Tag Archives: fantasy

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (unabridged audiobook read by the author; 6 hrs on 5 discs): The more I like a book, the less I have to say about it, so expect this to be short. It’s the story of a man finding his childhood was different from how he remembered it, but more than that, it’s a story of old gods and hidden spirits and all those kinds of things that Gaiman really excels at. He makes the ordinary world magical.

A note on the audio: Gaiman remains a fabulous reader. I wish he could read me bedtime stories every night. And I don’t mean that in a creepy euphemistic way, either: I just really enjoy listening to him tell stories.

Dragon Wing by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman

Dragon Wing by Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman (unabridged audiobook): It took me an incredibly long time to get through this book. It starts with some bits about Hugh the Hand, an assassin saved from execution with an assignment to kill the young prince. Then there’s some stuff about revolutionary dwarves, who find a guy and his dog, recently escaped from the Labyrinth. And somehow elves are involved, and an evil wizard, and possibly some people more powerful than the evil wizard. The stories eventually intertwine, but I had difficulty figuring out what happened to whom. Reading the wikipedia summary confirmed that I hadn’t actually missed anything plotwise, but I think the main problem was that there were a lot of races and I had trouble keeping track of their individual politics and histories. The fact that several of them call each other by differing names (Dwarves vs. Gegs, for example) didn’t help either. The only reason I pushed my way through to the end is because I was told that this first book is by far the worst in the series, and once you’ve gotten past it (and the requisite backstory), the rest of the series is excellent. Let’s hope so.

A note on the audio: I listened to this on MP3, gotten from a friend, who dubbed it off audio cassettes, which were copies themselves, so I have no idea who the narrator is. Which is a shame, because he’s actually pretty good.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau

The People of Sparks by Jeanne DuPrau (unabridged audiobook read by Wendy Dillon; 8 hrs on 7 discs): We begin not too long after City of Ember ended, with the Emberites having emerged from their underground home for the first time in many generations, and descending upon the first settlement they encounter: the village of Sparks. This tiny village cannot support these hundreds of refugees who have nothing to trade and no skills to take care of themselves, and tensions between the two groups steadily build. To be perfectly honest, I spent a good part of this book being angry at everybody. I know it’s supposed to be an allegory, but not a single person in Sparks showed any interest whatsoever in learning about Ember or its inhabitants. These people have been cut off from the rest of civilization for so long that they have never seen an animal and don’t even know what the moon is. I’d never stop asking them questions and answering theirs. Luckily, everything does eventually get resolved and I finished the story feeling more or less satisfied. I don’t think I’ll be continuing the series, however. From what I understand, the latter two books focus more on some mysterious prophecy (which is kind of annoying since part of the attraction of these books, for me, is their plausibility) and hardly feature Lina and Doon at all. This one ends in a good place, though, so I am happy to continue the story only in my imagination.

A note on the audio: Dillon was excellent once again. The sound effects in the background were much less intrusive this time around, and in fact added some ambiance to the fire scene.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Daniel Sharman; 15.5 hrs on 13 discs): And here we are at the end of the trilogy. I have thoughts and they are all disjointed, so, bottom line up front: I really enjoyed it. I found this trilogy to be far better, both in story and in mechanics, than The Mortal Instruments. The characters have far more depth, and thus are far more interesting to read about. However, I do still believe it was helpful to read The Mortal Instruments first because of how fun it was to see the origins of many things that pop up in that series.

I didn’t think I could love Magnus any more than I already did, but clearly my affection for him knows no bounds.

The revelation about Tessa’s talent was satisfying, as was the defeat of Mortmain and the truth behind Tessa’s clockwork angel. I felt the resolution of the Jem/Tessa/Will love triangle to be a little too convenient, however, despite how much I loved all three characters. Jem’s epilogue was generally unconvincing as well, but perhaps Clare has another book in store for these characters. I kind of hope so, actually, because I love this universe, though I like it better in Victorian times than modern day.

A note on the audio: Finally a good narrator! Why couldn’t they have Sharman narrate the other two books as well? Stupid stupid stupid.

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Ed Westwick and Heather Lind; 15.5 hrs on 13 discs): The story of Mortmain and his clockwork soldiers continues with the angst of Will. Amazingly, Will’s jerkface tendencies from the last book are actually explained realistically here, with a twist that did not surprise me but was still pleasing in how unusual it was. Will’s character in general is given a surprising amount of depth; that plus the secrets revealed and exciting battles and romantic shenanigans made this my favorite Shadow Hunter book so far (including all of Mortal Instruments, which really isn’t anywhere nearly as well-written as this). I’ll be curious to see how various issues are cleared up in the final book: the love triangles, the unrequited loves, the terminal illness, the villain’s mysterious motives, etc. All around a fun ride.

A note on the audio: While these narrators are a huge improvement over the one from the previous book, it’s disruptive to constantly be switching readers. I do not understand why anyone would have thought that was a good idea.

Otherworld Tales 2: Demon Invasion by C.T. Markee

Otherworld Tales 2: Demon Invasion by C.T. Markee: Irish and Streak are joined by Irish’s cousin Frost as they search for their friend Huff in the wilds of Mount Shasta. This is the second of the Otherworld Tales series, but reading the first one is not strictly necessary, as Irish and his friends don’t remember the events from that book anyway. There’s less Celtic mythology this time around but far more adventure as our heroes fight monsters and the elements. I liked the cranky dwarves (are there really any other kind?) and the snooty giants. There’s nothing especially unpredictable here – you know that Huff will eventually be rescued and evil will be vanquished – but I think this is a story that would be enjoyed by most children who like fantasy and adventure.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Jennifer Ehle; 15.5 hrs on 13 discs): When Tessa travels from her native New York to London to meet up with her brother, she is greeted by the Dark Sisters, strange women who hold her captive, forcing her to master a talent she never knew she possessed: shape shifting. She soon finds herself in the company of shadow hunters, those half-angel humans who uphold the law among the supernatural. Unlike the modern Mortal Instruments series, this takes place in Victorian times. There’s a bit of a steampunk vibe, what with clockwork critters and all that, but it’s not overbearing or overly unrealistic (for a story with demons and warlocks, that is). I like Tessa; she’s smart and confident without being reckless (using “character is too headstrong and doesn’t listen to reason and gets herself into trouble” as a plot device is a pet peeve of mine). The shadow hunters are also pleasantly individual: surly Will, kind Jem, prissy Jessamine, determined Charlotte, flighty Henry. I liked that I couldn’t predict where everything was going, but also never felt like things were plucked out of thin air. I don’t know if I would be enjoying it as much if I hadn’t already been introduced to the shadow hunter universe through the Mortal Instruments series, though I do feel the characters and story are much stronger here. The book ends on a slight cliffhanger, but that’s okay because it’s the beginning of a trilogy. Game on.

A note on the audio: When only a couple of the characters are American, it is best to get someone who can pull off a decent British accent. This reader, alas, cannot.

City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau

The City of Ember by Jeanne DuPrau (unabridged audiobook read by Wendy Dillon; 7 hrs on 6 discs): Lina and Doon live in Ember, the only city in existence. The sky is black; the streets are illuminated by huge floodlights. When the lights go out, the entire world is plunged into impenetrable darkness. All supplies come from the cavernous store rooms. This is how it has been since the beginning of time, but lately there have been fewer supplies and more blackouts. As a reader, you know that this city is most likely in a cave or underground, the power produced by a hydroelectric generator, but of course the characters have never known anything different. It is, truly, a fascinating idea. One day Lina finds a set of instructions, partially destroyed by her baby sister. She and Doon embark on an adventure as they attempt to decipher it. This is not an overly complicated story, but I really enjoyed all the subtle differences that living in such a place would imply. I look forward to reading the rest of the series.

A note on the audio: Dillon’s character voices were excellent. I could have done without the rather loud sound effects, though. The rush of the river was especially distracting.

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix (unabridged audiobook read by Alyssa Bresnahan; 5.25 hrs on 5 discs): What happens after the glass slipper fits and Cinderella is whisked away to Prince Charming’s palace? In this story, “happily ever after” doesn’t seem to be in the cards. Ella, having spent so much time as a servant, is having trouble adjusting to the tight-laced bureaucracy of palace life. Worse, her regular meetings with Prince Charming are stilted and awkward, with no one showing any interest in her beyond her beauty. I liked this one. I liked Ella’s determination and practicality. I liked the lack of a fairy godmother or any other magical elements. Definitely one to pick up if you like fairy tale retellings.

A note on the audio: Besnahan was very talented, but sounded a bit too old to be 16. Admittedly, I probably wouldn’t have even noticed had the book been told in third person instead of first.

Also posted on BookCrossing.

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde

The Well of Lost Plots by Jasper Fforde (unabridged audiobook read by Elizabeth Sastre; 12 hrs on 10 discs): Every time I read another Thursday Next book I figure that’s the last one I’m going to bother with. Not because they’re bad – they’re actually rather charming – but because there are so many literary references that I feel I’m not really appreciating them as much as I could be. And I don’t want to bother with the prerequisite reading to catch up. Anyway, this is the third book in the series, and Thursday has settled in an unpublished novel for the duration of her pregnancy. At the same time, she is training to become a Jurisfiction agent, dealing with the memories of her eradicated husband being erased, and raising two young generics trying to figure out what kind of characters they will become. She is visited by her grandmother (and it just occurred to me that it was never fully explained just how old Granny managed to travel into the book world), deals with footnote spam, and attempts to solve the murder of several of her fellow agents. The whole thing is actually quite a lot of fun, and there were points when I laughed out loud at the absurdity of it all. I don’t know that I’ll necessarily continue the series, but I won’t rule it out either.

I would like to note that the unpublished novel in which Thursday stays is no longer unpublished – the story eventually became The Big Over Easy. I actually think my having read that book first made this one more enjoyable, since I knew the nursery rhyme characters would sooner or later be infiltrating the generic detective story. It was also fun to see the plainer origins of the often zany characters from that series.

A note on the audio: This may be better in paper form, since so many of the jokes are in the forms of footnotes and misspellings, but Sastre was up to the challenge and I never felt confused.

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