Reaching far beyond sword and sorcery, The Scar is a story of two people torn by disaster, their descent into despair, and their re-emergence through love and courage.
Sergey and Marina Dyachenko mix dramatic scenes with romance, action and wit, in a style both direct and lyrical. Written with a sure artistic hand, The Scar is the story of a man driven by his own feverish demons to find redemption and the woman who just might save him. Egert is a brash, confident member of the elite guards and an egotistical philanderer. But after he kills an innocent student in a duel, a mysterious man known as “The Wanderer” challenges Egert and slashes his face with his sword, leaving Egert with a scar that comes to symbolize his cowardice. Unable to end his suffering by his own hand, Egert embarks on an odyssey to undo the curse and the horrible damage he has caused, which can only be repaired by a painful journey down a long and harrowing path.
Plotted with the sureness of Robin Hobb and colored with the haunting and ominous imagination of Michael Moorcock, The Scar tells a story that cannot be forgotten.
©2012 Marina and Sergey Dyachenko (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
"Rich, vivid, tactile prose, with a solid yet unpredictable plot—and an extraordinary depth and intensity of character reminiscent of the finest Russian literature." (Kirkus Reviews, Starred Review)
Hey Audible, don't raise prices and I promise to buy lots more books.
This was one extraordinary book, one that I could not stop reading / listening to.
While this husband and wife team have been writing and receiving awards for books since 1994, their works are, for the most part, in the Ukrainian and Russian languages. Written in 1997, The Scar is apparently the first to be translated into English and has only come to Western shores this year. While this is the middle book of a trilogy, unlike other trilogies, this installment stands quite well on its own though I hope that the remaining installments become available in English. I cannot wait to read them. These are masterful writers.
While not one for spoilers, I will only say that this is a book of the fantasy genre that, while there is sorcery and sword-fighting, none of it is gratuitous. While there is a great deal about love, there is not too much romance. For my liking, all of these were good attributes. The book is about great courage and great cowardice, self-discovery and redemption. This is a wonderfully rich and vivid story about our humanity, our psychology and the nature of both. For me, perhaps the most powerful aspect of the book had to do with the power of forgiveness. This is story-telling at its best.
When beginning to listen to this book, I was already engaged (but not engrossed) in listening to one and reading another literary work of fiction. I was becoming drained by the complexity and work that I had to put into both. The Scar’s simplicity allowed me to just relax and enjoy one of the more remarkable books I have read/listened to. While simple in its parable-, morality play-like nature, it still had the depth and richness of quintessential Russian literature. The characters are richly and completely drawn. The plot is riveting, surprising and unpredictable to the end. The prose, perhaps owing to the translation by Elinor Huntington, is engrossing, lyrical and poetically beautiful.
The narration by Jonathan Davis did justice to the book. Sometimes narrators are so good that they draw one’s focus away from the book and toward the performer. For the most part, that was not the case with this selection. The narrator disappeared and the book revealed itself in all of its beauty. I will say this, though, there are passages in which the narrator’s voice became possibly a bit too stentorian. That was a distraction for me but the passages were few and far between. I think that it was a personal thing and I will not dock him for it. He did a superb job.
Rating this book is difficult for me. Thinking out loud, I would like to give it 5 stars but I gave that number to The Brothers Karamazov. 4 stars might suggest that the book was less than stellar. I would like to rate it within the context of the rest of the trilogy because of some unmentioned comments but two-thirds of that are unavailable. So, in the interest of enticing you to rather than dissuading you from reading this masterpiece, my fine reader of reviews, 5 Stars it is. You will not be disappointed.
Download this book for the sheer beauty of listening to it-- it's such an aesthetic pleasure the story hardly matters. I suspect Jonathan Davis could narrate a dishwasher assembly manual and make it enthralling. Davis's exposition is like a gently flowing sylvan stream beckoning the listener to explore its charming bends. On the other hand, listening to his dialog is more like listening to a dramatic reading of a play than a book, the voices of the characters are so distinct and read with such drama. After listening to this book, I checked out samples of some of his other narrations and found them good, but not nearly as entrancing as the voice he takes on for this book. More, please! The only downside is that his dialog is SO dramatic it often goes from a shout to a murmur, sometimes quite quickly. While the performance is wonderful, the extreme volume changes can create a logistical headache. Some of the quieter conversations, particularly involving female characters, required me to dial the volume way up.
I also think I have literally never read a book translated from another language that flows so beautifully and has such a lovely and natural style of prose. Translator Elinor Huntington did a wonderful job, and I expect she took some significant translational liberties with the text to ensure that flow. The language and phrasing is an interesting blend of modern and archaic, but always apt and never stilted. I don't speak or read a word of Russian, but I'd give an eyetooth to know how much of the credit for this lyrical beauty should go the Dyachenkos and how much Huntington imposed.
Oh yes, you want to know if the story is any good. It's... fine. It's a simple, almost fable-like archaic tale of courage, cowardice, and redemption that is a perfect vehicle for Huntington's wonderful translation and Davis's marvelous narration. I felt the biggest weakness was that the main character, Egert Soll, is not particularly likeable at any point during the story, He goes from being an arrogant jackass to a sniveling self-loathing worm, and it is never easy to feel much sympathy for him or understand how the female lead could fall for him, particularly given their history. Despite this, I was reasonably engaged by the story until the very end, when I felt the final denouement was fundamentally unsatisfying.
The Bottom Line: Proof that an "okay" story, perfectly told, becomes something much more than just okay.
When I drive, I read... uhm listen. I like SciFi, Fantasy, some Detective and Espionage novels and Religion. Now and then I will also listen to something else.
In my opinion ???The Scar??? is a beautiful gripping fairy tale. It has a simple storyline with very subtle twists at exactly the right places. The themes of love and hate, valour and cowardice, curses and blessings, vengeance and forgiveness, integrity and falsehood is woven in an integrate pattern of beautiful storytelling.
I enjoyed how Sergey Dyachenko and Marina Dyachenko used metaphors and similes to describe the life experiences of the main character Egert. I caught myself every now and then thinking, ???This description or that way of saying something is spot on.??? I couldn???t help myself to rewind to listen again to some of the ???ear candy??? in this book.
The story is woven around a man called Egert. The tremendous development that Egart undergoes through the story kept me spellbound for hours. It felt very authentic. I liked the fact that the authors didn???t rush to resolve tensions in the story. Instead, the story builds up to grant finale that satisfy the listener. It makes you hope that there will be a sequel to this book.
Where books in the English world tend to have more complicated plots, ???The Scar???s??? beauty lies in its simplicity. It???s an unpolluted minimalistic gem.
I am pleasantly surprised on how well Jonathan Davis narrated the book. I???ve listened to him narrating a Political Science book previously. It would have said that it is the same person. Here he comes to right.
This book comes highly recommended! If you are looking for good storytelling, a gripping story with subtle twists, don???t hesitate to buy ???The Scar.??? Be warned, you might not want to stop listening until you???ve finished the story.
I have been searching for a decent book since the king killer chronicles and i would put this book up there with those. well written.
Wow. What an unexpectedly great read. I was hoping for some basic fantasy that might be a little bit different since this novel was originally written in Russian. The Scar is indeed basic fantasy — basic, solid fantasy with no great innovations in worldbuilding or ideas, nothing that fantasy readers aren't thoroughly familiar with — but the writing, the descriptive details, and the character arcs that drive the story, are all so deft and evocative that The Scar is like a shiny, perfect apple sitting in a cart full of apples of acceptable but clearly lesser quality.
I would compare The Scar somewhat with Patrick Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind, not in terms of style or story, as the Dyanchenkos' writing is quite different from Rothfuss's, but in the way it takes a story that's old hat, old school fantasy and still makes it new and interesting. Part of this is the writing, which was particularly delightful since translations are always a bit iffy, but while of course I can't compare it to the original Russian, there was a ton of evocative imagery, descriptive detail, and strong emotions conveyed in prose that pushes this book into something of true literary quality.
The story is mostly about Egert Soll, a brash, philandering swordsman who's basically every jock bully writ large: he steals his friends' girls, he bullies and brags and treats the world as his playground, full of mud puddles that exist to be splashed in other peoples' faces, and he gets away with it because everyone loves him.
Then he kills an innocent student in a duel that's murder in all but name, the ultimate act of jock-on-nerd bullying. He leaves the student's fiancee bereft and heartbroken.
This is all the set up for Egert's oh-so-very-well-deserved smackdown. His comeuppance is delivered by a mysterious mage called the Wanderer, who goads Egert into a duel and inflicts a magical scar on Egert that curses him with cowardice.
While this has the feel of a traditional fairy tale (or perhaps a Russian folk tale), it's Egert's curse that makes the story. Until that point, Egert has been a completely unlikable schmuck, someone you can't wait to see get dirt rubbed in his face. And when he kills Toria's fiancee, you figure he's passed the moral event horizon and you can't possibly feel anything but disgust for him and a desire to see him suffer.
And suffer he does. And pretty soon you are feeling sorry for Egert Soll. The curse soon turns him into a feeble husk of a man, a hollowed-out shell of his former self who can't even take his own life. And as things get worse and worse, a remarkable thing happens: not only does Egert become sympathetic, but he becomes likable. By a cruel and ironic twist of fate, he is brought face to face with Toria again, the fiancee of the student he killed. And Toria, who also feels nothing but disgust for him initially, comes to feel sympathy for him as well.
By the time the fate of their city, and of Toria, hangs on Egert's ability to overcome his curse, you are not just rooting for him, you're cheering for him. The climax is both epic and again resonant of traditional fairy tales: Egert is given very specific instructions as to what he has to do to get out from under his curse, and of course things do not turn out quite the way he expects.
On the surface, this is a swords & sorcery novel, but the sorcery is treated the way sorcery should be, as something vague and mysterious and not usually seen, a plot device rather than a suit of powers. And there are only a few swordfights, and each one serves a very specific and dramatic purpose in the plot.
So, this isn't really a swords & sorcery novel at all, though it has all the trappings. It's a very psychological novel about egotism, courage and cowardice, grief, and redemption. It's a heroic epic and a romance, and a dark Russian fairy tale with shades of Rothfuss, Wolfe, and Dostoevsky. There's some action and a little bit of magic, but the character arcs are more important than the plot arc.
Apparently the Dyanchenkos are very popular fantasy authors in Russia, yet this novel is the first one to be translated into English. I hope more follow. While this book may not appeal to you if you have no interest in traditional fantasy, I highly recommend it for all fantasy readers, and I'd argue that it has a psychological depth that transcends its genre.
Optical Engineer from San Jose, CA.
I would rank it as an 8 out of 10: it was not as entertaining as some books, but its deeper points really struck home. It is not exactly a light read, and many of the scenes were difficult to listen to because of the heartrending situations. I strongly recommend it for anyone interested in a story dealing with concepts of morality as opposed to just an entertaining page turner.
Jonathan Davis really brings to life the emotions of Egert: his pride, exhuberance, anguish, and hopelessness as the scene requires. He does an excellent job over the full range required, and adds a significant depth to the scenes.
This book was not as difficult as some to put down simply because there were some significant lulls in the story. It isn't all action like the more entertaining page-turners, however, that doesn't detract from the true quality of the story.
The most interesting aspect of the story is how Edgart deals with his curse and how he overcomes it.
The least interesting is the authors' long winded way of storytelling. Sometimes it seemed like it took forever for something interesting or relevant to happen. All of the action happens in the last quarter of the book.
My favorite scenes are when Edgart has a swordfight/confrontation with the "Stranger" and the last few chapters of the book. Edgart's transformation or recovery from his scar is timed well.
This book was hard to listen to all in one sitting. I took breaks, reread some of the reviews, and stuck with it to the end. Many people said that it gets better as the story evolves.
The narrator Jonathan Davis was fabulous. He was the reason I stuck with the story, instead of abandoning it. His style of narration made me feel like I was sitting around a campfire listening to the tribal elder or tribal storyteller weave a tale passed down through generations.
Yeah, definitely. As a matter of fact, I already did.What I enjoyed most about this book was it's generous dose of originality. In addition the character development is both drastic and still believable and Jonathan Davis' job as a narrator was excellent. I am looking forward to hearing more both from him and from the authors who I now count as part of my favorites.
Egert driving in a coach that is stopped by robbers.
Jonathan Davis did such a good job, it's difficult to say. Egert's change of character is very lifely performed, easy to grasp not only in what he says but also how he says it. But I also liked to Wanderers cold voice.
Not at first. Egert's...well... predicament made me stop more than once in the beginning, feeling too ashamed for Egert to listen on. But I always did listen in the end, and later I didn't stop until well into the night.
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
Several people whose opinions I respect gave this novel high marks, and I agree with them. The Scar was originally written by Ukrainian authors in the 1990s, and has a folkloric, parable-like character that makes for a somewhat different reading experience from typical American or British fantasy.
Its protagonist is a young, swaggering nobleman named Egert, who’s quite skilled with a sword and at seducing the wives of other men, but has little real respect for anyone. After making a bullying pass at the beautiful fiancee of a student, he ends up in duel with the student, and kills the young man, who isn’t a very capable fighter. This attracts the attention of a mysterious traveler, who curses Egert with the affliction most shameful to him: cowardice.
At first, Egert’s reduction to a terrified, contemptible wretch seems like his just deserts, but slowly the authors get us to pity, then empathize with him. Driven out of his hometown, he discovers a crushing human truth: that everyone has problems, and that his are of no great concern to the world. Ironically, the only place that welcomes him is the university he once disdained, where a kind professor and a few friendly students take him under their wing. But, troubles remain: he must once again face Toria, the fiancee of the student he killed, and a mysterious cult that has its own designs on him. Meanwhile, the curse of cowardice keeps its claws in him, its cure seemingly requiring that he find the one who bestowed it.
The Dyachenkos’ level of artistry is impressive. Even in translation, the writing, imagery, and metaphor have a timeless, lyrical quality that make the world breath with familiarity and meaning. The central characters struggle with their inner conflicts in a way that's complex and has thematic depth. As with other (translated) Russian-sphere novels I've read, there seems to be some implicit commentary on the human condition, though I lack the cultural insight to grasp the full perspective.
The world-building is a little basic compared to other fantasy, but the universe that the Dyachenkos create has enough colorful bits that I'd be glad to visit again (apparently, they’ve set other books in it). I enjoyed the dramatic conclusion, which offers a chance at redemption to Egert, though not without cost to him, Toria, and other characters, and left me contemplating the differences between simple fear and true moral cowardice. I thought there were also good questions about how bad experiences, even deeply regrettable ones, can lead to purpose that might not have been found otherwise.
While The Scar isn't quite complex enough to break out of its fairy-tale-for-grownups mold, it's very good, and I'd recommend it to fans of Patrick Rothfuss, Gene Wolfe, and Paolo Bacigalupi's The Alchemist. I should also mention that I've gotten to be a fan of audiobook narrator Jonathan Davis, who has read for several of the aforementioned authors, and has a languid, almost hypnotic, yet expressive voice that I consider an excellent fit for fantasy-that-gets-you-to-think. In fact, I have a hard time separating his performance from several books I've enjoyed in the recent past.
If you've been bemoaning the wait for the next Patrick Rothfuss book, or wondering why nothing modern ever reads like Tolstoy or Dostoevsky, read this. The Scar is epic in a personal sense, lyrically haunting, and felt on every human level. Jonathan Davis did an amazing job at narration, catching the emotional nuances. I now count this among my favorite books, and Davis among my favorite narrators.
"An unusual and compelling fantasy"
This is a very well told and extremely well read story about overcoming fear, a parable about the terrors we all face and the consequences of giving in to them.
While retaining many of the common fantasy tropes, the story avoids cliche and gives it's characters real inner lives. I enjoyed this from beginning to end, rarely less than engrossed.
I hope there are more books available from these excellent authors.
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