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Publisher's Summary

In Magic's Pawn, an ancient age in the history of Valdemar comes to life - an age when the kingdom was ravaged by the ungoverned fury of bandit warlords, ferocious ice dragons, and the wild magic of wizards. A new addition to Lackey's Valdemar kingdom - and her most powerful series to date!

©1991 Mercedes R. Lackey (P)2012 Audible, Inc.

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  • J.A.
  • Salt Lake City, UT, United States
  • 11-21-14

It's not him, it's me

Here is my problem. I love this series. I have read and re-read these books for years and that means that I have formed an opinion of how certain names and words should sound - even if the author might pronounce them differently - so when I hear the narrator say a word that I think should be said differently, I wince. I shouldn't, but I do. So, in a sense, this might be a good version of the book, but my experience with the material has jaded my listening opinion. Sorry.

That being said, I do want to take issue with the way in which the book was read. I had a hard time distinguishing between characters. The narrator has a few different voices, but they are not distinct enough to tell which character is talking. Also, I was taken aback by not being able to tell when the narrator was moving from scene to scene. It all seemed to blend into one great big paragraph instead of sections of story. I didn't enjoy that aspect.

Like I said, it might be my experience with the material, but this reading was only an adequate version of this story. I am happy to have bought it, but it does not rank high of my favorite purchases.

21 of 21 people found this review helpful

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Still Readable, but.....

If you could sum up Magic's Pawn in three words, what would they be?

Overpowering teen angst.

What did you like best about this story?

Since I'm not a fan of excessive teen angst, that eliminates Vanyel. My favorite part of the story on listening after 20+ years was actually Savil.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Gregory St. John?

Someone who actually knows how to narrate a story? The narration was dreadful. The pacing was off (someone explain to Mr. St. John about punctuation and what it means), the pronunciations were off (some of them made me want to claw my ears off), there were often instances when I literally said to myself, "WHAT did he just say?" I found myself wondering what the narrator was using as his source for the reading. Was it OCR errors that he was actually reading rather than questioning? An example from the second book, which stopped me dead and threw me out of the story: a character says, "Count your messings!" What? I'm sure it was actually "blessings". That is not the only jarring instance. There are a lot of them. Honestly, Audible, did you not have anyone checking these readings for consistency and proper English? Direction would be good. Post-production editing would be good. Getting the pronunciations from the author would be good. At one point during listening (to one of the other two books), I literally pulled out the hardcopy and read along and was boggled by how... off it all was. This is not the first bad experience I've had with this narrator; so yeesh. No thanks.

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

It probably did when I was younger, but honestly, I was often rolling my eyes. Maybe I'm just too old to empathize with the teen angst and I was just "Oh, god, get over yourself." too much.

Any additional comments?

I have read these books occasionally since the first time when I was much younger. The story mostly holds up as a fairly decent coming of age tale. But after so long, my tastes changed and I realize in retrospect that the author as a writer does things that annoy the blazes out of me. It might be the supremely poor narration making me react more critically to Lackey's writing, but I don't think so. Still, these books are the only ones of Lackey's I can still tolerate, so there is that.

16 of 16 people found this review helpful

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not quite what I remembered

Ever read something when you were young, think it was amazing, then come back to it and wonder what you were thinking? That's my relationship with my highschool obsession with Mercedes Lackey. I used to think her works were the most imaginative, romantic, intense things I'd ever read, and I honestly paused Magic's Pawn before I could even finish it.

I don't know if that's because this is one of her early works, but I did not make it all the way through this book. The prose was flowery and purple, the people's inability to communicate for the sake of plot-tension unbelievable in the extreme, and characters who were supposed to be tragic and sympathetic came across as snotty rather than flawed.

If you do like fantasy, or if you have a young person in your life who has just finished Twilight and wants to know what to read next, recommend this author to them- but maybe start with Owlflight or the Black Gryphon or Oathbound. They're perfectly lovely books- just more tween than I had remembered.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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This narrator is atrocious

What did you like best about Magic's Pawn? What did you like least?

I'm a sucker for Romantic Fantasy.

Who was your favorite character and why?

The teacher, Savil.

What didn’t you like about Gregory St. John’s performance?

The main character starts out as a whiny teenager. A good narrator could take that voice and inject a little humor and irony to make him relate-able. This narrator eschews subtlety and passes up opportunities for pathos and goes right for "whiny drama queen." The whole time. This makes the main character (who's supposed to be the hero) someone you can barely stand to listen to, let alone empathize with.

Others have commented on the bad/odd pronunciations of names. What floors me is that a professional narrator can mispronounce regular old English words. Repeatedly.

This story deserves so much better. I've never been moved to write a review of a performance before, but I was today. I just can't take it any more. I don't know how much of it is bad production and how much of it is bad reading.

Was Magic's Pawn worth the listening time?

I like the story. And I spent the money. So I listened.

23 of 24 people found this review helpful

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Finally Getting To the Classics!

I must admit - I probably have worn out 2 or three paperback versions of this series, as well as the Arrows of the Queen series (of which only book one is currently available for audio.) I remember my introduction to Misty Lackey, at the last convention she attended (Dragoncon 2000 - and therein hangs SEVERAL tales, but) - this is the first series I read where there was a protagonist who makes you cry and makes you laugh, and makes you feel the plight of the outcast so comprehensively that you CAN"T read only the one book - start one and before the week is out - you will be hunting down book 2 and 3 to finish the story off.

Fair warning - Vanyel is gay. Now, having MET Misty and Mark Shepherd (who sometimes co-writes with her) - I've sometimes wondered just how much of Mark is IN Vanyel - but she doesn't make it into a big deal. (She never really does much in the way of romance in her early works, and while the series DOES skew PG - I don't think Misty's ever written an "R" rated sex scene - and if you want X - look elsewhere.)

20 of 21 people found this review helpful

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One of my favorite stories almost ruined.

How could the performance have been better?

This is the book that got me interested in reading novels in the first place so is holds a special place for me. I have worn out several copies of this series so I have a definite "voice" in my head for each character. I understand that no narrator could live up to that, but even so, I was very disappointed.

The first complaint I have is his ever changing pronunciation. Even if it's wrong, stick with it. Second are his accents. Only do an accent if you can do it well, and don't change that accent each time a character speaks. Most good audio books I've listened to, you can immediately tell which character is speaking by the voice change and consistency of that voice. Third and possibly the most disturbing is his cadence and how he holds the vowels out. I have never heard anything like this. I laughed several times during very dramatic scenes because of his pace and how he was saying it.

Mercedes Lackey is an amazing author and I feel that her work deserves better than this. Listen to just about anything narrated by Davina Porter or Roy Dotrice and you'll hear how a good book deserves to be narrated.

14 of 15 people found this review helpful

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Drinking game idea.

Take a drink of your favorite brand of booze everytime you read the word "Gods".

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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Magic's Pawn: Book 1 of 3


Vanyel Ashkevron is a 16 year old young man who's father is Lord of Forst Reach in the kingdom of Valdemar, and is expected by his father to take over his estate as Lord Holder when he comes to manhood.

However, Vanyel is far more interested in music than in being Lord Holder or in the "hack and bash" fighting his nemesis, Jervis, tries to force down his throat. He understands neither of those any more than he understands why his father never seems to think he does anything right and seems to believe he lies: though he does not. Eventually the root of his father's "problem" is told in this first book and handled well in all three of this trilogy. I found the treatment Ms. Lackey did of the issues around being gay with a parent who is homophobic (though neither word is used it becomes obvious) to be very accurate and true to life. Those who think it isn't either had awesomely progressive parents or they are not gay and therefore have no understanding of the wounds this inflicts.

Magic's Pawn, the first in three books of the trilogy known as "The Last Herald Mage" is the beginning of a tale that starts with the main character (Vanyel) very young, and ends in the third book in his mid thirties, quite a different man and very mature. It seems that things only go from bad to worse at first, but eventually the story shows what it took to make Vanyel the Legend he eventually becomes.The characters and relationships in Lackey's writing are very well drawn, and while this first book of the trilogy includes seemingly overdone emotions, for a 16 year old confused boy, it's just right. Emotions are always seem to adults to be a bit overdone at 16 years old regardless of gender or sexual preference.

About the narrator: James DeLotel did a FANTASTIC job of narrating all three books of this series for the American Printing House for the blind. However, my copy is old and missing at least 22 pages (broken tape, fixed ultimately but missing the broken part) of the first book is missing. I so badly wanted copies of all three books that were whole.

I am grateful that Audible did this, but I wish that Audible could have some way of checking the narration at the very least, even if they can't afford (or won't pay for) studio time for recording in which both editing and directing could have made a huge difference.

I think that this narrator, Gregory St. John, has at the very least a natural gift for narrating, but even gifts need direction. This narrator for this book has been reviewed MANY times as having anything from an annoying effect on listeners to an UN-listenable effect. I found it merely annoying because I know the story is worth it. No newcomer to these stories can be expected to see that though.

MERCEDES LACKEY has written quite a few fantastic series that many people follow in an age when reading has all but gone out of style. It's not fair to the author or the listeners to have such inconsistent, badly timed and badly pronounced (e.g. "Tamentable" is said in place of "Lamentable" for instance in book two) regular English/American words as well as the inconsistency of pronunciation of names as well as pacing. Speaking of which, the pacing is horrid. No pause, not even one second between obviously different scenes. The reading is so bad, my first listen included many lost sentences going by as I tried to figure out what the narrator had just said. And I had already read the entire series three times in hardback!!!

If too many of Audible's narrators are like this, I fear many people will find other places to get their audio books. I've even thought of doing that myself, which I find a bit disturbing. And all because of bad narration by one narrator. One. And I know, from experience with "The Island" and a few other books from Audible that regardless of the greatness of the writing, the horridly unprofessional narration made it so I could barely stand the too fast reading, very bad "accents" that do not remain consistent within characters, bad pacing, mispronounced words, etc. in any book from Audible. That's not good for keeping me from wandering around looking for other sources of audio books.

It is necessary, I believe, to bother with studio time, recording with editing and some direction.

I put up with it, because it's where I first found a copy of "The Last Herald Mage" trilogy not as old as my worn James DeLotel version. But....I won't be tossing that version, as it's nice to RELAX rather than be constantly irritated and finding myself correcting the narrator such as when St. John says the word "merc" (shortened form for mercenary) as "merse" rather than "merk". Actually, with that mispronounced word, St. John was absolutely consistent! Which only made me more annoyed. After about the fifth time he says "merse rations" I start correcting him ... as though that will make any difference. I'm glad I already loved these books or Audible, frankly, I WOULD NEVER HAVE BOUGHT THE SECOND ONE. In fact, I probably would have asked for money back and rescinded my rights to the first book once I got that money back. That's how annoying it would be had I not already been familiar with and loved the books themselves.

Really, these things could have easily been cleared up with a little direction. It makes your narrators look bad as well as your company. Of course, this is all assuming that Audible has any say and is something more than a place that rents audio books from other places. If Audible does rent from other places, perhaps Audible needs to first read user reviews from the companies they rent from so they can better choose which books Audible wants to present to it's clientele.

Magic's Pawn, Magic's Promise and Magic's Price are awesome books in written form. And if a bad narration, bad or no editing and no direction causes people to turn away from the books themselves, I hope authors check in and insist on their books being done by professionals rather than just well, gifted folks in home studios with no direction and absolutely no editing. I will start warning authors if I see this on the increase. It's a very bad misrepresentation of an author's work when the narration alone turns readers away. How many times do your customers have to tell you this, Audible, before you find a way to seriously address the issue? And if you'd like a dialogue, Audible, contact me, I'd be happy to talk to you about it.

For those who love fantasy and love books by Mercedes Lackey, you can still hear her works here, just allow for some really challenging moments in listening for this series.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Jay
  • TRABUCO CANYON, CA, United States
  • 08-08-13

Too many adverbs

Is there anything you would change about this book?

Two items - I would have Mercedes Lackey and the editor go back and remove all of the "ly" words. They greatly distracted me and took away from the story. You will see this same statement in the reviews for the other two books.

The other item is the lack of commitment to the homosexual relationship(s). There is nothing wrong with it other than it seems that the author never allowed the characters to evolve beyond the surface of a relationship except in some amped up over dramatic scenes.

What was most disappointing about Mercedes Lackey’s story?

Lack of character development (though a better job was accomplished with the following books)

What does Gregory St. John bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Nothing really. For those who do not read with different character voices, he does a great job at it. I have distinct voices in my head when reading so it was not a huge change for me.

Could you see Magic's Pawn being made into a movie or a TV series? Who should the stars be?

Perhaps... I wouldn't want any known actors since I think it would detract from the story.

Any additional comments?

The first book was a challenge to get through. I nearly stopped after the first two hours. However, I managed my way through it and it was interesting enough by the end to continue the journey.

12 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Sarah
  • Richmond, VA
  • 07-09-16

Not one of her strongest, and poor performance

I've long held that Vanyel just was not a very relatable character, or at least not as likeable as many of Lackey's other protagonists. Very whiny, and a lot of the plot seems weirdly paced. But the performance was by far one of the weakest I've heard for her novels.

The narrator often puts weird emphasis on certain words, as if he is reading the sentences by seconds instead of in one long flow. several times, it's meant that I have to play catch up in my mind when his pronunciation of a sentence doesn't match what it's trying to get at. He also pronounces many of her names, foreign language words, and place names in what I would have thought to be the LEAST likely manner when I was reading it versus listening. maybe that's just me, but overall the performance was awkward, inconsistent, and distracting.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful