Once again, the passionless, dry, and obviously unfamiliar-with-the-story narration comes out of Ax Norman!
The Dragonlance series is one of ..Show More »the best in fantasy - in my opinion, some of the best ever written. All it takes to suck the life out of it is narration like this.
I bought the first two books of "Legends" from Audible before I knew what I was in for. I think, for "Test of Twins" I will either just go read the hard-copy I already have (though I switched to audiobooks because I can "read" on my long commutes and/or when my eyes are worn out from staring at a computer screen all day), or I will wait until Audible hires someone with the real ability to narrate before I pick up the third book in audio format.
Very disappointing since these books are SO good, otherwise.
In an earlier review of the first two books of the series, I mentioned that I would, indeed, NOT purchase the third installment of ..Show More »the audiobook versions of Legends, simply because of the narrator. I folded, due to the fact that my commute is long, I have been listening from Chronicles onward during the drive, and I am addicted to the story - might as well finish the whole thing out. That said, the narration may, in fact, be more the cause of my elevated blood pressure and "road rage" than the actual traffic...more on that momentarily.
Overview - The Audiobook:
This is, in my opinion, a great ending to the story. I will not expound much here (to avoid spoilers for those who have yet to listen/read the book), other than to say that, once again, Weis and Hickman masterfully draw everything to a conclusion, not only ending the tale on a poignant and well-crafted note that follows from everything that came before (it is often the case, in my experience, that some conclusions forget their origins, particularly when, at least at the time they are written, the author(s) feel(s) it will be the last "word" on the matter (the authors, in the "Annotated Legends" admit they thought this would be the last book written about Krynn and the characters we have come to love), and he or she (or they, in this case) is/are trying to wrap everything up, although "possibilities" may still be rolling around in the mind; the question of how to end it all, and timing for ending, publishing, and so on (and this book was written in less than a month, according to Weis) has the pressure on), but, even with a firm conclusion, also leaves the reader with enough "unanswered" about the characters and the world, that the reader can "develop" their own future of Krynn and what happens after (if one stops here, of course - as mentioned, no other books had been planned at this point). Anyway, a great way to wrap things up.
Overview - The Series, Chronicles through Legends:
As I have stated in earlier reviews, the original, 6-book story is, in my opinion, one of the absolute best in fantasy. Many would put Tolkien at the top of the Fantasy Genre ladder, perhaps making room for C.S. Lewis to join him (they did, after all, meet for tea to discuss ideas in a little public house just beyond the Oxford campus) and, it is true, most of what we now consider fantasy was born from the works of Tolkien (and/or Lewis) - something admitted frequently by Gary Gygax and several of the other creators/early minds of TSR (writers/creators of Dungeons and Dragons/ AD&D - from whence, of course, came the overarching framework of the Dragonlance world) - but I would put the team of Weis and Hickman not only "up there" with these greats in their abilities to weave a tale, but perhaps even exceeding their forebears in their joint ability to make the reader identify with their characters.
Indeed, we all came to love Bilbo, Gandalf, Thorin, Frodo, Sam, and so on, but we never really KNEW any of them. In the Dragonlance series, we not only come to love, hate (or love to hate/hate to love) the characters - nearly all of them, in fact, if not indeed all - but to KNOW them: know their hopes, fears, feelings, darkness, light, strengths, failings, and so on; in short, their overall humanity (howevermuch the elves, dwarves, kender, and other races of Krynn might be offended by that statement!). Weis and Hickman have created a world and the characters and peoples within that we absolutely do not want to leave! I have read many a fantasy novel - and I read Chronicles and Legends as both a kid and as an adult and college professor - and I can safely state that, in my opinion, the Dragonlance series (at least these first 6) are the ONLY ones that have ever made me feel that way.
Overview - The Narrator, Ax Norman:
I have said the same thing since "Time of the Twins:" listener/buyer, beware! Even with all I have praised the series for and all I have praised the authors for, Ax Norman is the one variable that can take away from all of the magic and wonder of Krynn! Everyone sounds the same, and every instance - tragic, exciting, dull, romantic - is treated, in largest part, with the same tone, rhythm, pace, and meter, making what is supposed to be poignant or otherwise important seem mundane.
True, not every narrator gets in and "performs" an audiobook, and though I admittedly prefer those who do, even those others whom I have heard thus far who do not perform, at least seem to try and make some distinction between characters, events, and moods. Raistlin, the archmage whose dark and ambitious soul, and who we are meant to simultaneously admire and loathe, for example, never - according to the books - speaks above a calm-ish, "indoor" voice, indeed rarely above more than an audible whisper except when he is angry, giving a command, or lost in his magic, yet the whiny, sophomoric voice of Norman - the one used for everyone - drains Raistlin of the darkness, the mystery, and so on. It is ONLY through the mastery of the authors that we know what mood is SUPPOSED to be set or what a character is SUPPOSED to be doing or thinking.
Norman nearly robs the series of all that is good about it, through his dry and monotonous reading - not expressing - of the story.
And, as I have mentioned before: Norman, if you are going to slaughter the pronunciation of character and place names, the names of the moons and continents, and even various words found in the English language, AT LEAST BE CONSISTENT!!!
For example, our beloved kender, TASSlehoff Burfoot: when using his full name, Norman pronounces it, indeed TASS (rhyming with "glass")-lehoff, and even calls him "Tas" (again, rhyming with "glass") once or twice, but then proceeds with "TOSS" or even "TAHZ" throughout the rest of the series. And, is the moon Sola-NAH-ri, or Sola- NAIR-i? Because, he uses both even within the same paragraph...is it Fiz-BAN, Fiz-BIN, or Fiz-BAHN? RAStlin or RAIStlin? DAY-as, or DIE-as (for dais)?
The reading is absolutely RIFE with these pronunciation faux pas, again, multiple ways of saying the same words, even within the same sentence, let alone paragraphs...
One last word: I will pay VERY close attention to who the narrator is from now on, and will always listen to the sample prior to purchasing any other audiobook. Moreover, if even my favorite book is made avaialbel, but is narrated by Ax Norman, I will run screaming the other way! Stick to commercials and stage, Ax - leave audiobook narrating to, well, ANYONE else...