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The Spell Realm audiobook cover art

Captivating and every bit as good as the first!

5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 07-12-14

Would you listen to The Spell Realm again? Why?

I definitely would. Emily Durante's narrative style is in many ways an ideal to uphold, and an absolute pleasure to the listener. She strikes the perfect balance between a neutral tonality for the narrator, and a diverse spectrum of emotions and modulation for the various characters. But what is even better is that through all the subtle variations that she manages in order to portray the different lead characters, you always feel Durante herself coming through. I've heard audio-books where the narrator tries too hard to create too big of a distinction among the different characters' voices, and it ends up sounding fake and forced. Durante, on the other hand, maintains a consistent and pleasant tone throughout the 7 hours of narration and imbibes enough personality into each characters' words, that listening to the book is as exciting a journey as it is a comfortable one.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I cannot choose between Gala and Barson, so I'll say: both! In the first part, we see significant changes in Gala's understanding of this world, as she accumulates experience and exposure to wondrous and incredibly trying situations. In this second installment, that journey continues as she is tested again and again, as she becomes familiar with new emotions, and discovers newfound ambition. Barson, on the other hand, takes on a much more central role in this book than in the first one, and for me personally - he replaces Blaise, as the pivotal male character, filled with naive ambition and hubris. Right from the beginning of this part, we see Barson taking matters into his own hand about turning the calamity of the battle and the ensuing disturbance in the kingdom to his advantage. Also, I always have had a soft corner for flawed characters, especially in a central role, which is what drew me to Blaise in the first part, and to Barson in this one.

What does Emily Durante bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

I have always preferred reading a book and am fairly new to the world of audiobooks. I have been disappointed more than once, because as I mentioned earlier, narrators have often turned out to be more of a distraction from a comfortable flow of a story, than an aid to help with it. In this case, though, Emily Durante brought with her voice a distinctive extra element, that I couldn't quite put my finger on, but it positively added to my experience. She set the mood brilliantly for each scene - whether a sombre one between Augusta and the councilmen, a sensuous one between Gala and Blaise, or one filled with deviousness between Barson and Larn. This is a narrative that shifts among the points of view of the lead characters, and Durante does a great job of exploring the subtle changes in voice and expression with her vocal control and modulation.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

In general, I found Zales' descriptions of the natural surroundings in this fantastical world quite beautiful and moving. World-building is most definitely one of his strengths, and crucial for high fantasy such as this. In particular, though, I loved the parts where Blaise and Gala were taking shelter with peasants in the mountain villages, and their general interactions, with folks whom the sorcerer population mostly never bothered to know about. Gala's wonder at the terrifying storm that shook the village, her and Blaise's protective instinct for these people made for quite a touching passage in this book.

Any additional comments?

Just like the first book, the story has a very smooth and well-paced progression, which I prefer in light reads such as The Sorcery Code. The world-building even though just as deftly handled in this book as the first, was ever so slightly less belabored; while in the first book much more attention was given to characterizing the physical and magical world that was Klodun, this book did far more in terms of exploring the depth of individual characters, their intentions, and interpersonal relationships.

Overall, quite an enjoyable read. Zales is able to achieve exactly what he set out to with this light but engrossing, high fantasy sequel to a rather promising series. With sufficient twists in the plot, and a rather interesting new character introduced in this book (who will likely play a very important role in the next part), he makes sure that his readers definitely come back for thirds!

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