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Sheathd427

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The Alchemist's Touch: A Book of Underrealm audiobook cover art

Simply magic

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-19-19

Pardon the pun, but I don't know that there is a better term to describe the Alchemist's Touch. Like all of the books of Underrealm, Touch is exquisite example of representation done right. We have PoC, sex workers, queer characters and more, but at no point does it feel forced. Characters' identities are addressed when relevant to the story, or when it naturally comes up in conversation, which is always one of the best ways to do it. For those looking for diverse fantasy, you will not find a better example than the books of Underrealm, and believe me, I've looked.

While I am a huge fan of the Nightblade Epic itself, I still find myself drawn to the Academy Journals more, perhaps due to the constant presence of Harry Potter in my formative years. There is something about the concept of a school for wizards that I cannot resist, and the Academy Journals don't disappoint. It intrinsically feels different than Harry Potter, far more than a reskin, or a knock-off. There is no Dark Lord, no prophecy, not even a caustic potions professor. Instead you have Ebon, the less-than-favored son of a merchant family feared across the nine lands. As one character in Garrett's Nightblade Epic says, "most [people] would slit their own throats before crossing the Draydens," and Ebon must bear the weight of his family name while trying to make his way in the world.

As always, Garrett's performance is nothing short of astounding. The variety of accents he takes on within Alchemist's Touch are far broader than in any other audiobook yet, and I continue to find myself amazed at what he can do. This story is brought to life not only by the depth of the writing, but also because they are portrayed by their creator, the one who knows them best.

0 of 1 people found this review helpful

Blood Lust: A Book of Underrealm  audiobook cover art

Blood Lust, the way it was meant to be told

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-30-19

Amongst all the books of Underrealm, Blood Lust and the Tales of the Wanderer series are uniquely suited to be consumed in audio format. The bulk of the story is in fact, an oral tale, told by an older Albern Telfer to Sun, a young woman of Dulmun, decades after the War of the Necromancer. In that respect, much of the narration is conversational, and Garrett's talented voice acting brings it to life in a way that mere words never could.

Where this story really shines, is in the characterization of Mag and Albern. I don't think it's hyperbole to say that this is the single most genuine friendship in all of the Underrealm books so far. They really feel like life-long friends, complete with inside jokes, and an easy camaraderie that feels as natural as breathing. As enjoyable as the book as a whole is, Mag and Albern really make the story, and under Garrett's care, both characters are brought to life in an entirely new way. Hearing the shift in Mag's voice when she enters her battle trance is truly a treat, and at times, old Albern's words are tinged with bitterness and regret, truly selling the reality that this tale he spins is no mere story, but rather him sharing an account of his youth, to the best of his ability.

Albern and Mag aside, perhaps my favorite aspect of this book is how Garrett takes the time to comment on story-telling as whole. Through the voices of Albern and Dryleaf, both master story-tellers, Garrett ponders the truth of any tale, the deeper meaning of a story, and much more besides.

While this book can technically be read as a stand-alone novel, it does contain major spoilers for the first three books of the Nightblade Epic, that spawned the birth of Underrealm, and is certainly much more enjoyable with that rich tapestry to fall back on. For those who don't mind spoilers for another series set in the same world, Garrett does an impeccable job of filling in the background details in an organic way. Where there is exposition, it feels natural, and indeed, would feel awkward without it.



1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Nightblade: A Book of Underrealm audiobook cover art

My Favorite Series, Now in Audio Format

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-11-19

It is fair to say that I am not an unbiased viewer when it comes to the works of Underrealm. I first discovered the series in early 2018, and I've gone on to devour every piece of content in the world and much more besides. It is easily my favorite book series, and I eagerly await each new entry. That said, I am perfectly capable of setting my own biases aside, and more than once I've called Garrett out on some parts of the series that didn't quite work.

Nightblade is the first of (as of this writing) eleven books in the series, and for most readers/listeners, it will be their first foray in the world of Underrealm. Though the world is well-developed and complex, it is not immediately overwhelming, because the main character Loren is just as much a stranger to the larger world as we are, and Garrett takes care to slowly weave in the worldbuilding details. The characters are richly developed, with a depth that is rarely seen, particularly for a introductory novel in a larger series. Everyone from the constable Bern, to the cobbler Markus, and of course, Loren herself, are fully developed characters, with their own wants, needs, and lives outside of what we directly see.

As mentioned, Nightblade is part of a larger series, and nearly every scene lays the groundwork for the future. Tiny, almost irrelevant detail, can come into play in later books, and particularly sharp readers/listeners will be rewarded as they delve deeper into the series. I have read or listened to Nightblade at least five times, and without fail I have found another detail that I had somehow missed before.

From a performance standpoint, I was genuinely surprised and impressed at Garrett's skill at narration. Characters had distinct and consistent voices, and he made excellent use of vocal inflection and pacing to bring the story to life in a completely different way for me. As the author of the series, there is nobody better to determine the correct mood a scene should carry, or just the right way a particular character should speak. Though I have read through the entirety of his works multiple times, I eagerly look forward to experiencing Underrealm again, through the voice of its author.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful