Review of The Legion Of Flame by Anthony Ryan

July 11, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

PENGUIN AUDIO - The Legion Of Flame by Anthony RyanThe Legion Of Flame (The Draconis Memoria, #2)
By Anthony Ryan; read by Steve West
25 Hours 50 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: June 27, 2017
ISBN: 9780735206700

For centuries the vast Ironship Trading Syndicate relied on drake blood – and the extraordinary powers it confers to those known as the Blood-blessed – to fuel and protect its empire. But now a fearsome power has arisen – a drake so mighty that the world will tremble before it. Rogue Blood-blessed Claydon Torcreek, Syndicate agent Lizanne Lethridge, and ironship captain Corrick Hilemore embark upon perilous quests to chase down clues that offer faint hopes of salvation. As the world burns around them and the fires of revolution are ignited, these few are the last hope for the empire and for all of civilization.

Executive Summary:
Another solid entry in this series. Here’s to hoping for a good ending with the final book.

Audiobook:
I hate narrator changes. I’m bad with names, so at first I almost didn’t notice the change from Stephen Brand to Steve West. Plus I like Stephen Brand, and he narrated the last four Anthony Ryan books. So Steve West had his work cut out for him because I came into this book heavily biased against him.

I’m happy to report I thought he did a good job. I don’t know why they changed narrators, but Mr. West read with good volume and inflection and he added a few voices into the mix to make for a good audio experience.

Full Review:
This series mixes such a wide variety of themes, it still seems strange that they all work together, but they do. First you have Lizanne, who I always just think of as Jane Bond in my head. Then there is Clay, who’s got a bit of an Indiana Jones vibe to his story. Finally there is sailor Captain Hilemore.

Their narratives are all tied together with Dragon Blood. Added to the mix is Sirius. I don’t recall if he was introduced in the last book as a minor character, but he certainly wasn’t a POV in that. Much like Hilemore in the last book, his story felt mostly disconnected from the other three until near the very end. Unlike Hilemore however, I had a much better idea how his story was going to fit in with the rest well in advance.

I found the start of the book a bit slow. It took me awhile to remember the characters and the details from last year’s The Waking Fire, and even afterwards I didn’t find myself completely sucked in. Once the book got going however I definitely enjoyed it.

Clay’s story started the slowest of the four, although I didn’t find Sirius much better. Even Lizanne who’s definitely my favorite of the series felt like she was meandering a bit before her story got going again.

The world building continues to be excellent. We learn a lot more about the Dragons and the blood blessed, and the nature of many of the mysteries from the first book. Clay’s story in particular reveals quite a bit of interesting details. I really like the world Mr. Ryan built here.

Based on his previous series, I feel like Mr. Ryan’s good at writing both beginnings and middles, but struggles with endings. Queen of Fire felt rushed, and partially spoiled an otherwise perfect series for me.

I hope he takes as much time as he needs (assuming his publisher will let him) to write the final book of this series. I think this book set things up nicely for that. Now I just have to wait and see how it all comes out.

Review by Rob Zak

The SFFaudio Podcast #427 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Hansel And Gretel by Bros. Grimm

June 26, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #427 – Hansel And Gretel by Bros. Grimm; read by Julie Davis. This is an unabridged reading of the folk tale (16 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Julie Davis, and Maissa Bessada

Talked about on today’s show:
a folktale, a fairy tale, a lot of magic, a lot of animals, a lot of birds, strange phrases, a cat, the bird episode, Grimm’s Fairy Tales translated by Lucy Crane with illustrations by her brother Walter Crane, the gingerbread house, candy canes, the family’s house, too nice for a starving family, how can you not love this story?, spawned a whole industry, Jesse’s the worst son, no respect for his mother, indirect approach, a Philip K. Dick story, Jesse’s inside, The Cookie Lady, a suburban fantasy, a Hansel and Gretel story without Gretel, Bubber, the woman he visits after school, oh Philip K. Dick!, all the street names, Pine Street and Elm Street, why are the two stories so different, she’s not a regular witch, absorbing the life energy, a fat little boy who loves cookies, she’s young and beautiful, the wind is blowing, just a tumbleweed there, a horrible version of Hansel and Gretel, recognizing that you have to have help, both the children are contributing to the welfare, taking turns, wiser vs. cleverer, a Deep Space Nine episode, Jake Sisko‘s muse sucks the life energy out of him, the Star Trek universe is suffering from population decline, a little girl in Star Trek: Voyager, as soon as possible, bad writing, Wil Wheaton, o father I’m looking at my little white kitten, you young fool, sunshine on the chimney pot, a pigeon, why aren’t they eating the cat and the pigeon?, we ate your cat last night!, a strange story for modern kids, going without food, a famine in Germany, cannibalism, who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy, is the dad horrible or just weak?, he’s convinced, step-mother, his wife and his two children, I pity the poor children, different translations, slippy, how she went away, she “died”, is she’s the witch?, and then the witch says almost the exact same thing, the same pattern, the wife being gone…, we can read it the way kids read it, no subtext, how we’re supposed to read it, if you’re reading it to Jesse…, strength against adults, ganging up on the kids, if the mother is a witch…, it takes a little while, sexist!, once a man gives in he has to always give in, close reading, power relationships, giving into authority, keep the faith, math class, the wife would listen to nothing, “he who says A must say B too”, is that the logic?, if a man yields once he’s done for, more concrete in your face, like a cigarette, I already spanked my kid I might as well kill him, Coraline by Neil Gaiman, the nice monster, how do children see their parents?, as we discover…, the part we all understand, I want it now!, what are these stories for? what is their purpose?, at the end of the day kids need to go to sleep, something to chew over while they sleep, how do you choose what story and who to tell it to?, the circumstances for the telling of Hansel and Gretel, the story gets past your defenses, you’re a team against us, how do we steal from mom?, together rather than apart, how to forebear against…, a different message for a different person, where the story resonates, poor little Bubber had no brother or sister to save him from the excesses of his desires, Julie’s first thought, stories adults told, little girls now big girls, too lively?, a dinosaur, interactive storytelling, revelations, The Robber-Bride, for grown ups only?, knock knock the Grimm Bros. are at the door, here are the stories we tell, nothing else going on, the whole purpose, learning to stand up for yourself, imprisoned, she comes into herself, we’re going to ride separately, we each of us stand up for each other, do it yourself, a lot of the parents would be children, as we learn these mythological stories, an oral tradition, an illiterate population, children as the protagonists, a super-interesting story, On Golden Pond, they’ve already gained the wisdom, for children or for everybody?, Cinderella is of marriageable age, a young person, YA, Rapunzel, that prince was not as noble as you may have thought, dark, levels of development, children’s tales, suitable for children?, when you have no other entertainment, really believing in witches, talking animals, if I ask her she will help us, on your nice white back, questioning things, the theory, the house that they find is not the house they started at, crossing of water, a long way around, a symbolic crossing, Gretel as a silly goose, the theme of the birds, Eric S. Rabkin pointed out that the birds are fed by Hansel, making a sacrifice, rewarded, you can eat all the animals, you can feed the animals, eggs, glinting flints, reminding the duck, do the kids know how to swim?, the pearls and precious stones, the food that the witch ate from previous visitors, where do dragons get their treasures?, he that can catch her, a very large fur cap out of the skin of a mouse, a distraction on purpose, the relationship between humans and animals, the iconic image, it’s just the wind, doing what kids do, they eat us out of house and home, we’re starving to death, getting rid of the kids, the next wave of the famine comes, sleeping by a fire, sleeping under a tree, the third sleep is under the roof of the witch’s house, want some candy, endless candy, I don’t care about money I want some candy, witch’s pancakes, eating the roof, nibble nibble like a mouse, ok duh!, the boy gets all the best food, repaid, repetition, get up lazybones, becoming thin, eating the shells of crabs, thinking too much, eating children for their energy and their youth, the stepmother is the witch thesis, not just to keep the man, meals for her, come eat me, a sign of her wealth, a disinterest in making babies, eating children makes you immortal, the cautionary tale to the parent, do the right thing, parents don’t get any names, her name is a description of what she looks like, rampion, who the audience is, wish fulfillment, money can be converted into food, the kids as the heroes, horse and cow stories, mulling over the story, talking about the candy house, the lesson gets past your defenses, everythings safe and wonderful and you’re powerful, you come back ahead, a lot bad relationships, I’m mad at mom right now, the only chracters in the story do a job, the stories are so washed by the river, a pretty well-polished stone with some duck feet paddling above.

Posted by Jesse Willis

The SFFaudio Podcast #278 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany

August 18, 2014 by · 3 Comments
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany

The SFFaudio PodcastDowncastThe SFFaudio Podcast #277 – The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany; read by John Feaster. This is an unabridged reading of the story (11 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse and John Feaster.

Today’s podcast is sponsored by Downcast, a terrific podcast app for iPhone and iPad.

Talked about on today’s show:
Saturday Review, February 4th, 1911, the secret story behind of all of modern fantasy, do you listen to podcasts?, our SPONSOR: Downcast, an app for iPhone and iPad, small size, big impact, location based downloading, a super-customized experience, audio drama, The Red Panda Adventures, Decoder Ring Theater, Downcast allows you to lock episodes, the key to understanding, the beginning of binge-watching, Sidney Sime, The Book Of Wonder by Lord Dunsany, its criminal that Lord Dunsany, H.P. Lovecraft, J.R.R. Tolkien, a new podcast idea, Appendix N: Inspirational And Educational Reading, The Dungeon Master’s Guide, take up this mantle, Gary Gygax, Dunsany’s last champion, Poul Anderson, John Bellairs, Leigh Brackett, Frederic Brown, Edgar Rice Burroughs, Lin Carter, L. Sprague de Camp, Fletcher Pratt, August Derleth, Lord Dunsany, Philip Jose Farmer, Gardner Fox, Robert E. Howard, Sterling Lanier, Fritz Leiber, H.P. Lovecraft, A. Merritt, Michael Moorcock, Andre Norton, Andrew J. Offutt, Fletcher Pratt, Fred Saberhagen, Margaret St. Clair, J.R.R. Tolkien, Jack Vance, Stanley Weinbaum, Manly Wade Wellman, Jack Williamson, Roger Zelazny, let’s understand it, S.T. Joshi, “the death of wonder”, bullshit, the inaccessibility of our fantasies, did the Arabic man see Golden Dragon City?, wouldn’t we see something different?, “the magi”, the Scheherazade salesman, its about writing fantasy, its about reading fantasy, reading life and real life, getting addicted to Game Of Thrones, it seems like it is about television, serial fiction, the August days are growing shorter, winter is coming, George R.R. Martin, prose poems, deft brushstrokes, a more devastating fairy tale, is the window a metaphor within that world, The Monkey’s Paw by W.W. Jacobs, the yellow robes, mood and temperament, what would Oprah see?, a soap opera, silent pictures, the constellations, The Crystal Egg by H.G. Wells, science fiction, Jesse’s pet theory on the opening credit sequence of Game Of Thrones, the four houses, dragons and bears, orrery, Ptolemy vs. Copernicus, epicycles, orbital clockworks, Ringworld by Larry Niven, the inside of a Dyson sphere, Westeros, a fish-eye lens, a D&D style hex system, the mechanistic unplaying of the plot, it’s not a half-assed Tolkien, HBO, a metaphor for The Wonderful Window, maybe it’s a bowl?, a fantastically wealthy Lannister home?, that guy’s based on The Kingpin, credit sequence, Dexter‘s morning routine, murdering coffee, “oh my god it’s over”, envisioning greater lives, some guy in Golden Dragon city is looking through a window at 1911 London, Lion City (London), make it WWI, the zeppelin terror, had it been written a few years later would we not assume the red bear as Communist Russia, escape to the secondary world, beaten down into the proper shape for Business, capital “B” business, “a touch of romance”, daydreaming, a frock coat, a bookstore, “emporium”, Walmart as a soul crushing emporium, howling newsboys, the birds in the belfries, “the seven”, analogues for priests and nuns, dragons the most evocative fantasy animal, a silver field, what prompts the destruction of Golden Dragon city, Darkon (2006), LARPers, interesting, good, and sad, fantasy lives on the weekend, a cardboard factory, typical American upper-lower class jobs, religion, plunking away god-dollars, the popular conception of D&D, video games, Elvis’ hips, KISS, better jobs, Detroit in ruins, work, podcasts to stave off the rats gnawing, John’s gaming group, soul crushing and beautiful, Edward Plunkett, H.G. Wells, toy soldiers, the start of modern war-gaming, empire, “this dang story”, 14th century Hungary, Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway, names, Friend, Spork, Carmilla (is a savory name), carnstein (flesh-stone), Mergin and Chater -> margin and cheater?, a used bookstore business is not one designed to make money (precisely), Chapters, the artificial love of books, the way Scrooge would run his business, the one room apartment, “tea-things”, we ended on a happy note, fantasy and escapism, there’s not much else past The Silmarillion, Elmore Leonard, Jack L. Chalker‘s last unpublished book, old-fashioned TV watching (no recording), “this window goes nowhere”, Mr. Sladden’s destruction of the window is better than had it been broken by someone else, the scent of mysterious spices, a breath of Golden Dragon City.

Word Cloud for The Wonderful Window by Lord Dunsany

Game Of Thrones as Golden Dragon City

Masters Of Fantasy - Lord Dunsany by Neil Austin

Posted by Jesse Willis

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.

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.

The Hoard Of The Gibbelins by Lord Dunsany

April 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Online Audio 

SFFaudio Online Audio

Lord Dunsany’s take on the sword and sorcery sub-genre is high on the Dunsany and low on the Lord (which is itself a very Dunsanian trait).

The Hoard Of The Gibbelins illustration by Sidney Sime

LibriVoxThe Hoard Of The Gibbelins
By Lord Dunsany; Read by Greg Elmensdorp
1 |MP3| – Approx. 10 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: LibriVox.org
Published: June 24, 2007
The bold knight Alderic seeks the fabled hoard of the Gibbelins. First published in the Jan 25, 1911 issue of The Sketch.

Here’s a |PDF|.

Posted by Jesse Willis

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