Review of Dragon Blood by Patricia Briggs

July 9, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

dragonbloodDragon Blood (Hurog Duology #2)
By Patricia Briggs; Performed by Joe Manganiello
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours
Themes: / fantasy / dragons / Hurog /

Wardwick of Hurog wishes to live in peace. Destiny has other plans. He is about to be arrested and imprisoned in the Asylum for Nobel Embarrassments and Inconveniences. Worse still, Ward has learned that the same man bent on his imprisonment, Jakoven Tallven, High King of the Five Kingdoms, is seeking Hurog blood to activate the supernatural equivalent of a weapon of mass destruction.Once again Ward must play the fool to survive. Yet, that will not suffice. Ward’s closest companions all must risk their lives and fortunes to keep Jakoven and his malevolent mage Jade Eyes from destroying their world.

After finishing Dragon Bones I was left with some lingering questions and looking forward to this book. For some reason this story wasn’t as much fun. It’s hard to put my finger on exactly why.  My best guess is the pacing. For such a short book, it felt like the plot meandered too much on unimportant details. The beginning was strong. It pulled me right back in again, and I thought everything was good to go. But then it got slow in middle, and felt sort of rushed at the end. I was sort of underwhelmed by the final confrontation especially.

I guess since I wasn’t having as much fun with the story this go around and it made the quality of the writing more noticeable. I’m not one to spend much time commenting on the writing too much. I tend to leave that for English teachers/literary types. I care a lot more about story and character development than I do about how elegant the prose is. If you’re entertaining me, I’m not going to notice bad sentence structure/dialogue.

If I had to sum this book up with one sentence it would be “Hurog means Dragon.” Why you ask? Well because it’s said at least once per chapter. Often more than once. Or at least that’s how it felt. Eventually I groaned every time another character said it.  I wonder if the writing was just as bad in the first book and I didn’t notice. “Hurog means dragon” was said a few times in that book as well, but it didn’t seem nearly so frequent. I didn’t really find the dialogue or prose that bad.

Glancing over other reviews it seems like I may be in the minority. It’s quite possible that if you liked the first book, you may enjoy this as well, but I mostly found it to a disappointing sequel.

As far as the audio goes, Joe Manganiello once again does a fine job without really adding or subtracting from the story.

Review by Rob Zak.

The SFFaudio Podcast #271 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope

June 30, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The Prisoner Of Zenda
The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #271 – The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope; read by Andy Minter. This is a complete and unabridged reading of the novel (5 hours 30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Tam, Seth, and Paul Weimer.

Talked about on today’s show:
1894, the movies, Moon Over Parador, ripoff vs. homage, Dave, the Ruritanian influence, Robert Louis Stevenson, Sherwood Smith, a feminist Ruritanian romance, book trends, Seth kind of enjoyed it, put British taboos in a make believe country, accent on the romance, an eastern German state, the bathroom key in Spanish, to avoid research, a fake name for a real place, Bavaria, A Scandal In Bohemia by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the sister-in-law, Rudolph Rassandale as a pseudonym for Anthony Hope, autobiographical wish fulfillment, an author avatar, not exactly modern storytelling, a male romance, “getting close to something happening”, a chaste-ness, innuendos, what’s lacking in the non-comic book adaptations, red-headedness, the black and the red, Rose, the Red rose of Ruritania, “if it’s red it’s right”, Black Michael, the real king is a prat, the better man, Eric S. Rabkin is all about “food and sex”, Jesse is all about “it’s all a dream”, mirroring and inverting, The Prestige, Madame Maubin, the dream, Total Recall, doubling echoing, the attack plan, Rupert! Rupert!, a happy version of the drunk king, the drugged wine, half the kingdom, that’s really good writing, The Princess Bride, a Fantasy edgecase, is it Fantasy?, “wading in the waters outside the island of Fantasy”, adopted into Fantasy, Coronets And Steel by Sherwood Smith, Doctor Who, The Androids Of Tara, electro-swords in a feudal future, Double Star by Robert A. Heinlein, a professional actor, Mars as Ruritania, A Princess Of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs, Latveria (in the Marvel universe), Doctor Doom, just a time passer, a finite number of monarchs, Utopia by Sir Thomas More, the noble house of Elphberg (elf berg), Austria, the beautiful streets of Streslau, the tell-tale hair colour, the problem of cheating, the sequel Rupert Of Hentzau, Queen Victoria, The Red And The Black by Stendhal, George R.R. Martin, the ostensible antagonist is Black Michael but actually the baddie is Rupert, “he leaves bloody but laughing”, Rupert as a twisted version of Rudolph, Antoinette du Maubin, a female version of Rudolph, the two Rudolphs, about six months, a romantic trope, no consummation, everybody is cousins here, morganatic marriage, Randy not Randolph, Crusader Kings, Lord Burlsdon, this second son thing is what EMPIRE is all about, smoked in their smoking rooms, India, Afghanistan, North America, South Africa, who this book is for, the problems of aristocratic families, The Man Who Would Be King, the Wikipedia entry, Winston Churchill wrote a Ruritanian Romance, the restoration of a parliamentary system instead of a monarchy, so Churchill, Churchill turned down a Lordship, the suspension of disbelief issue, Colonel Sapt and Fritz, the country is run by like seven people, a kidnapper and a kingslayer, somebody is going to have to swim that moat, the missing cellphone, the moving mole, Robin Hood: Men In Tights, “is this gonna be a thing?”, Saddam Hussein’s doubles, Star Wars, Princess Amidala and whoever…, first person narration, the eggspoon, a new use for a tea table, An Improvement On Jacob’s Ladder, he likes that ladder a bit too much, Jacob (in The Bible) dreams the ladder, GOOD!

The Prisoner Of Zenda by Anthony Hope

Marvel Classics #29 - The Prisoner Of Zenda

The Prisoner Of Zenda - Marvel Classics - Page 3

Zenda Castle

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Beast of Calatrava

June 25, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Beast of CalatravaThe Beast of Calatrava: A Foreworld SideQuest
By Mark Teppo; Read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 26 February 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 4 hours

Themes: / Mongoliad / knights Templar / alternate history / fantasy / Foreworld /

Publisher summary:

After a battle left Ramiro Ibáñez de Tolosa’s face terribly disfigured, the knight of the Order of Calatrava abandoned his sword for a pastoral existence. But his beastly appearance horrifies all those who cross his path — with the exception of his adoring and pregnant wife. Can he keep Louisa and their unborn child safe from the war that is coming to Iberia? As Ramiro prepares for his child’s birth, Brother Lazare of the Cistercian order searches for a means to inspire men as he travels with the crusading Templars. He seeks swords of legend — named blades carried by heroes of old — believing such symbols have the ability to rally men in a way no king could ever accomplish. But when he learns of the stories told of the mysterious monster that haunts the Iberian battlefields, he wonders what sort of power this new legend might contain — the legend of a man whose scarred face and cold demeanor cannot hide his heroic soul. 

Note: This book is available individually (as I listened to it) or as a part of the book SideQuest Adventures No. 1, which includes The Lion in Chains, this story, and The Shield-Maiden: A Foreworld SideQuest.

As with The Lion in Chains, this story is a “SideQuest” in the Foreworld Saga, basically a side story to the main-line books intended to give readers more information on certain characters. Unfortunately, unlike The Lion in Chains, even after I finished the book, I wasn’t 100% certain where this fit within the grand scheme of the world. The main characters in this story were not in the main Mongoliad books, and without taking some time to look at the print/ebook versions of this and the other books, I’m not sure I could draw a straight-line reference. I’m equally uncertain as to when, relatively speaking, this book takes place (relative to the events in The Mongoliad: Book One).

More frustratingly, I found myself lost while listening to this story. As happened other times during my reading of the Mongoliad main-series books, it was easy to get confused as to which character was which and who was who. If I haven’t said it before, this is a series begging for a good wiki with a character roster, and possibly a map. While these things may show up in a print/ebook edition, they were not easy to find on the web for quick perusal while listening (at least, I couldn’t easily find anything). The overall thrust is that it’s a story about a former knight, abandoned for dead when his order was defeated, who has turned into “The Beast of Calatrava,” basically a disfigured killer, killing to protect his property and the people (generally) of Iberia, no matter their creed. In parallel, the Templars have arrived in Iberia on a crusade, and brought with them some other soldiers, including some monks, on the search for a legendary weapon. Much of the book is dedicated to The Beast’s personal demons and the growing tension in the “Christian Army” that includes the Templars, monks, and other religious figures, and moves these characters around like chess pieces in seemingly unrelated matches. In the last 30 minutes or so of the audiobook, the story lines somewhat converge, and the ending comes more or less as might be expected.

I don’t know what to say about this story. It really seemed to wander, and was hard to follow along. While I was somewhat used to this in the main Foreworld books, I was able to accept temporary confusion, knowing it would get brought together later, and that my persistence would pay dividends. In this story, with everything being self-contained, that payoff wasn’t there, and in the grand scheme, I’m not sure why much other than the last 30 minutes of the story made any difference…and, since this story doesn’t relate directly to the main-line books, it didn’t feel like it made “sense” in the bigger picture. Without the tie-in to the larger world, this could have been any story set in the same world, so therefore didn’t feel as satisfying.

It will be interesting to see how the final book in SideQuest Adventures No. 1 plays out, whether it will be more like the first story (which was great) or this one (which was unsatisfying).

Posted by terpkristin.

Review of Dragon Bones by Patricia Briggs

June 24, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Dragon Bones by Patricia BriggsDragon Bones (Hurog #1)
By Patricia Briggs; Read by Joe Manganiello
Publisher: Brilliance Audio (print 2002)
Publication Date: 1 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 discs, 10 hours

Themes: / fantasy / dragons / Hurog /

 Publisher summary:

We all play roles at times. Wardwick of Hurog played the role of a fool till he reached adulthood, just to keep his father from murdering him. Now he must overcome the image he so carefully built and fight not simply for his birthright but to free the five Kingdoms from tyranny and the rising tide of darkest magic that threatens his world.

Riding into a war that’s heating up on the border, Ward is sure he’s on the fast track to glory. But soon his mission takes a deadly turn. For he has seen a pile of magical dragon bones hidden deep beneath Hurog Keep. The bones could prove to be dangerous in the wrong hands, and Ward is certain his enemies will stop at nothing to possess them.

This is my first novel by Patricia Briggs. The name was familiar to me, but I wouldn’t have been able to have named you any books or series by her.
I couldn’t tell you if this is her usual style of book, but if it is, I’ll definitely be interested in reading more. This doesn’t seem to be as popular as some of her other series though. I found this a quick and enjoyable listen.

It’s a play on the chosen one trope, but there is more of a focus on politics. Our protagonist has been playing stupid for years in an effort to reduce the chances his father finds him a threat and killing him. Unfortunately for him, this means that his father also doesn’t trust him to take over after he’s gone and names his uncle to rule in his place, at least until his 21st birthday. So of course our hero sets out to make a name for himself and show his uncle that he’s not really the fool he’s been pretending all these years. He gets swept up into events bigger than himself and must rise to the occasion or see his friends, family and home suffer.

In a worlds where dragons are long extinct and magic is dwindling, this is more political than fantastical overall, but there is certainly enough in there to make it more than a historical fantasy.

This is book one of a duology, but I feel like it came to a pretty good stopping point where I don’t feel I need to rush out right away to read the second book, or (given it’s shorter length) like it was simply one book that was split in half.

Joe Manganiello is a fine reader, though nothing special. He neither adds nor detracts from the story at all.

Overall, I found this a fun and lighter book and I’m looking forward to listening to the conclusion soon.

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Girl in the RoadThe Girl in the Road
By Monica Byrne; Read by Dioni Collins and Nazneen Contractor
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: 20 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 11 hours, 7 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / near-future / dystopia / road trip / Ethiopia / Djibouti / India / ocean / metallic hydrogen /

Publisher summary:

In a world where global power has shifted east and revolution is brewing, two women embark on vastly different journeys—each harrowing and urgent and wholly unexpected.When Meena finds snakebites on her chest, her worst fears are realized: someone is after her and she must flee India.  As she plots her exit, she learns of The Trail, an energy-harvesting bridge spanning the Arabian Sea that has become a refuge for itinerant vagabonds and loners on the run.  This is her salvation.  Slipping out in the cover of night, with a knapsack full of supplies including a pozit GPS system, a scroll reader, and a sealable waterproof pod, she sets off for Ethiopia, the place of her birth.

Meanwhile, Mariama, a young girl in Africa, is forced to flee her home.  She joins up with a caravan of misfits heading across the Sahara. She is taken in by Yemaya, a beautiful and enigmatic woman who becomes her protector and confidante. They are trying to reach Addis Abba [sic], Ethiopia, a metropolis swirling with radical politics and rich culture.  But Mariama will find a city far different than she ever expected—romantic, turbulent, and dangerous.

As one heads east and the other west, Meena and Mariama’s fates are linked in ways that are mysterious and shocking to the core.

This book defied my expectations at every turn. It is near-future but in two different times and locations. Mariama is in a caravan heading to Ethiopia across land, and Meena is heading to Ethiopia from India, across the Arabian Sea, on a floating road made of metallic hydrogen. Interesting concepts for the near-future, and nice to have African and Indian characters and settings. The writing is my type – emotional, internal dialogue, pondering greater meanings.Everyone keeps calling it sci-fi, I imagine because of the brief technology mentions, but I think it fits more in fantasy – people who may or may not be human/gods/ghosts, the quest/journey, the lesson, the good vs. evil, the superhuman moments – feels like fantasy to me!  The cover also claims the book is like a hybrid of Neil Gaiman, Erin Morgenstern, and Margaret Atwood.   I don’t see Gaiman or Morgenstern except for fantasy, but that is a pretty broad paintbrush, one that seems to grasp at the most popular authors in a genre that has better examples to draw from.  Atwood maybe in the sense of timeline and natural disaster themes.  Otherwise, I see this more like the fantastical imaginings of J.G. Ballard (such as The Unlimited Dream Company) with the setting and world building of Nnedi Okorafor (Who Fears Death?).  So if we have to compare it to something, let it be those two instead.

I want everyone to read this book so we can discuss the ending. I listened to the last disc three times because I’m not entirely sure what happened. I’m still not.  I have questions that will make no sense until you’ve read it.  Questions like, “Where is Djibouti?” and “Is everyone insane?”  I keep telling friends about the book and thinking about it, and it has one of the few five-star ratings I’ve given out in GoodReads so far this year.  A week after finishing, I got into a conversation about metallic hydrogen and man-made floating islands in Facebook because a person had posted about Kiribati, a nation that is destined to disappear into the ocean.  Their leader is seriously considering building a place to keep his people together, because what else can you do if your country slips beneath the sea?  Monica Byrne touches on this same question.

The two readers, Dioni Collins and Nazneen Contractor, do a brilliant job in the performance of this book, particularly in the slipping between India and Africa the way any immigrant would, and that is crucial to the character of Meena.

Posted by Jenny Colvin

Review of War Crimes by Christie Golden

June 18, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

wowWorld of Warcraft: War CrimesBy Christie Golden; Narrated by Scott Brick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: 6 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours, 31 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / World of Warcraft /

Publisher summary:

The brutal siege of Orgrimmar is over.

Alliance and Horde forces have stripped Garrosh Hellscream, one of the most reviled figures on Azeroth, of his title as warchief. His thirst for conquest devastated cities, nearly tore the Horde apart, and destroyed countless lives throughout the World of Warcraft.

Now, on the legendary continent of Pandaria, he will stand trial for his transgressions.

Renowned leaders from across the world have gathered to witness this historic event. As the trial unfolds, agents of the bronze dragonflight present shocking visions of Garrosh’s atrocities. For many of those in attendance, these glimpses into history force them to relive painful memories and even question their own innocence or guilt. For others, the chilling details stoke the flames of their hatred.

Unbeknownst to anyone, shadowy forces are at work on Azeroth, threatening not only the court’s ability to mete out justice…but also the lives of everyone at the trial.

I’m a recovering World of Warcraft addict. I’ve been clean for about a year since my guild’s raids fell apart. I played a good portion of Mists of Pandaria, but didn’t finish the last tier or two of raiding. Warcraft has always been one of my favorites games because I loved the big name characters and the lore they’ve built up. It doesn’t always make sense, but it’s usually a whole lot of fun. I knew enough background to know all the major players and that Garrosh Hellscream was the expansion boss this go around. I didn’t really know any of the details of how it all played out however. I can’t speak to how much of this book is in the game.

This book is full of all the major players from both factions, and everyone is angry. I’ve probably played more Alliance than Horde over the years, but I still like Horde better.  Thrall is probably my favorite character of the series, and I was really annoyed when he stepped down as Warchief. However as an Alliance player, I enjoyed being able to work with him on quests in Cataclysm.

I found myself really not liking many of the Alliance characters in this book. In particular Tyrande Whisperwind. As my main character is a Night Elf, I was pretty disappointed with her. I found myself rooting for Baine Bloodhoof and missing my Tauren druid instead.

I liked the notion of a trial and the involvement of the Bronze Dragons to present key moments in Warcraft lore, not only for the current expansion but back events involving the history of the Orcs.

Overall, I found this book a lot more enjoyable than Vol’jin: Shadows of the Horde. I think this is one that Warcraft players will enjoy, but that probably won’t offer much to everyone else.  If the goal of this book was to get the reader to want to play the game, they succeeded. I was already planning on picking up the next expansion and playing again for awhile, but now I’m itching to maybe try to do the raid that serves as background for this, so Mission Accomplished Blizzard.

Scott Brick is a fine narrator, and does accents for the trolls and a few other races.

Review by Rob Zak.

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