By Ilona Andrews; Narrated by Renee Raudman
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: March 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 8 hours
Themes: / urban fantasy / Texas / magic / bed and breakfast / werewolves / vampires /
On the outside, Dina Demille is the epitome of normal. She runs a quaint Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town, owns a Shih Tzu named Beast, and is a perfect neighbor, whose biggest problem should be what to serve her guests for breakfast.
But Dina is…different: Her broom is a deadly weapon; her Inn is magic and thinks for itself. Meant to be a lodging for otherworldly visitors, the only permanent guest is a retired Galactic aristocrat who can’t leave the grounds because she’s responsible for the deaths of millions and someone might shoot her on sight. Under the circumstances, “normal” is a bit of a stretch for Dina. And now, something with wicked claws and deepwater teeth has begun to hunt at night….
Feeling responsible for her neighbors, Dina decides to get involved. Before long, she has to juggle dealing with the annoyingly attractive, ex-military, new neighbor, Sean Evans—an alpha-strain werewolf—and the equally arresting cosmic vampire soldier, Arland, while trying to keep her inn and its guests safe. But the enemy she’s facing is unlike anything she’s ever encountered before. It’s smart, vicious, and lethal, and putting herself between this creature and her neighbors might just cost her everything.
Clean Sweep is an urban fantasy-type book with some interesting twists. Unfortunately, the narrator of the audiobook had a voice that didn’t fit the character and was so out of place that it made the book very difficult to listen to.
Dina is an innkeeper, a woman who runs a B&B in Texas. Her inn has magical properties and she has magical capabilities, her role being that of a neutral protector in a version of Earth/USA that includes normal humans but also has vampires, werewolves, and other magical beasts. The main thrust of the story is that Dina’s inn becomes the site for a showdown between two sides in a big family disagreement, though the book was more than halfway through before any of this became evident. The first half (or slightly more) of the book was world building and character introduction more than it was purely essential to the plot.
In Clean Sweep, Ilona Andrews has some interesting ideas about magic. I think I might be persuaded to read another book set in this world/series, assuming it was quicker to get to the point/didn’t do as much world-building, and assuming that I read it, not listened to it (or that the narrator was someone else). In Ms. Andrews’ world, the magical entities are by and large aliens from other worlds who find themselves on earth for a variety of reasons. What appears to be magic to “normal” people is actually uber nanotechnology or other futuristic technologies at work from alien worlds. There are many aggressive entities, such as the werewolves and vampires, but there are also places like the Inns, the Switzerland’s of the magical world. Innkeepers are to take no sides and to protect whoever signs the contract and pays to be a guest at the inn.
All of this goes awry when some creatures known as stalkers start killing dogs in the town where Dina’s inn is. At first, she believes that a local werewolf named Sean is to blame, but after killing two (with the help of Sean) and studying them, she comes to find out that these creatures may have been hired by vampires as part of a massive (and deadly) family feud. The world-building is mainly done by Dina explaining how the “magic” came to be to Sean, who knows nothing of the history of his species’ home planet or how his species came to earth. Through these explanations and through Dina’s preparations to help protect the vampires who are staying at the inn, the reader learns about other worlds, wormholes, and the true source of “magic.”
The book also has a side plot that was touched briefly upon, a story of Dina’s parents’ inn vanishing one day. Dina does a bit through the course of the narrative to try to find them, but it seems fairly obvious that it’s a side thread to be explored in later books/as a series arc. While most of the book is purely urban fantasy, there are also some hot and steamy scenes that are typically found in romance novels. Many urban fantasy books these days seem to have these scenes, whether they add to the story or not (in this case, not). There is also a possible threat, the local police officer thinking Dina is up to no good, but that thread is unceremoniously dropped just before the main thread of the story picks up, about halfway through. It’s not clear if this topic will be revisited in later books or if it was just an editing miss.
Clean Sweep is a fairly typical, action-packed urban fantasy story. There aren’t any deeper themes or morals to be had from it, though the idea of magic as uber technology is kind of fun. The book, once the actual plot started, was pretty quick to go through and fairly simple/straight-forward. This isn’t a book that’s going to make you think, or require lots of focused reading time to enjoy.
The only major negative is with the audiobook specifically. Dina is supposed to be a 23 year old woman living in Texas. Unfortunately, she sounds like an old grandmother from the deep south. The voice and the description of the character just don’t align. The narrator’s voices for the men were surprisingly good, but her overall voice just sounded old and tired. In parts where there was a lot of action, she actually sounded even worse, over dramatizing her voice acting. I actually thought she was going to die a few times. It was downright uncomfortable and annoying to listen to, and I cannot recommend the audiobook. If another book in this series is released, I may give it a go in print/Kindle, but won’t be listening again unless the narrator changes.
Posted by terpkristin.
The Rift Walker (Vampire Empire #2)
By Clay and Susan Griffith; Read by James Marsters
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 14 hours
Themes: / vampires / steampunk / fantasy / post-apocalpyse / humanism /
The Rift Walker is the second installment in the Vampire Empire book trilogy. Set in a post-apocalyptic world, this tale of courage, sacrifice, and heroism takes place against the backdrop of an age of steam and rational humanism, where the social elite have rejected religion and spiritualism as nothing more than quaint superstition.
Brutal Vampire Clans rule half the world keeping human herds for food, and Princess Adele, heir to the throne of Equatoria, is faced with grim choices. War is imminent and her marriage to the odious Senator Clark of America will cement an alliance uniting the Equatorian Empire and the American Republic. This integration of war machines is to be the opening volley in the campaign to reclaim the Northern Hemispheres. Unfortunately, Adele’s betrothed has a bloodthirsty war strategy, one the Princess finds as repulsive as the actions of the vampires they fight.
Moments in advance of the Princess’s marriage to the Senator, the Geryfriar, legendary champion of the human resistance, rescues Adele before vampire assassins can murder her. While on the run from the agents of Prince Cesare, the acting Clan Lord of the Northern Vampires, Adele seeks to discover a way to protect her beloved Equatoria and prevent the genocide Clark intends to implement, all while trying to free herself from an unwanted marriage. Meanwhile, Cesare’s agents have struck deep at the heart of Equatoria and will stop at nothing to keep Adele from ascending to the throne.
Treachery abounds; friendship, loyalties, and allegiances are tested. Will Princess Adele be able, with the help of her beloved Greyfriar, her devoted guard and faithful officer Anhalt, and her mentor Mamarou, to turn the tide before human civilization is forever shattered?
This review is going to read a lot like that of the first book in the series, The Greyfriar. If you read that book and enjoyed it, you’ll like this one too. Where the first book was kind of (Zorro + Beauty and the Beast + Vampires), this one kind of leans more toward Romeo and Juliet. The protagonists love each other but everyone from their respective houses pretty much hates on the other. Wrap all that up with another fantastic narration by James Marsters and this book is over before you know it.
I still like the way these books are written. The vocabulary and use of idioms gives the story an older feel that matches the semi-steam punk world where the story takes place. More of the less important characters even show a bit more depth in this story which was pretty nice. I like that there was clearly a bit of a plan in writing the trilogy and that some things were revealed in this book that I was wondering about since the first one.
I had some minor plot issues with the story but overall the whole thing went by very fast. This is in the description of the book so whatever: I don’t understand why the Greyfriar swoops in to the save the princess when he uncovers a plot to kill her and her betrothed….instead of trying to save them both or ration out the situation without making frenemies. I’m sure it’s something like “all he could think about was saving her” or “he didn’t know who to trust” but the way it was carried out didn’t really work well for me. There were a few other moments like this but they’re minor gripes at best.
As for the audio side of things, James Marsters did a fantastic job. You’ll once again hear many voices you recognize from Dresden but I didn’t have any problem keeping things straight in my head. I started this series because it’s read by him and I’m definitely not sad at the decision.
Book 3 here I come!
Posted by Tom Schreck
Themes: / vampires / steampunk / fantasy /
1870. A time known as The Great Killing.The vampire clans arose and slaughtered humanity with unprecedented carnage in the northern parts of the world. Millions perished; millions were turned into herd animals. The great industrialized civilizations of the world were left in ruin. A remnant fled south to the safety of the ever-present heat which was intolerable to vampires. There, blending with the local peoples, they rebuilt their societies founded on human ingenuity, steam and iron.The year is now 2020. The Equatorian Empire, descendant of the British Empire, stretches from Alexandria to Cape Town. Princess Adele, quick witted, combat trained, and heir to the throne, is set to wed the scion of the American Republic, a man she has never met. Their marriage will cement an alliance between the nations and set the stage for war against the vampires in an attempt to retake the north. Prepared to do her duty, she finds herself caught in a web of political intrigue and physical danger. The Greyfriar, a legendary vampire hunter from the north, appears ready to rescue the Princess and return her home—but he harbors secrets of his own. As the power struggle between the vampires and humans increase, Adele and the Greyfriar are caught in the middle, on the run, being hunted and fighting for not just their own lives, but for the future of humanity.
The Greyfriar is a surprisingly good book. I listened to this book mainly because I like James Marsters as a narrator and wasn’t sure what to expect from the story. The authors came up with an interesting way of treating vampires that thankfully does not involve making them out to be some sex symbols as seems to be the norm these days. The story makes use of several familiar tropes but they are combined to good effect and in such a way that the story was quite good. The authors’ prose and choices of wording give the book an aged tone that fits the setting of the story.
The premise of the story is that vampires attacked in great numbers just before humans had the industrial revolution and much of the human populace has been wiped out. There are some surviving empires/governments that have lasted the 100 or so years since the attack and mankind is ready to go to war to reclaim what they’ve lost. The story is not urban fantasy but more like…vampire steampunk as best I can describe it. The humans aren’t so advanced in technology that they completely outclass the vampires and the vampires aren’t so powerful that humans can’t have some successes in fighting back.
Vampires in the Vampire Empire series are not exactly your normal vampire – and that’s a good thing. Much of what you and I would think are traits of vampires turn out to be silly human superstitions cultivated over a century of fighting and/or staying isolated from them. They don’t die in the sun, they have retractable claws and fangs, can change their body mass so they can fly, can heal rapidly, etc. These traits leave the authors plenty of room for aerial fights on air ships and all kinds of fun scenes.
While I liked how the groundwork for the world was set up, the characters themselves were probably the weakest part for me. Everyone except for a few of the main characters were fairly one dimensional and caricatures of the proper English nobility, the American cowboy, etc. The main characters make up for this in how they grow through the course of the book but man. The majority of humans harbor some strange prejudices on vampires that’s kind of hard to believe (the biggest for me was that they seem to think they’re not much more intelligent than animals). This was a stretch just because they’re clearly in contact with people who know better and have plenty of evidence to the contrary. These were minor complaints and I’m still looking forward to starting the next book.
On the audio side of things, James Marsters does not disappoint. I have enjoyed his performances in the Dresden series and you will hear many similar voices to what he uses there. His characters are easily distinguishable and his narration is clear.
Posted by Tom Schreck
The SFFaudio Podcast #277 – Dracula’s Guest by Bram Stoker; read by Robert White (of LibriVox). This is an unabridged reading of the story (30 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and John Feaster.
Today’s podcast is sponsored by Downcast, a wonderful podcast app for iPhone and iPad.
Talked about on today’s show:
1914, Dracula’s Guest And Other Weird Stories by Bram Stoker, our SPONSOR: Downcast, an app for iPhone and iPad, a super-customizable podcast app, Mark Maron’s WTF, Comedy Bang! Bang!, The H.P. Lovecraft Literary Podcast and the premium feed, swapping out of the Music app (aka the old iPod app), an incredibly intuitive app with deep features, download on the go, and lock episodes, awesome, is the narrator Jonathan Harker?, if Dracula wasn’t in the title…, Leslie S. Klinger, a sore throat, having Dracula in the background, Countess Dolingen of Gratz, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu, Styria, Austria, shout-outs used to be called homages or allusions, striking images, “the dead travel fast”, the wolf itself, the spike or stake, knives, fully formed vampire features, Varney The Vampire, the soldiers, the figure on the road, what is Dracula’s motivation?, is he learning how to be English?, Walpurgisnacht, the “Borgo pass”, adaptations, enigmatic reactions and situations, rescue, Dracula is the puppet master behind virtually everything in the story, Dracula’s colonial mission, why is Dracula going to England?, a veneer of normalcy in Castle Dracula, They Thirst by Robert R. McCammon, Lifeforce, Salem’s Lot by Stephen King, Lovecraft’s description of the plot of Dracula, The War Of The Worlds by H.G. Wells, getting inside, “precious bodily fluids”, a threat from the East, The Case Of Charles Dexter Ward by H.P. Lovecraft, a threat from a more ancient time, out of fairy tales, a desperate victory, omnipresent, the weather, vampires can control the weather, the white shroud of the snowstorm, non-epistolary approach to Dracula, evocative and visceral, explaining cheesecake, was there a Countess Dolingen?, The Games Of Countess Dolingen (1981), chilling stories, the women, a “he” being rescued, sexuality, the caress of the weather, bier, a whole set-piece, is the tomb scene a glamour?, a seduction, Anno Dracula by Kim Newman, counts and countesses, working class vampires, Eric S. Rabkin on vampirism and lycanthropy, the sailors are Dracula’s Big Mac, the Demeter, Walpurgis Night, are Dracula’s powers expanded on Walpurgisnacht?, superpowers added on the fly, the villagers are always right, The Dreams In The Witch-House, The Haunter Of The Dark, The Lurker In The Crypt, “The Thing In My Coffin”, shared tradition, tradition as superstition, the ancient extinction of the mega-fauna may have engendered a hunting ethos in the native North Americans, The Woman In Black by Susan Hill, Harker is sent by his boss to Transylvania, at the crossroads with the inarticulate driver, thousands of tiny eyes watching Jonathan Harker, is Countess Dolingen aware of Dracula’s plan?, “the dead travel fast”, Russian, a warning from a previous vampire slayer?, a left-handed compliment, the rod, unanswered questions, the lack of clarity makes it evocative, effective accidents, August Derleth-style, what do we really know about Socrates?, water elemental?, meaning was not the point but rather he intended effect, such a good story, a delicious bon-bon sitting on a silk pillow, “interminable”, Dracula’s Guest ought to always precede Dracula itself, had Dracula’s Guest been released as the first chapter of a novel today…
Posted by Jesse Willis
Flesh and Blood
By Daniel Dersch; read by Amy McFadden
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 4 March 2014
[UNABRRIDGED] – 7 discs; 8 hours
Themes: / Vatican / vampires / Nazis / horror / romance /
A veteran New York City journalist, Claire Hagen has learned not to trust everything she hears. So when her younger sister lands in a mental hospital after claiming a vampire is feeding off her blood, Claire is naturally skeptical. A search of her sister’s apartment convinces her: The delusions are a side effect of the drugs she discovers her sister had been taking.But a deeper investigation uncovers more than Claire bargained for. Why was a man who claimed to know her sister from an online vampire forum shot dead moments after Claire interviewed him? Why are her sister’s symptoms getting worse in the hospital? And why have agents from the Vatican taken a sudden interest in Claire?Consumed by doubt and growing paranoia, Claire barely has time to ponder her next move before a violent confrontation in her apartment changes everything. She quickly finds herself on the run with a mysterious stranger who says he wants to protect her but may not be quite what he seems. Can she trust him?
For a good portion of the story in this novel, I was entertained. But the longer the story progressed, the more detached and less interested I became. By the time the end rolled around, I just didn’t care about the characters. While various portions of the story intrigued me, the narrative’s main flow felt too streamlined, structured, and shallow. I also depart feeling that the storyline was compressed. This is fifty pounds of story jammed into a twenty-pound sack. But Daniel Dersch shows promise, and I will be curious to observe his writing improve. He already does what many of his contemporary counterparts fail to do, which is to have a subject performing a verb upon an object. Dersch’s sentence construction is pleasing, and for what it’s worth, this small attention to good writing practice aided my enjoyment factor.
I felt Clair Hagen was a little too stereotyped. She seems driven to prove her resourcefulness, but appears to yearn for a strong man. The “daddy” references got a little weird, but maybe we can chalk that up to this being a translated work. The chapters in this book denote a change in POV (point of view). At first I liked this alternating split narrative thing that Dersch pulls off. But the longer this unspooled, the shorter the chapters got, and all too soon the shortness of the intervals became a distraction.
Amy McFadden narrates the audiobook, and at first I struggled with her rhythm and delivery. In the beginning, I thought her voice was grating. But the longer I listened, the more I felt McFadden captured the essence of Clair. Somewhere in the middle, McFadden won me over, and I think she does a great job with this audiobook.
Fans of contemporary vampire stories will most likely enjoy this for what it is.
Posted by Casey Hampton.
First published in Harper’s Weekly November 10, 1894 this novella combines the two poles of Doyle’s personality – the skeptic and the dupe. Playing out like a combination of Guy de Maupassant’s The Horla and The Manchurian Candidate. The protagonist, Austin Gilroy, a professor of physiology, meets a woman at a party who can perform frightening feats of mesmerism.
Variously described as being a tale of a “psychic vampire” other editors and anthologists have classified it as “weird fiction” or “horror”
Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/7030
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Podcast feed: http://librivox.org/rss/621
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And here’s an easy reading |PDF| version (41 pages)
Posted by Jesse Willis