Review of Skin Game by Jim Butcher

June 3, 2014 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Skin Game by Jim ButcherSkin Game (Dresden Files #15)
By Jim Butcher; Performed by James MarstersPublisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 27 May 2014
[UNABRIDGED] – 15 hours, 49 minutes

Themes: / Dresden Files / urban fantasy / parkour / magic / winter queen / mab / faerie /

Publisher summary:

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, is about to have a very bad day….

Because as Winter Knight to the Queen of Air and Darkness, Harry never knows what the scheming Mab might want him to do. Usually, it’s something awful.

He doesn’t know the half of it….

Mab has just traded Harry’s skills to pay off one of her debts. And now he must help a group of supernatural villains—led by one of Harry’s most dreaded and despised enemies, Nicodemus Archleone—to break into the highest-security vault in town so that they can then access the highest-security vault in the Nevernever.

It’s a smash-and-grab job to recover the literal Holy Grail from the vaults of the greatest treasure hoard in the supernatural world—which belongs to the one and only Hades, Lord of the freaking Underworld and generally unpleasant character. Worse, Dresden suspects that there is another game afoot that no one is talking about. And he’s dead certain that Nicodemus has no intention of allowing any of his crew to survive the experience. Especially Harry.

Dresden’s always been tricky, but he’s going to have to up his backstabbing game to survive this mess—assuming his own allies don’t end up killing him before his enemies get the chance….

It’s been 18 months give or take since Cold Days came out and I’ve been in withdrawal. While not quite as good as that book, Jim Butcher once again shows why he’s the king of Urban Fantasy and one of the best fantasy writers out there.

I tried to hold myself over with an Iron Druid and a Libriomancer. They just didn’t do the trick. In fact, I’ve decided that apart from Dresden Files, Urban Fantasy just really isn’t for me. Nothing else compares. Not even close.

I barely made it halfway through the first track and I was already laughing out loud. I had to spend an extra ten minutes deciding which one-liner was best to use for my status update, and just opted for one of the shorter ones because I had already stayed up too late listening.

We see a return of the Nicodemus and Order of the Blackened Denarius. By far one of the best villains of the series, if not all of fantasy. I was yelling at my book and Jim Butcher a few times.  My only real complaint is that many of the questions and issues created by Cold Days go largely unanswered. It almost feels like things were put on hold for a side story. That said, the book once again combines great characters, great dialogue and great action in a way that makes it nearly impossible to put down. I always hate waiting between books, but I can’t help myself from spending every free minute reading until I finish. It’s just that good.

James Marsters once again makes this series a must listen. It’s not even the fact that he does voices for the characters that makes it great. It’s the WAY he does the voices. The emotion when Harry casts a spell. Or him actually yelling PARKOUR! instead of simply reading it. He may not be the voice I originally expected for Harry, but he sure is now.

Anyone who reads the first few books and wonders what all the fuss is about, or balks at having to read a few books before the series “gets really good” is just missing out. If for some reason you still haven’t caught up on this series after Cold Days, consider this another recommendation to get on it.

Maybe I’ll take up Parkour!

Review by Rob Zak.

Review of Through the Door by Jodi McIssac

September 10, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Through the DoorThrough the Door (The Thin Veil #1)
By Jodi McIssac; Performed by Kate Rudd
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Publication Date: 23 April 2013
[UNABRIDGED] – 10 hours

Themes: / Celtic mythology / faerie / motherhood / urban fantasy /

Publisher summary:

Single mom Cedar McLeod leads an ordinary but lonely life, balancing the demands of her career and her six-year-old daughter, Eden. One day, a fight between the two leads to the stunning discovery that Eden can open portals to anywhere she imagines. But before they can learn more about Eden’s extraordinary gift, the young girl mysteriously disappears. Desperate to find answers and her daughter, Cedar seeks out Eden’s father, who left before Eden was born. What she discovers challenges everything she’s ever known about the world around her: Magic is real — and mythical beings from an ancient world will stop at nothing to possess Eden’s abilities. Now, Cedar may have to put her faith in all of them if she hopes to save her daughter’s life. The first in the Thin Veil series, Through the Door is a pulse-pounding adventure that takes listeners across the globe and into the ancient realm of Celtic myths, where the stakes are high and only the deepest love will survive.

Through the Door has an unusual protagonist – a single mother. Cedar is raising her daughter, Eden, with the sometimes critical help of her mother, Maeve. Eden’s father, Finn, left before he even knew Cedar was pregnant. The story follows Cedar’s trials, beginning with the day Eden opens a door and finds not her bedroom, but Egypt.

I was very excited to get this audiobook, as I love Celtic mythology, but I found myself passing on chances to listen to it. I think some of the repeated uses of the Celtic words threw me out of the story a little, and the plot dragged in the beginning and end. Cedar was very refreshing. She was flawed and complicated, and felt like a real person who sometimes make mistakes. Eden acted like a strong little girl, and Maeve seemed like someone’s mother who didn’t approve of all of her choices. It was well-written, and I could tell the author was trying to cover all her bases, but that attention to detail slowed down the action too much. I will definitely be picking up her next book, so I would recommend this to anyone looking for a novel dealing with modern fae, wonderfully drawn characters, and unexpected protagonists.

The narrator is to be commended for her pronunciation of many Celtic words and her clear, emotive work throughout the story. Each disk had a short bit of music to smooth the transition, and the first few sentences from the previous track were repeated before continuing on.

Posted by Sarah R.

Review of Iced by Karen Marie Moning

April 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
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SFFaudio Review

Iced by Karen Marie MoningIced (A Dani O’Malley Novel)
By Karen Marie Moning; Read by Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
ISBN: 978-1-4558-1769-6
13 discs; 15 hours [UNABRIDGED]

Themes: / urban fantasy / faerie / Dublin /

Publisher Summary:

Dani “Mega” O’Malley plays by her own set of rules — and in a world overrun by Dark Fae, her biggest rule is: Do what it takes to survive. Possessing rare talents and the all-powerful Sword of Light, Dani is more than equipped for the task. In fact, she’s one of the few humans who can defend themselves against the Unseelie. But now, amid the pandemonium, her greatest gifts have turned into serious liabilities.

Dani’s ex–best friend, MacKayla Lane, wants her dead, the terrifying Unseelie princes have put a price on her head, and Inspector Jayne, the head of the police force, is after her sword and will stop at nothing to get it. What’s more, people are being mysteriously frozen to death all over the city, encased on the spot in sub-zero, icy tableaux.

When Dublin’s most seductive nightclub gets blanketed in hoarfrost, Dani finds herself at the mercy of Ryodan, the club’s ruthless, immortal owner. He needs her quick wit and exceptional skill to figure out what’s freezing Fae and humans dead in their tracks — and Ryodan will do anything to ensure her compliance.

Dodging bullets, fangs, and fists, Dani must strike treacherous bargains and make desperate alliances to save her beloved Dublin — before everything and everyone in it gets iced.

The strict genre shelving in bookstores can be unfortunate for readers. I would guess that many fantasy fans have not read Karen Marie Moning’s Fever series because her books are shelved under romance even though the series is more Urban Fantasy than Paranormal Romance. The new Dani O’Malley series which is a sequel to the Fever series is even less qualified for the romance shelves. The first installment, Iced, has even less romance than the entire Fever series.

The walls separating Faerie and the human world have come down. Rifts in reality can send an unwary person to an entirely different time and place. Unseelie monsters roam the streets and the human race is decimated. There is no power and creatures called “shades” devour any living thing that ventures into the dark. The plants and animals are gone, so food is a problem. Now, there’s a new problem. Around the city, people and objects are being instantaneously frozen. The people seem to be unaware of their impending deaths. Anyone entering these tableaux will freeze to death very quickly.

Dani “Mega” O’Malley is a 14-year-old sidhe seer living on the streets of Dublin. She has some abilities that make her see herself as a superhero. She is very fast, very strong and is keenly observant. However, she’s also an adolescent girl with a disturbing and damaging past. The owner of a popular nightclub forces Dani to work with him to solve the problem of areas around the region getting “iced”. Because she can move at hyperspeed, she better able to move into the frozen areas without suffering hypothermia.

The story is told entirely in first person, 90% from Dani’s point of view. However there are some sections that are told by Kat, the new leader of the sidhe seers, and Christian, a young highlander who is transforming into a sex-addicted unseelie prince.

I really loved Dani and the way she interacted with the insane world in which she lived. In some ways, she was mature beyond her years because of the way she grew up and the world that was thrust upon her. In other ways, she was a very typical young teenage girl. She feels like she’s smarter than the adults around her. She’s becoming aware of her sexuality, vacillating between wanting her first time to be special and thinking that sex is really gross. She feels invincible. I found her to be a very convincing 14-year-old girl. I really liked that Moning seems to be letting Dani be a kid and won’t rush her into a sexual relationship before she grows up. I’m really looking forward to seeing where this series goes.

At this point, I must point out that this is NOT a young adult novel despite the age of the main character. While Dani may be a virgin, there is a lot of sex in this book, most of it destructive. It’s also fairly gruesome in places. I wouldn’t freak out if an older teen reads it, but I wouldn’t be recommending it to them.

As much as I enjoyed this book, I would not recommend the audio version. This production uses two narrators, Phil Gigante and Natalie Ross. By having both a male and female narrator, one would think that the male would do parts told from a male character’s point of view and the female would do the parts from the female points of view. However, over 90% of this book is told from a female first-person perspective, so Phil Gigante’s impressive skills would be wasted if all he had to read were the parts that Christian tells. Instead of the typical method of using two narrators, this production splices Gigante’s voice into every bit of dialogue spoken by a male character. This is really annoying because it throws the listener out to the mode of listening to someone tell a personal story. If I were to tell you about a conversation I had with my husband, I certainly would be using my own voice to tell you what my husband or son said, not having some guy say his words for me.

The female narrator, Natalie Ross, was a poor choice for this particular book. The main reason I didn’t like her narration was that she simply sounded too old to be a 14-year-old girl. She sounds like she’s over 30. There are plenty of female narrators can do teenage voices well, she isn’t one of them. Ross also attempts to use an Irish accent for both Dani and Kat, but she fails miserably. It sometimes sounds fake Irish and sometimes sounds like the American South. She would have been better off not using any kind of accent, just her real voice. There also wasn’t much of a difference in how she voiced Dani vs. Kat. I got confused when the first Kat scene came up and it took me a couple of minutes to realize that it wasn’t Dani speaking.

Overall, I highly recommend Iced to fans of Urban Fantasy. It’s one of the better entries in the genre. It leaves the reader wanting more, but doesn’t leave the primary story hanging. My only suggestion is to read the print version rather than listening to the audio.

Reviewed by Sandi Kallas.