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Lord Valentine's Castle Audiobook

Lord Valentine's Castle

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Audible Editor Reviews

This classic science-fantasy novel by legendary author Robert Silverberg tells the story of a man named Valentine, an amnesiac on the world of Majipoor who must find out who he is and what has been done to him. Given that he shares a name with the Coronal (King) of Majipoor, and the name of the book is Lord Valentine's Castle, it is reasonable to assume that this man with no memory is the deposed, rightful ruler of Majipoor, and Valentine slowly learns that this is, in fact, the case. Although that plotline was not the most original of ideas even 30 years ago when Silverberg wrote the novel, the brilliance of the story is in the journey, not the destination — both in the literal and figurative sense. For Valentine's journey from amnesiac peasant to rightful king does take him on quite a literal journey — a fascinating travelogue of the strange, magical world of Majipoor in which Valentine, and the rag-tag troop of jugglers he associates with, eventually uncover the truth of Valentine's heritage.

Some authors write prose that speaks so distinctly that it needs no embellishment from a narrator. Silverberg is such an author, and so Rudnicki, being one of those no-frills narrators who basically acts as a conduit for the listener, is an ideal choice for narrator. His performance is understated but compelling — and it is that understated nature of his reading that is largely responsible for his appeal. Rudnicki is not going to dazzle you with his range of voices or other vocal trickery; instead, he keeps things basic, and for the most part just conveys the author's text and keeps out of the way, making listening to an audiobook read by him akin to reading the book yourself.

Some folks just know how to tell a story. And when you get two natural-born storytellers like Silverberg and Rudnicki together on the same project, the result is quite an unforgettable journey. —John Joseph Adams

Publisher's Summary

The planet Majipoor is shared by humans and several alien races, including four-armed Skandars, three-eyed Liiman, and the native, shape-shifting Metamorphs. All are watched over by the King of Dreams, the labyrinth-dwelling Pontifex, and the priestess of the Isle of Sleep, while the Coronal officially rules from atop Castle Mount.

The Majipoor Cycle begins as young Valentine, a man with no memory, is hired as an apprentice juggler by a group of eccentric performers. While the traveling troupe takes to the road, Valentine's sleep is disturbed by nightmare visions of warring brothers and difficulties on faraway Castle Mount. In a quest to discover who Valentine really is, his wise and peculiar companions resolve to help him claim the rewards of his birth. But another trial awaits Valentine that will test his belief, resolve, and strength of character.

©1980 Robert Silverberg; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (259 )
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  •  
    Jefferson 08-16-16
    Jefferson 08-16-16 Member Since 2010

    I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    ""And Can You Juggle as a Skandar Can?""

    “And then, after walking all day through a golden haze of humid warmth that gathered about him like fine wet fleece, Valentine came to a great ridge of outcropping white stone overlooking the city of Pidruid. It was the provincial capital, sprawling and splendid, the biggest city he had come upon since--since?--the biggest in a long while of wandering at any rate.”

    That's the charming, mysterious start to Robert Silverberg's sf-that-often-feels-like-fantasy novel Lord Valentine's Castle (1980). Valentine is a laid-back man unconcerned that just about all he can remember is his name. A 13-year-old herder called Shanamir takes him under his wing (thinking he might be simple), escorting him into Pidruid, where the boy plans to sell his "synthetic" mounts at market during a big festival to honor the once every 20 years visit of the Coronal, who rules this world of Majipoor. That the Coronal's name is Lord Valentine doesn't impress Valentine, who says that it’s a common name and that he sure wouldn’t want the burden of ruling “over billions upon billions of people, across territories so huge we can’t comprehend them.”

    If at this point we match the title of the novel with the name of its protagonist, we might suspect that we're in a Special Protagonist with Amnesia story, if not an Unjustly Deposed Ruler out to Regain His Rightful Place story. We might even recall something like Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber (1970). Valentine, however, isn't driven to discover his identity and soon joins a troupe of wandering jugglers led by a Skandar (four-armed bear-like giant) because he's intrigued by the art and by Carabella, a young lady juggler. But wait! He learns to juggle suspiciously quickly and capably, and after the troupe performs before the Coronal, he feels soiled and drained and begins dreaming provocative dreams involving violence, the Coronal, the Pontifex (the ruler of the bureaucracy of Majipoor), and himself. And then he has a Dream-Speaker interpret the dreams, and--

    Much of the early pleasure of reading Silverberg's novel comes from wondering when and how Valentine will learn his identity and what has happened to him. Indeed, when all that comes out in the first "Book" of the five that comprise the novel and Valentine gets a goal, things become more predictable and less interesting. But there is still much to enjoy because Majipoor is a world "full of wonders," because Silverberg's writing is pleasurable, because he explores duty, destiny, identity, memory, history, performance, love, dreams, the divine, self-control, social interaction, and cross-cultural understanding.

    Majipoor is a giant, airy world poor in metals and fossil fuels, but rich in flora and fauna and geographical features. Although it's currently a backwater planet neglected by star-faring civilizations and doing little inter-planetary exploration or trade, 14,000 years ago humans from Old Earth settled there. And in the past non-human species ranging from tentacled Vroon to two-headed Su-Suheris immigrated to Majipoor. The 20 billion citizens of various races and environments live in culturally diverse and historically rich cities, each with its own architectural styles and urban layouts, from tree houses to "frozen poetry." Apart from remnants of ancient advanced technology (e.g., floater cars, vibro blades, and dream sending devices) and "magic" that seems mostly telepathy, the people of Majipoor seem to live in a pseudo-Medieval fantasy civilization.

    Millennia ago the human settlers won a war against the indigenous Metamorphs and confined them to a reservation-like prefecture on one continent, since when there have been no armies or wars on Majipoor. The harmony derives from the balanced system by which the Pontifex rules the bureaucracy, the Coronal enforces the laws, the King of Dreams sends admonitory and punitive nightmares, and the Lady of the Isle sends dreams of love and calm. Nevertheless, unfinished business between the Metamorphs and their conquerors still festers.

    Silverberg depicts Majipoor with affection, imagination, and fine prose. It's a beautiful place ("Cascades of dark leaves, tapering, drip-tipped, glistened as if polished by the rain") and an exotic one: "the [psychosensitive] plants had folded their intricate compound leaflets in the course of the quarrel and looked shriveled and blackened for ten feet on all sides of him. He touched one. It was crisp and lifeless, as though it had been torched. He felt abashed at being a party to such destruction." And just when I'd become numb to yet more descriptions of new places and plants, Silverberg introduced a great conception, the Labyrinth, a vast, multi-leveled subterranean city of bureaucrats, "Multitudes of toiling clerks in the kingdom of eternal night."

    There is much humor in the novel, whether situation-driven (as in a satiric sequence where Valentine plays two feuding bureaucrats off against each other) or character-driven (as with Lisamon Hultin, a Conan-esque giantess bodyguard, or Deliamber, a diminutive Vroon wizard).

    Juggling is a key motif in the novel. It is not, Valentine learns, merely an entertainment, but a way of life, a friend, a creed, a species of worship, a poetry, a mathematics, and a balance. When juggling he reaches a quiet place, a meditative, selfless ecstasy. And he can apply the art of juggling to life situations.

    With his rich baritone, Stefan Rudneki reads the audiobook well. He does neat non-human characters and boldly sings various songs. Perhaps he should distinguish Valentine's accent, which his friends say differs from theirs.

    Lord Valentine's Castle recalls Jack Vance and Gene Wolfe (vast history, various cultures, ancient tech, episodic travelogue plot, etc.), though Silverberg writes more appealing characters than Vance and a lighter story than Wolfe. People who like vintage sf/fantasy set on huge, culturally and environmentally diverse worlds would probably like it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    T.Stick 06-30-14
    T.Stick 06-30-14 Member Since 2014

    History, Historical Fiction, Science Fiction, Fantasy

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    "Pulled me in but not quite all the way!"
    Any additional comments?

    Grand in scope, intriguing potential with highly imaginative topography, alien races and overall story. I just felt the actual banter between Valentine and his various friends to be be shallow to dull which left not one character as someone you really cared about. The fantasy world is huge and extremely creative and I would recommend this to anyone who likes the old formula fantasy with a hint of sci-fi.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Susan 09-24-12
    Susan 09-24-12
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    "An old friend revisited"
    What made the experience of listening to Lord Valentine's Castle the most enjoyable?

    I read this book a number of years ago and was happy to find it on Audible. It didn't challenge my intellect or make me want to take up a political cause - it was just a fun futuristic/medieval romp. Sometimes those are the best books.


    Would you be willing to try another book from Robert Silverberg? Why or why not?

    Sure.


    What do you think the narrator could have done better?

    I liked the narrator - his voice was smooth and he didn't overdo the drama in his voice. It was delightful.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    It wanted me to dust off my juggling balls.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Jeff Tallahassee, FL, United States 09-05-12
    Jeff Tallahassee, FL, United States 09-05-12
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    "Highly Recommended"

    Loved the book when it came out over 30 years ago. Some SF/Fantasy books dont hold up over this length of time but this one surely does. The story is riveting and the narrator fantastic.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    inna PROVO, UT, United States 09-03-12
    inna PROVO, UT, United States 09-03-12 Member Since 2009
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    "just a good story"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    yes, because the story is a little different.


    What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

    It end about the way I expected.


    Have you listened to any of Stefan Rudnicki’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    I hear Stefan perform on other book and he is always give a good performance.


    Could you see Lord Valentine's Castle being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

    No.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Michael New Orleans, LA 05-03-13
    Michael New Orleans, LA 05-03-13 Member Since 2014
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    "Help! I'm Drowning In Poorly Written Mysticism!"

    I HATE reading good scifi or fantasy writing saddled by a smothering theme.

    It's like having sheet cake...The WHOLE sheet cake. It's cloying at the end of the day.

    Despite the wonderful alien races, simple strong writing, interesting characters, and a great plot. THEN...That crazy wacky King of Dreams. SO much planet-spanning messages to everyone in the night, so many blurry analogies, hidden godly wills, and a mishmash of mysticism and religion.

    It just pulled me away from the core of a great novel.

    Please understand, religion in fantasy is commonplace. Look at Jordan's Wheel Of Time series as an example of religion woven smoothly into fantasy writing. It works. It strengthens the entire story, and is one of the essential underpinnings of the entire series.

    Here, not so much.

    I hate that I love this work, and am equally frustrated by it's poorly driven religion. I finished the work, and hoped that this would end in the first novel. Nope. It got worse.

    I'm VERY confident that some of you will disagree, and that's okay. This is MY opinion, and I have to be true to myself.

    Sorry, Robert, I really tried.

    5 of 11 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Ben Bauer 04-20-16
    Ben Bauer 04-20-16
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    "Ok performance, awful book, zero stars "

    This was one of the worst written stories I've ever heard. The writing is lazy, disjointed, and many times sounds like a middle school student authored it. The audio was acceptable, although the reader's attempt at different voices was inconsistent. Any female character sounded whiney and about to cry.
    I cannot believe this book won any awards. I only finished this train wreck for completion sake.

    0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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