon Sanderson. I enjoyed each of them, but just comparing each volume on it's own bitterwood was my favorite.
Dave Thompson did a wonderful job of bringing to life a variety of characters and making each sound unique. He did a wonderful job as an aged dragon scientist and as a scared 9 year old girl. He kept each voice unique and filled each line with the appropriate pathos and emotion. He even did a few animal sounds, singing and sound effects. I hope he does the rest of the trilogy.
This book is epic. It has elements from fantasy and science fiction. It is in different turns humorous, action packed, dramatic and the surprises keep on coming. It keeps you guessing right to the end.
I received this audio book as a free review copy, but I had read and loved the book beforehand. I asked for the review copy so that I could express how much I enjoy this book and author and encourage others to give it a try.
An extremely good fantasy story of humans and dragons.
Dave Thompson did a fantastic job, keeping the story flowing with consistent unique "voices". I could listen to him all day. Look forward to hearing more of this narrator.
ummm.. hi.. be my friend..
Terrible audio quality covers an terrible book. Glad it was a discount book and didn't waste a credit.
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