Review of The Lion in Chains by Angus Trim and Mark Teppo

June 19, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Lion in ChainsThe Lion in Chains (A ForeWorld SideQuest #3)
By Angus Trim and Mark Teppo; Read by Luke Daniels
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: November 2012
[UNABRIDGED] – 2 hours

Themes: / Mongoliad / Roman Empire / King Richard / crusades /

Publisher summary:

Many were displeased with the “peace” King Richard of England brokered in the Holy Land, and his return from the Crusades wasn’t greeted with cheers, but rather shackles. Now a “guest” of the Holy Roman Emperor, the Lion-Hearted is being held for an exorbitant ransom…so much money that it seems unlikely that the silver will make its way from Britain to Germany. For converging on the caravan are a number of groups with very different motives: French troops who want the silver to continue their war with the English, mercenaries intent on causing chaos, English longbowmen looking to protect their country’s future, and Shield-Brethren hoping to ensure King Richard’s freedom. With a surprising cast of characters, The Lion in Chains is a Foreworld SideQuest that illuminates a decisive moment in European history in an unexpected way, revealing another secret in the long-reaching narrative of the Shield-Brethren.

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

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 in the Mongoliad series. The events in this book are well before the events in The Mongoliad: Book One and provide some background on Ferrenantus, one of the Knights Brethren who features prominently in the main Foreworld books as the leader of the Knights Brethren involved in defeating the Kahn of Kahns. The events in this book may actually form some of the basis for a flashback Ferrenantus has in Katabasis.

Set in the late 1100’s, The Lion in Chains tells the story of Richard the Lionheart’s capture by then Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. There is tension between England and the Holy Roman Empire, and even some of King Richard’s subjects are frustrated with his peace deal with Saladin. Henry VI comes to the great fortune of having King Richard more or less fall into his lap, so he captures him and holds him for a large ransom. There is a game of chess going on, though, and Henry VI has plans to get the ransom through unofficial channels, though Richard expects this and maneuvers to stop the trickery. King Richard uses his “serving man,” Ferrenantus, and Maria, a woman sent to Richard by his wife, to thwart Henry’s plans.

Through the course of the rather short story, we meet not only Ferrentantus and Maria, but also Rutgar, another Knight Brethren who is in The Mongoliad, and Robin Hood and his band of men. There is humor, there are a couple battles/skirmishes, and of course, there is intrigue in the story. All in all, the short tale gives us a glimpse into what made Ferrenantus the character he was in the main Foreworld books and a bit of fan service with the Robin Hood aspect of the story. This book wouldn’t stand well on its own, but having read the main books in the Foreworld Saga, it was an entertaining diversion for an afternoon (well, part of an afternoon–after all, it WAS only 2 hours long).

Luke Daniels’ narration was a welcome return after the disappointing narration of the 5th book, Siege Perilous. His reading made it easy to listen to and pulled me into the world. Even his female voices weren’t over-the-top but still made it obvious who was speaking. With most of the other books in the series narrated by him, it felt “normal” and somewhat comforting to have him read this one, too.

In the end, it was a cute story that provided some interesting background to the main Foreworld story line. I definitely recommend this book to those who have read the other books in the Foreworld Saga, and possibly to others who might be interested but would like to “sample” the work and world before diving in headlong.

Posted by terpkristin.

Review of Katabasis from the Mongoliad Cycle

May 31, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

KatabasisKatabasis (Mongoliad Cycle #4)
By Mark Teppo, Joseph Brassey, Cooper Moo, and Angus Trim; Performed by Luke Daniels.
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
[UNABRIDGED] – 13 hours

Themes: / Mongoliad / martial arts / fantasy / monks / conquests / Mongols / Russia /

Publisher summary:

With the death of the fearsome Ögedei Khan, the Mongol invasion of the West has been brought to an abrupt halt. The defenders, a band of brave warrior monks known as the Shield-Brethren, limp homeward again across a frozen, bloodied wasteland. But where — and what — is “home” now that the threat of invasion no longer shapes their lives? Thirteenth-century Europe has been saved from annihilation at the hands of the Mongols, to be sure, but new and terrible threats are at hand: political and religious turmoil threaten to turn the warriors’ world upside down once more. Painted against a rich backdrop of medieval mysticism and Russian folklore, Katabasis weaves together the tales of victor and victim alike in a fearless exploration of what it means not just to survive, but to truly live again.

When I reviewed The Mongoliad: Book Three in the Foreworld Saga, I didn’t realize that there were to be a 4th and 5th entry into the series. The book ended with the end of a major story arc (if not the most satisfying of endings) and I thought it was okay to leave it there.

But the story didn’t end there. Where the story in the first three books in the series really covered the story of the Christians versus the Mongols, this book follows the Shield Brethren into Russia while the Mongols mostly start gathering to find their new Kahn of Kahns. There was a greater supernatural element in this book than in the previous ones, and it was interesting to see characters I thought we had left at the end of the first book (or thereabouts) make a reappearance. At the crux of this story seems to be old religion versus new religion. It is hinted that Cardinal Vieshi, a cardinal in Rome who we met in the 2nd and 3rd books, is behind an attempt by the Levonian Brotherhood to defeat the Shield Brethren and help “modern Catholics” take a hold in Russia. The old religion, though, the Shield Brethren, the Shield Maidens, and the native Russians, are on their own mission to keep the old religion not only still around, but still relevant. As part of this, the Spirit Banner, guarded so carefully by the Mongols in the first three books, is a central part to the plot with Ferronantus, Raphael, and the Shield Brethren. In a bit of an oddity, Leanne (former slave Chinese woman in Ogedai Kahn’s retinue) has managed to save the sliver of…well, it’s still not exactly clear what it is, but it’s important enough that GonSuk had her protect it and it was attempted to be stolen from Ogedai in the first book. This gives her a tie–if she’s not really clear on what the tie is–to the Spirit Banner and the Shield Brethren.

In some ways, this was a complete story. There was a central conflict, and the plot moved to bring that to a relatively satisfying ending. In some ways, the plot lines here were less confusing than in the previous books. There seemed to be fewer plots and fewer characters to keep track of, generally speaking. However, at the end, it got muddled. I suppose it might be just me–I often have felt like I’ve been “missing something” while listening to these books and this one was no different. Something happened at the end that I didn’t quite grok, and it’s obvious that it will play out for the 5th (and final, I think) book in the main Foreworld Saga. I hope that when I finish that one, it will make more sense.

Luke Daniels did the narration for this audiobook, as with the other Foreworld and Foreworld Prequel books that I have listened to. Sometimes, his narration is fantastic. He does different voices for the characters and makes it easy to get drawn into the world. However, between the odd names, multiple plot lines, and sometimes difficult/foreign words, it can be hard to understand what he’s saying or what’s going on. As with the other books, this is one that I think might be easier to read the print first, or at least have a copy handy so you can refer to the Cast of Characters and/or re-read confusing parts. Sometimes, Daniels would do lines in a characters voice and…well, in character. So if the character was to be whispering or muttering, Daniels would do that. This would make it hard to understand what he was saying, especially when he used the thick accents.

All in all, I think I liked this book better than I liked the end of the first three books. I look forward to seeing what happens in the 5th book–which I note is not narrated by Luke Daniels.

Posted by terpkristin.