Review of Blood Rites by Jim Butcher

August 15, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

PENGUIN AUDIO - Blood Rites by Jim ButcherBlood Rites (The Dresden Files, #6)
By Jim Butcher; Read by James Marsters
11 CDs – 13 Hours 11 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Published: April 6, 2010

Harry Dresden, Chicago’s only professional wizard, takes on a case as a favor to his friend Thomas – a vampire of dubious integrity – only to become the prime suspect in a series of ghastly murders.

I can honestly say, Blood Rites is my favorite in the series so far. Now, this was also my first audiobook of the series so that could have something to do with it. It’s hard to tell at this point, but either way, I highly enjoyed Bood Rites.

At first, I thought Marsters was a bit too serious for Harry, at least the Harry I had in my head, but the more I read, the more I realized Marsters is pretty much as perfect as you can get. Harry’s wit and constant one-liners were actually made more hilarious by this narrator who is serious for the majority of the time. I think the heightened seriousness really works better for these books because it gives you a sense of this highly dangerous world where Harry works on a daily basis.

It’s hard to separate the story from Harry himself because it’s told in first person so you’re in Harry’s head the entire time (outside of dialogue from other characters). I thought this was a brilliant way to handle it though, where you get Harry’s sense of humor through his dialogue mostly, his thoughts as well of course, but a seriousness that anchors the narrative because Harry still lives in a world of scary monsters.

I hope any of that made some remote bit of sense.

Anyhow, Blood Rites gets back into the vampires (they seem to be a pretty regular fall back for Butcher) and that makes sense because the set up has been an all-out war between vampires and wizards. Someone’s taking out people on an adult film set and Harry has to go undercover to discover who’s behind it. Of course, it goes deeper than he imagined at first and there’s where the money is for this series… Harry getting into stuff only to get beaten down and beaten on … a lot.

I struggled a slight bit with the first books in the series, but they have really hit their stride now. I didn’t even notice the typical repetitions this time (Harry disrupts electricity, Harry gets really protective of women, etc. etc.) that are explained in each volume as if no one’s ever heard about them before. It probably helps that it’s been a year or so since I last read in the series.

Blood Rites was excellent. James Marsters is so perfectly Harry Dresden it’s almost scary. What a great combination. I’ve already broken my rule of leaving a year between each Dresden file read and started on Dead Beat.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (highly recommended)

Posted by Bryce L.

Reading, Short And Deep #078 – The Rejected Sorcerer by Jorge Luis Borges

August 2, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #078

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss The Rejected Sorcerer by Jorge Luis Borges

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

The Rejected Sorcerer was first published as El Brujo Postergado in Crítica: Revista Multicolor de los Sábados 1.4 (2 September 1933).

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

The SFFaudio Podcast #431 – AUDIOBOOK/READALONG: Fitcher’s Bird by Bros. Grimm

July 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
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Podcast

The SFFaudio PodcastThe SFFaudio Podcast #431 – Fitcher’s Bird by Bros. Grimm; read by Julie Davis. This is an unabridged reading of the folk tale (8 minutes) followed by a discussion of it. Participants in the discussion include Jesse, Julie Davis, and Maissa

Talked about on today’s show:
a rather unusual Brothers Grimm folktale a wizard sorcerer, his magical power is to make people fall in love with a beggar, a male witch from Hansel and Gretel, to live forever, to control women, from the girl’s perspective (the third sister’s perspective), body parts, a backpack full of gold, revenge, get back up on your legs, she’s got the power, magical spells by rhyme, a girl controlling a duck, becoming a duck, ducks are desirable, delicious duck eggs, so bizarre, gruesome, a bathtub full of cut-up body parts, the dropping of the egg, how clever!, betrayal, testing women for faithfulness, keys to every room in the house, she now has all the power, trust, a Garden of Eden situation, promises, the keys to a cage, egg is the future, she can’t think for herself, lying, power, Protector by Larry Niven, a variation of another famous fairy tale: Bluebeard, a donut shaped planet, tell the the Bluebeard myth, a forbidden room, a test, an egg to take care of, a Bluebeard test, I would not have submitted, authority, Julie is stunned, the majority gets cut-up, potential wives, a wife who will obey/trust him, the flaw, everything she desires, lacking mutual trust, curiosity, bewitching, a Pandora’s Box, Charles Perrault, The Robber Bridegroom, Beauty And The Beast, a transformation story, what’s needed, for mutual benefit, an amazing ending, The Castle Of Murder, every window with blood, a skull decked out, diamonds in the eyes, gruesome monster story, a charnel house, the last sentence, “the wizard and all his crew”, who are these people?, a different invitation, “brothers and kinsmen”, rescue, avengers, all his folk, all his friends, burn ’em, hardcore, no one’s doing this again, his mindset, they’re as bad as he is, honey and feathers, magic, Fowler’s Fowl, a white apron, Gretel, magic blood, a virginity test, the concern of men, the concern of women, Philip K. Dick, women want one thing and men want another thing, why would anyone marry Donald Trump?, an evil wizard, women want to make sure their children are well supported, what if she lets in someone who’s not me?, who is this story for?, the lesson is you should be smart not just loyal, loyalty will get you burned to death in a house, a bad hombre, the charismatic guy, it’s the money, fame, it’s easy to give in to thoughtless negative impulses, did he have bad hair?, tiny hands?, cycle of life, breaking out of the egg, a strange new wonderful bird, a great misfortune, like God talking in the King James Bible, God or Jesus, Arthur Rackham illustration, the Wikipedia entry, a Jewish caricature, it’s all turned around on him, resting, “I’m looking through my little window”, he got so tired, Cinderella, cutting off heels and toes, Prince Charming, a title and castle and money, she’s not even human anymore, I’m headed to New York, good enough, they all had poor eyesight and hearing, a very tall castle, an axe, why is he cutting them up?, a serial killer, Dexter, Jesse’s students are from Asia, Grimm’s Fairy Tales, explaining why these conventions come up, projecting backwards, 1850s, Split (2016), we should all watch it together, what are the things you don’t expect to find?, slash movie conventions, survivors, The Descent (2005), all C.H.U.D.s are underground C.H.U.D.s, she’s been reborn, covered in blood, no longer is she weak, she’s powerful, mettle tested, don’t just marry any old prince, exploring every part of your house, Julie rescinds her invitation, knowledge is power, powerful and useful, curiosity killed the cat, people are curious, Clark Ashton Smith, Arthur Machen, “since thou hast gone into my room — thy life is ended”, with the rest, she did not fair better than her sister, the bloody chamber, it has to happen three times for the magic to work, the three sisters, the three journeys, the three pigs, Goldilocks, somebody’s been sitting on my stool, somebody’s been sleeping in my bed and there she is!, what is the meaning behind this story, the ur story, Lady Macbeth, smart and disobedient, gaslighting, you can’t tell me how to think about what I’m seeing, Gaslight (1944), the moral is it’s best to be third born.

Hermann Vogel illustration of Fitcher's Bird

Fitcher's Bird illustration by Arthur Rackham

Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of Assassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3) by Robin Hobb

June 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Penguin Random House - Assassin's Fate by Robin HobbAssassin’s Fate (The Fitz and the Fool, #3)
By Robin Hobb; read by Elliot Hill
Digital Download – 39 hours, 15 minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Published: May 9, 2017

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Executive Summary:
There is not much I can say about this book without getting into spoilers, or making statements that may lead people to guess at their meaning. What I can say is much like Ms. Hobb’s previous works, this book made me feel. A lot.

Audiobook:
Elliot Hill is a pretty good narrator. He can be a bit soft spoken however. And he’s not great at female voices. I rather wish he didn’t try. Still it’s more good than bad, and I do think he adds something to the narration that makes the audio worthwhile. If you liked him in the previous books, you should like him here.

Full Review:
This book was difficult for me to rate. I don’t give out 5 stars easily, and normally when I do it’s a no-brainer. This one not so much. The book has some pacing issues, especially early on. I have no idea of the final page count, but in audio it’s nearly 40 hours long. Ms. Hobb’s books have always been on the slower side, but there were points in this book where it was a bit too much. That’s only a minor gripe though.

FitzChivarly Farseer is one of the most real characters I ever read. When this series was announced I was both excited and nervous to get to spend more time with him. What terrible things would Ms. Hobb do to him this time? She has really put him through the ringer over the years. However my desire to spend time with him again outweighed my fear.

When the series started, I was not happy about the addition of Bee’s chapters. At its conclusion, I’m still a bit torn on them, but I think the story could not have been told otherwise. I think part of me was just irritated to have to spend any time in the book away from Fitz. In addition to Fitz, it was really great to see some old friends again, some of whom I never expected to see.

This book like Fool’s Quest before it, rewards those who have read the entire Elderlings series, not just the Fitz books. If you haven’t read Liveship Traders and Rainwild Chronicles, I highly recommend you do so first. There is so much that’ll you be missing if you don’t.

There isn’t much else I can say without getting into spoilers beyond this: Ms. Hobb has an incredible ability to make feel strong emotions for fictional characters. Joy, anger, love, hate, cheer, sorrow. I feel so much that I’m drained. Few books do that to me, but hers seem to do it all the time, especially the Fitz books. It is for this reason I decided to give this 5 stars instead of 4.

Prepare yourself for an emotional journey. I hope you’ll find it as worth it as I did.

Review by Rob Zak

Reading, Short And Deep #068 – Cinderella by Bros. Grimm (Lucy Crane translation)

May 24, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Podcasts 

Podcast

Reading, Short And DeepReading, Short And Deep #068

Eric S. Rabkin and Jesse Willis discuss Cinderella by Bros. Grimm

Here’s a link to a PDF of the story.

Cinderella was first collected in 1812.

Podcast feed https://sffaudio.herokuapp.com/rsd/rss

Posted by Scott D. Danielson

Review of The Waking Fire

August 27, 2016 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Reviews 

SFFaudio Review

Waking FireThe Waking Fire (The Draconis Memoira, Book 1)
By Anthony Ryan; Narrated by Steven Brand
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: 5 July 2016
[UNABRIDGED] – 22 hours, 34 minutes

Themes: / fantasy / epic fantasy / magic /

Publisher summary:

Throughout the vast lands controlled by the Ironship Trading Syndicate, nothing is more prized than the blood of drakes. Harvested from captive or hunted Reds, Greens, Blues, and Blacks, it can be distilled into elixirs that bestow fearsome powers on the rare men and women known as the Blood-blessed.

But not many know the truth: that the lines of drakes are weakening. If they fail, war with the neighboring Corvantine Empire will follow swiftly. The Syndicate’s last hope resides in whispers of the existence of another breed of drake, far more powerful than the rest, and the few who have been chosen by fate to seek it.

Claydon Torcreek is a petty thief and an unregistered Blood-blessed who finds himself pressed into service by the Protectorate and sent to wild, uncharted lands in search of a creature he believes is little more than legend. Lizanne Lethridge is a formidable spy and assassin facing gravest danger on an espionage mission deep into the heart of enemy territory. And Corrick Hilemore is the second lieutenant of an Ironship cruiser whose pursuit of ruthless brigands leads him to a far greater threat at the edge of the world.

As lives and empires clash and intertwine, as the unknown and the known collide, all three must fight to turn the tide of a coming war – or drown in its wake.

Executive Summary: A great start to a new series. It blends a lot of different things together in an interesting way to feel original. I’m really looking forward to see where he takes things from here.

Audiobook: Steven Brand is a great narrator. He reads with good inflection, and does a few voices. In the past my main complaint about him has been he speaks too quietly. He’s either fixed that, or the people making the books are adjusting his volume up to make him a lot easier to hear than past books I’ve listened to.

Full Review
I absolutely loved both Blood Song and Tower Lord. It’s possible that it made it impossible for me to love Queen of Fire. Either way, I was disappointed enough in that book, that I was reluctant to pick this one up. I had planned to wait on reviews from people I trusted to come out before getting it. Then a review copy fell into my lap.

This book is kind of a hodge podge of several things I love: Mistborn, Indiana Jones, James Bond, and Dragons. And if that’s not enough there is also high sea adventure, and pirates! That may sound like a mess, but Mr. Ryan does a great job in blending those elements together. I also can’t guarantee all of those things were influences on this book, but they are things I thought about as I was reading.

Mistborn has one of my all time favorite magic systems. This one feels similar, only a little less structured, and with only 4 known types of abilities. The main similarity is the idea of imbibing something in order to do magic, and that only a small number of people are born with the ability. Beyond that they are quite different.

My favorite character is Lizanne, who is basically Jane Bond. Her story line was always my favorite, and I really want to know more about the training she went through. I hope we get some flashbacks or possibly her training new recruits in future books, but then I’m a sucker for the magic school trope.

Clay was also a great character, and a more reluctant protagonist then Lizanne. His story was reminiscent of an Indiana Jones story, with him being basically nothing like him. If anyone is Jones it’s maybe his uncle.

The final protagonist, Lt. Hilemore was enjoyable enough, but I spent much of the book wondering how his story fit in with the other two. Rest assured it’s made clear by the end of the story, but it takes awhile. That doesn’t mean his story wasn’t interesting, it just felt disconnected from the rest of the book for me. With him you get high seas battles and pirates!

None of that even scratches the surface of the great supporting cast. Each subplot has it’s own supply of interesting characters. And if 3 interesting protagonists influenced by different elements, and a great supporting cast isn’t enough. There are Dragons. And really, isn’t that enough?

Overall, I’m glad I got this is a review copy because I really enjoyed this book. I just hope he can take his time on the sequels because I felt like his last book suffered from rushing to completion to meet a deadline. I love getting new books in a series once a year, but I’m willing to wait longer if the author needs more time. I’m hoping he’ll be able to bring this to a more satisfying conclusion than his previous series.

Review by Rob Zak.

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