An Audiobook Review: Kushiel’s Dart

Kushiel’s Dart is written by Jacqueline Carey and narrated by Anne Flosnik.  Kushiel’s Dart is a unique book with a heavy focus on the world and setting.  The first third of the book focuses on the the development of the world and the social structures of the main character’s life.  Characters are introduced and the story advances forward, but these parts seem secondary to the establishment of the world and its machinations.

The book follows Phèdre nó Delaunay’s life, beginning with her birth and early childhood.  The book focuses on the political world that swirls around Phèdre, and Phèdre’s own involvement in it.  Sadly for much of the first part of the book Phèdre is less an actor within the world and merely an observer.  This, coupled with the extreme focus on world building, made the first part of the book more of a slog than it needed to be.

The story is told as though the listener was at a table with the protagonist, and listening to her tale.  Not only is the story told in first person, but it’s told as though the character is looking back.  There are several moments where the narration will add a ‘I didn’t know this at the time’ or ‘I could only speculate then, but the truth of the mater is’.  In one sense this can keep the tension from rising as the listener knows the protagonist survives to tell the tale, on the other hand this helps give the story a sense of intimacy with the protagonist.

The added layer of intimacy is necessary as so much of the story gives most of the relationships a ‘professional’ and clinical feel to them.  Even the relationships that are fleshed out the audience isn’t given much to truly experience the emotions of the relationships.  It feels as though a distance is kept between the emotions of the story and the audience.

Yet this distance of emotions doesn’t mean that the audience is never ever able to connect with the characters.  There were frequent times when I found myself engaged and caught up within the world, particularly during the 2nd half of the book.  There were points where Carey could elicit an emotional response to events unfolding within Kushiel’s Dart.

Anne Flosnik’s narration is solid.  She’s able to draw the audience into the world and drives the story forward.  Flosnik’s narration wasn’t able to keep me from losing interest in the beginning, but it’s unlikely any narrator could have.

Kushiel’s Dart is a solid story.  The book’s focus on world crafting is interesting, but it’s so focused that the story itself lags.  For those interested in reading about the history and lore behind a world Kushiel’s Dart may be a fun and creative read.  For readers and listeners who aren’t as engaged in the crafting of a world I recommend Kushiel’s Dart as worth a read, but not a book to rush out and read immediately.

An Anime Review: Ansatsu Kyoushitsu (Assassination Classroom)

Assassination Classroom is a 2 season anime that follows the life of class 3-E in their final year of junior high school.  The show is a coming of age story, with an on mix of assassination added in.  Assassination Classroom is a sweet and endearing show, with an ample helping of humor.

The story revolves around class 3-E and their mysterious alien-like teacher, Koro-sensei. Koro-sensei destroyed the moon and is now threatening to do the same to the earth.  The class is tasked with assassinating Koro-sensei by the end of the year, lest he destroy the earth.  With a massive bounty on his head other assassin’s are out for Koro-sensei’s head, but the story mostly focuses on Koro-sensei, his students, and the government agents task with protecting and helping the students.

Despite the rather serious nature of a class attempting to assassinate their teacher, the show manages to keep things humorous and fun.  There were multiple occasions where I found myself laughing out loud.  Even in situations where humor wasn’t something to be expected the show found ways to squeak in a number of funny moments.  The humor ranged from funny jokes, to the reaction of characters to certain events.

Along with these moments of humor the show was also able to deliver on truly heartfelt moments.  Many of these moments are drawn out by Koro-sensei.  The students learn about themselves and one another while getting themselves involved in unusual situations.  These situations ranged from getting kidnapped by other professional assassins, their own assassination attempts, and dealing with other students from their school.

As the story follows the entirety of class 3-E Assassination Classroom is an ensemble show.  The show does have a ‘main character’ within the student body, Nagisa, getting the most screen time and often dictating the direction of the show.  Yet even then the show is careful to not let him to eclipse the ensemble nature of the show.   This does at times leave you wishing you’d get more of your favorite characters from time to time as the show stretches itself to accommodate the entirety of the class in its story.

Thankfully Assassination Classroom finds the time to give each character their due.  Each character is given a couple of episodes focused on them, and they’re given a couple of episodes as major supporting characters.  With 25 episodes in both seasons this gives each character plenty of time to shine, both as support and as apart of the main story.

Quick witted, silly, and full of energy Assassination Classroom is a fun show.  It’s an easy ride and takes little to get caught up in the story.  For anyone looking for a good laugh Assassination Classroom should brighten your day.

A Movie Review: Warcraft

The Warcraft movie is directed by Duncan Jones, and is based on Blizzard Entertainment’s Warcraft franchise.  Warcraft is a movie made by fans for fans.  Many of those involved in the making of the film are fans of the franchise.  Anyone can watch and find enjoyment in the movie, but the intended audience are those who are fans of the franchise already.  As a longtime fan of the Warcraft franchise I am the intended audience, and can only really see this film as just that; a fan.

From the opening scene throughout the rest of the film longtime fans will be treated to an endless feast of hidden nuggets.  For those not familiar with the characters or cut scenes from the games these easter eggs simply fill out the world.  For folks who are fans of fully realized and discovered worlds Warcraft will be a visual treat.  From the massive city of Stormwind, to the orc encampment, and beyond those crafting the movie have managed to capture the sense that this world is alive.

The characters too tend to feel alive, some more so than others.  The orcs in particular are given equal, if not more, screen time compared to the humans and they benefit greatly for it.  The protagonists on the orc side of the war are forced to make difficult choices, sacrifices, and struggle with the emotional end of those choices and sacrifices.  Sadly the human side of the movie doesn’t carry the same emotional weight, and while the human side of the story is important I find myself looking forward to the next orc scene.

Maintaing my interest in the human is one of the struggles within the script.  The orc side of the story has far fewer character to contend with, which allows for a deeper emotional exploration of the characters.  Among the humans there are too many characters to get this same deeper look into the characters.  As a result there is very little time for audience to grow attached to the humans, which hampers the emotional risk of a war story.  These character interactions are also hampered by a poorly thought out romance.  The time devoted towards trying to create the romance would have been better spent strengthening the ties between the human cast.

The actual plot of Warcraft charges ahead and expects the audience to keep up.  The movie doesn’t bother with long winded expositions, which is a boon for those already familiar with the series.  However those not familiar with the story have to play catch up, and likely will come out with a couple questions at the end.  The basic outline is simple, the orc home world is dying and they’ve come to take a new one, but the devil is ever in the details.

On the orc side of things you’ve conflict between clans, the hunt for a new home, and the struggle of what it means to be an orc.  Sadly many of those themes aren’t as prevalent as they could have been.  Again there’s plenty for those familiar with the world and story to clearly grasp what’s going on, but for those unfamiliar with it they’ll have to spend extra time grasping the details, time the movie doesn’t tend to give.

On the human side the story focuses on both fighting the orcs, and trying to keep more orcs from coming to this world.  The strong themes that are tucked away within the orcish storyline sadly aren’t as present within the human side.  The human’s story is the more generic tale between the two.

Ironically enough the orcs also gave a stronger acting performance than the humans.  The humans did managed to have several moments together where the audience was engaged and believed the emotion portrayed.  Unfortunately there were also several moments were the acting and emotion was simply flat.  Meanwhile the actors who played the orcs, with a helping hand from CGI, managed to infuse their scenes with energy and emotion.

This fast paced movie is a visual feast and one that should keep you entertained.  Warcraft isn’t going to become the next Lord of the Rings, however for a Warcraft fan it’s a fantastic ride.

A Book Review: Empire’s of Eve

Empires of EVE: A History of the Great Wars of EVE Online by Andrew Groen is a non-fiction that gives the history of EVE Online during it’s first several years.  Groen wrote Empires of EVE to insure these stories aren’t lost to the passage of time.  Groen sets out with the belief that the events within EVE Online matter.  His hope is that by the end of the book you too see the events as something worth remembering.

Groen begins the book in the mist of what was one of the greatest wars within EVE Online’s history.  He takes the time to give the reader a fair idea of what to expect within the book while helping to establish important mindsets within the game.  The chosen setting is perhaps one of the most impressive moments within the game, giving the reader an imeding sense that amazing things can and do happen within this digital world.

Once Groen has given the readers a sense of just what EVE Online is, a move that allows anyone to read this book, he turns back the clock to the very beginning when the game was first in its Alpha stages.  The empires and powers of EVE Online that shape the game for years to come are established within those early days.  Groen is determined to give the reader a clear grasp of what happened, who was involved, and the ebb and flow of the game.

It’s clear Groen has put in massive amounts of energy into researching, not just the game and events within the world, but also the players that partook in these conflicts.  Groen is forth coming when he was unable to receive accounts of events from multiple parties.  When speculation is apart of the history being told Groen makes this clear, and leaves the reader with his own best guess.

Groen avoids the temptation to favor any one side within the history, and instead lets the history tell its story.  Empires of EVE captures the story of humanity and distills it.  There are heroic stands, great leaders, and conmen.  There are epic wars, great rivalries, and devastating betrayals.  There are lofty ideals, desires for glory, and conflict.

Groen sets out with the goal to show the readers that these stories are part of humanity’s stories and worth saving.  The answer to the question if a virtual space, and the actions that take place within, is worth remembering is something only each reader can answer for themselves.

It’s a question that’s worth observing and considering.  The tales told are a glimpse at humanity through a window.  We see the best and the worst.  We see honor and treachery.  The stories of EVE Online and those detailed in Empires of EVE are, for me, something important to remember.

An Anime Review: Endride

Endride is anime of the story of Shun Asanaga and Emilio.

Full disclosure this review is based upon the 1st 4 episodes.

Endride is your traditional story of a young man, about high school age, who gets teleported to another world.  He must then find his way back home, typically becoming some kind of hero along the way.  Shun is the young man teleported from his normal life to the undiscovered country, and Emilio becomes his companion.

Shun and Emilio are among a special type of folk who seem to have some kind of weapon within themselves that they can draw upon.  This weapon is unique to the wielder, and stronger than a normal weapon.  The problem is that the show seems to have little understanding of how weapons work, magical or otherwise.

The weapon designs are gaudy, unwieldily, and rather bland.  If anything the designs make the weapons harder to manage.  The characters fail to use their weapons in a meaningful way that suits the type of weapon given.  I could forgive Shun, as he’s the new kid on the block, but even the characters that ‘know what they’re doing’ don’t treat their weapons as anything but oversized swords.

I know this might not be someone’s first complaint, but it’s something in particular that irks me.  If you’re going to bother having varied weapons, like polearms, axes, or daggers then the characters should use them as such.  Not using the weapons as they’re designed to be used, only serves to break the attention and focus of audience members.

Weapon designs aside the story and characters do little to inspire and capture attention.  While Shun was given some characterization within the first episode, he’s close to his family, shares in his parents love for geology and rocks, and yet much of that goes out the window upon his arrival to the new world.  This time spend developing Shun proves to be meaningless.

Emilio is sadly lacking many characteristics beyond being royalty and his anger issues.  This royal pain in the ass is one of those characters that seems to never cease being mad.  He feels as though he’s always about to snap at the other characters.  Even characters who are primarily angry do experience other emotions. Rather than provide a character to cheer and root for, every moment Emilio was on screen I found myself hoping it’d be his last.

The show is clearly trying to set up a brotherly type of relationship where the characters begin at odds with one another, but come to respect each other by the end.  However, the dialogue and tension barely relates or revolves around the character’s themselves, but rather an artificial tension between Emilio and Shun.  There’s little reason for the two characters to be at each other’s throats all the time, and yet they are.  The endless and meaningless arguments drag on and add nothing to the story.

The other characters are forgettable and leave no lasting impression.  The side characters fail to take any shape beyond their cookie cutter tropes.  There’s nothing truly unique within Endride to capture my attention, and with nothing special to attract me the show’s other issues, such as its lack luster designs, poor choreography, and uninspired characters and interactions, shine all the brighter.

Reaching the 4th episode was challenge, as watching Endride proved laborious and mind numbing.  I’ve since dropped the show, and I haven’t looked back since.  My recommendation is to skip it all together.

A Cartoon Review: Gravity Falls

Gravity Falls is a cartoon created by Disney.  The show is about two twins, Dipper and Mabel, and their summer adventure with their great uncle Stan in the small town of Gravity Falls, where supernatural things seem to take place.  For a show that was created with a young audience in mind Gravity Falls has plenty of sophistication to it.

While Gravity Falls follows a more episodic style there is a clear timeline, evolution, and direction to the show.  From time to time episodes will draw upon information learned in a previous episode, but the episodes never make you feel lost for not having seen an earlier one.  The further you dig the more the overarching plot becomes visible.

As a kid’s show, even though it is rather sophisticated, Gravity Falls plays out a lesson that the characters learned.  Fortunately the show doesn’t spout these lessons as though they’re trying to cram them down the viewers’ throats. Instead the writers let the characters learn the lesson and allow the audience to experience it and learn by observation.

When sharing a lesson it becomes even more important to have solid writing.  It becomes important that the audience doesn’t become bombarded with that lesson or have story elements distract from the point.  Gravity Falls, for the most part, manages to maintain that balance.  Unfortunately there were a couple of times when the writing slipped up.

An example of this is in an episode where Dipper, Mabel, and Mabel’s friends are cursed to collect 500 pieces of candy before the last candle goes out or they’ll be eaten by the Summer Halloween ghost.  This should be a clear cut storyline.  The party has to reach their goal or face being eaten, a fate that the group, and the audience, has seen befall another kid. (Seriously this show can be pretty dark at times, especially when you consider it comes from Disney.)  However, the conflict within the group is that Dipper doesn’t want to trick-or-treat because he doesn’t want a girl he likes to think he’s a little kid.  Yet his twin sister desperately wants to go trick-or-treating with Dipper, like they always do.  The problem is that with such high stakes, being eaten alive, I couldn’t understand Dipper’s reluctance to participate.  Throughout the episode all I could think was ‘You’re going to be eaten!  Get your butt moving!’  If anything these stakes provided Dipper with the perfect cover.  Considering the girl Dipper likes had also seen and faced other supernatural elements within the show it’s not as though she wouldn’t have cause to believe Dipper.  It’s also not far fetched to suspect that she’d try and help Dipper trick-or-treat to avoid being eaten.

Fortunately for every misstep within the writing there are another dozen done right.  The writer’s make great use of foreshadowing and treat their audience with respect.  There are jokes and references for the adults in the audience along with plenty of low brow jokes that folks of any age will enjoy.

Perhaps one of the greatest strengths of Gravity Falls is it’s cast of voice actors.  The show has a strong range of actors from Academy Award winning JK Simmons to Kristen Schaal.  The power that a good actor can add to any form of media cannot be understated.  Actors take the characters created and breathe life into them.  Within Gravity Falls the actors do just that, and the show is the stronger for it.  An actor’s job is to make you forget that the characters you see on the screen before you aren’t real, that it’s only a work of fiction, and that’s exactly what these actors did.  They never fell flat or expressionless.  The actor’s voices carried joy, sadness, angry, and every ranging emotion that fit each given situation.  The actors made me forget that I knew their real faces, names, and prior roles.  Instead I knew them as their characters.

Gravity Falls draws you into its world, and while I was left wanting to return left hoping I might get to see more, I was also left content and happy with the time spent.  Gravity Falls is a fantastic show if you’re looking a fun and silly show with a dark splash.

A Cartoon Review: Miraculous Ladybug

Miraculous Ladybug is a cartoon that was original created in France.  Set in our current time the story is focused on Marinette Dupont-Chang.  Marinette is a young student with a secret identity of the super hero Ladybug who protects the city of Paris with her partner, Cat Noir, against the machinations of Hawk Moth.  It’s your traditional super hero and bad guy of the week type show.

Miraculous Ladybug isn’t anything new or unique, and yet it still has a certain charm that makes it stand out.  The show has something special about it that overcomes its flaws.  Miraculous Ladybug suffers at times from it’s childlike writing with overly corny catchphrases, predictable story outcomes, and animation that varies.

This is not a show I watched and ever found myself surprised by story developments.  Within the first several minuets of an episode it’s usually pretty clear who this episode’s villain is, though we don’t figure out what their special power is until they’ve been ‘evilized.’  (No that is not something I made up, but is from the show.)

At times the writing is so corny it could be cringe worthy.  Once an episode the audience is treated to Ladybug’s cleansing power and her cry of ‘time to de-eviliz’ rather than simply using words that already exists and might sound a bit more respectable.  ‘Time to be purified’ is an example of what the writers could have gone with, but didn’t.  The show has several moments like this, and yet the writers seem to embrace the show’s corny nature.  By the end I’ve even come to find the corny moments and yell almost lovable.

However I would be remise if I didn’t mention that at times the shows writing can be touching and heartfelt at times.  During the end of the origin episodes there is a scene between Marinette and Adrien, the alter-ego of Cat Noir though Marinette is not privy to this knowledge.  The moment that passes between them is simple, quiet, and endearing.  It takes the crush that Marinette has for Adrien and makes it not a silly design choice, and instead makes it a genuine human emotion and character arch.  Actually the whole show is entirely heartfelt, and feels alive.  I believe that’s what gives Miraculous Ladybug that special spark, and wins you over despite some other rather silly choices.

With such a predictable storyline the show cannot depend on the plot to draw the audience in.  Rather the plot is the vehicle for the characters.  Every character is well defined and feels alive.  Marinette isn’t a standard blank slate character, but has real joys and desires.  She’s an artists, she plays video games, she enjoys going to the movies with friends, and she struggles with self worth.  These aren’t facts that the audience is told, but rather what we’re shown.  We get to see Marinette draw and design things, and we get to see her move through her life.  We know she’s the super hero Ladybug, but she’s also a baby-sitter.  Details like this can tell us about our hero without the show resorting to exposition on Marinette’s character.

Even the side characters get fleshed out.  All the tropes are in Marinette’s classroom, the goth kid, the snotty blond rich kid, the geek, the jock, and others.  However the more you watch the more the audience gets to see the greater details to these characters.  The side characters never do get fully fleshed out, due to the time constraints.  Yet, with a gentle smattering of subtle details these tropes feel less like a show trying to fulfill an obligation of certain characters and instead is trying to give the audience a sense of who these people are.  (A side note regarding the rich kid; I’ve seen many snotty rich kids but this one takes the cake.  She is the worst I’ve ever encountered.  I’m convinced the writer’s decided that if they were going to have the typical ‘bratty rich kid’ they were going to take that trope and crank up the heat.)

Perhaps the oddest ‘character’ within the show is Paris, the city, itself.  The Eiffel Tower is used a couple of times, but the show goes beyond that landmark.  As Ladybug soars over the streets, using her special yo-yo as a means to swing from the rooftops, the audience is treated to several wide shots.  These wide shots give the audience a chance to see the city sprawling around Marinette.  Each time you see Marinette and her partner, Cat Noir, racing across Paris’s rooftops you grow to recognize the city and it’s architecture.  By the halfway point of the first season I was convinced that there would be numerous places where a local would know where Marinette and her friends were.  The city feels alive and special.

Before I finish I must mention the music.  The music plays a very minor role in the show.  Often times it’s hardly audible over the dialogue or sound affects, but it provides the right subtle push that guides the emotion of the episode.  I’ve also come to find the opening song to be rather catchy, if a bit on the corny end.  I would prefer a great roll for the music of the show, but despite it’s minimized place the gentle push it provides can’t be ignored.

Miraculous Ladybug is the little engine that could.  It’s a show that shouldn’t have caught my attention the way it did.  The plot is predictable, the dialogue flip flops between being solid to over the top and corny, there are a number of questionable choices made throughout the show, and yet the show found a way to capture my heart.  I care about these characters and their world.  I care, and I’m looking forward to the next 2 seasons.  If you’re looking for a character focused show to sink your teeth into you could do much worse than to give Miraculous Ladybug a shot.

An Animated Short Review: Alive

Alive is an animated short by Blizzard Entertainment created to promote their new game Overwatch.  Clocking in at 6 minuets and 18 seconds  Alive is the hyper quick story of the assassin Widowmaker attempting to make a kill, and the former Overwatch Agent, Tracer, trying to stop her.  Nothing like an assassination attempt to get the blood pumping.

Alive takes full advantage of what I’d call ’emotional’ and ‘implied’ story telling.  The short doesn’t sit you down and say, ‘this character is the hero, this character is a spiritual and political leader, and this character is the villain.’  The short doesn’t even provide the characters’ names, which turns into a boon considering how little time the short has to tell its story.  Sometimes these details are easy to figure out, such as Widowmaker.  Her character design makes its laughably easy to tell which she falls on.  From the first moments of the short the audience is told loud and clear that Widowmaker is the villain.

The audience is also able to determine just as quickly that Tracer is the hero.  However, her ‘hero’ reveal is done a tad more subtle than Widowmaker’s.  The audience only catches a glimpse of her in the first moments.  For someone who’s involved with Overwatch it’s clear who this character is, but to an outside viewer you’re not given much.  Yet within that moment we’re able to paint Tracer as a hero due to the reaction of those around her.  A little girl, about 4-6, sees this character, and her excitement and joy makes it pretty clear that the character shown is one of the good guys.

The third major character is the target, Mondatta, he is the only character who’s name we are given.  Yet you don’t really need to know his name to understand his significance.  Nor do you honestly need to know Tracer’s or Windowmaker’s name to understand their parts or importance.  Mondatta is a spiritual leader, my first comparison was to that of the Dalai Lama.  The few words he speaks are of peace and unity.  With a throng of admirers eager to hear his words, it’s easy to grasp an idea of Mondatta’s importance to the world, and what his death might mean.

All of this character set up is done through the art, music, and character designs.  The dialogue within the short is minimal, which works to the short’s advantage.  With only 6 minuets to spare and a focus on action too much dialogue would only hamper and bog down the short.  Despite not ever hearing Tracer or Windowmaker’s names I found myself still caring about them and wanting to know more of these characters.  That their names weren’t shoehorned in strengthens the short, and gives it a natural flow and feel.  Characters say what they need to say, not what the script needs them to say.

The animation and direction are both solid and well crafted.  The ‘acting’ is-for the most part-natural and flows smoothly.  The emotions of the characters feel genuine.  During the moments of dialogue the characters are given a moment to actually hear the information passed to them and respond to it.  A basic mistake, in both animation and life action, is when the character responds to the world around them without listening or paying attention.  This happens when they hear line X as their cue, instead of hearing the words spoken and responding to them.  In Alive the characters hear, see, and have a moment to allow the information to register.  Those extra seconds devoted to the characters gives the animation true emotion.  We see words and knowledge pass into the characters and having this information leave its mark.  This makes the short come alive.

Unfortunately there were a few split ups, twice in the directing and once in the ‘acting.’  One particular moment was when Mondatta’s personal escort evacuated him through the crowd.  This act leaves Mondatta vulnerable, and I doubt many security details would have made such an error.  Rather a security team would have gotten Mondatta inside and kept him away from windows.  Moments like this threaten to break the audience’s attention, but considering the immersion and adrenaline already established these brief mistakes didn’t disrupt my focus.

Before I wrap this up I have to mention the music.  Whomever Blizzard has writing their music created a fantastic piece.  A slow build up of energy, with an insidious edge draws the audience in.  The music cues the audience and ensnares them in the story’s web.

Alive is certainly worth checking out if you’ve 6 minuets to spare, particularly if you’re eager for Overwatch.  Even if you’re not interested in the game itself Alive should capture your interest into the world and story.  If nothing else you’re in line for an excellent 6 minuet short.

An Audiobook Review: Tesser: A Dragon Among Us

Tesser: A Dragon Among Us is written by Christ Philbrook and narrated by James Foster.  Tesser: A Dragon Among Us is the first book in the Reemergence series.  The book seemed to be set up for success by featuring a dragon as the main character and by having an interesting world with intriguing characters.  Sadly it failed to deliver.

The first half of the book focuses on building the world and establishing the characters.  This section is delightful with Foster’s smooth voice giving the characters a unique feel.  During the first half I was hypnotized by the story and completely engaged.  The world was intriguing and the more I learned the more I wanted to learn.

Unfortunately this rapture did not last.  During the second half of the book things begin to fall apart, both with the writing and with the narration.  This meltdown is a tragic end to such a strong beginning.  I wish it had been a single issue, but sadly the problems compounded on top of one another.

The first problem that stands out to me is that there’s a disconnect between the villains actions and what works.  Without giving too much away at the end, during the climax, the villain, Legion, attempts to stop Tesser, who is a dragon, by using the same method that had been proven ineffective against Tesser earlier.  Legion’s attempts at harming Tesser were as successful as throwing stones at the ocean.  Had this been written correctly it could have been forgiven, however it wasn’t.  Legion has faced Tesser in the past (prior to the book past), and at one point seemingly beaten him, and yet for the majority of the climax Legion is as helpless as a babe before Tesser.  The worst part is that earlier in the book Legion had demonstrated that there was a way he could harm Tesser.  Throughout the final battle all I could think was, ‘why doesn’t he do what he did earlier?’

Another problem was the climax itself.  The final confrontation is one between the forces of good against the forces of evil.  However, that was not how this story sets itself up.  There’s a complete disconnect between the meat of the story, which focuses more on the world and discovery and less on confrontation, and the final show down.  While there are hints at trouble brewing, the story is not built around the idea of a final epic conflict.  With a being like Tesser, who is essentially immortal, the problems that are interesting with someone like Tesser aren’t problems that can be solved through strength of arms.  When it comes to a straight fight, there’s no doubt that Tesser will win, which completely kills any tension the story might be generating.  Especially when the villain’s resistance is so completely botched.

I could continue to harp on Philbrook’s mistakes, but those two were the most egregious problems with his work.  Now I need to turn my attention to Foster’s narration.  In the beginning Foster’s narration had me spellbound.  I loved his voice and his characterization.  Tesser had a smooth and steady voice that I could reasonably believe was a dragon’s voice.  Unfortunately Foster never adjusts to the change in the story.  What worked for Tesser as he learned about the modern world and sipped coffee didn’t work when the fate of the world hung in the balance.  Foster’s energy remains at the same level, and he carried the same urgency at the beginning of the book as he did at the climax.  I found the narration lost my interests just as much as the story itself did.

Tesser: A Dragon Among Us held so much promise and began so strongly that it’s fall from grace hurts all the more.  For many the disconnect between the climax and the main story might not be as jarring, and may be forgivable.  However I certainly will not be buying the sequel.

An Audiobook Review: The Hero of Ages

The Hero of Ages, written by Brandon Sanderson and narrated by Michael Kramer, is the final installment in the Mistborn Series.  If you’ve listened to Sanderson’s other installments in the Mistborn Series I suspect that you’ll enjoy this one as well.

Many fantasy stories feature a ‘last battle’ scenario where the fate of the world hangs in the balance, yet I have never felt as though the world’s death was as imminent and certain as with The Hero of Ages.  The stakes are real, and as the end of the world draws close you’re left wondering how Sanderson could possibly bring about a happy ending.  Yet, Sanderson manages to create a satisfying ending that leaves the listener on the edge of wanting more and being perfectly content.  Sanderson is able to keep the listener engaged with twists and turns to the very end of the book.

The meat of the book is just as solid as it’s ending.  The characters hunt for a way to save the world and struggle to keep moving forward in the face of certain defeat.  The emotional growth and of development of the characters’ continue throughout this final book. Even ‘villains’ in this world are well defined.  They feel real and posses a serious threat to the heroes.

Kramer once again reprises his role as the narrator.  His dark voice is again suited to the darkening world and it’s impending doom.  Kramer keeps this dark foreboding sense, however he is able to maintain an uplifting sense in those critical moments.  Kramer maintains his emotional connection to the world and the story.  Kramer never flatlines his performance, but keeps adjusting to the situations the story presents.  For example during the final confrontation Kramer builds his energy and adjusts his tempo to match the stories rather than using the same energy he used page 1.

Unfortunately during Kramer’s narration there are several moments when a background noise, perhaps Kramer adjusting his seat or turning a page in the book, is audible.  With a book as long as The Hero of Ages it’s almost expected to encounter a couple of these, however these moments happened often enough that they became noticeable.  The moments remain a minor complaint, but one that could have been avoided.

In the end The Hero of Ages is a delightful book, and one that I must recommend to other fantasy lovers.  A story full of delightful characters, a well crafted world, and well honed plot.  Give it a look.