One thing that is consistent with this series is that Hadrian and Royce as the fantastical odd couple are hilarious, and if this series were just them going around righting wrongs and singing songs a la Xena and Gaby, I'd probably enjoy this series a whole lot more. They work off each other really well. Royce is the cynic ex-assassin who only sees greed in everyone, Hadrian is the optimistic ex-soldier who is determined to show Royce the cheerier side of life. Gwen is also a great character, and it was neat to see how Ruben met Arista and became a part of these stories. I have to be honest about not remembering Albert from the original series (which I've decided not to finish after reading some reviews and returned the last volume to Audible), which I'm regretting because he's an interesting character here. (He's got a definite Joxer-esque vibe to him.)
But then these first two prequels are, in general, more interesting since they're mainly focused on introducing Hadrian and Royce to each other and setting up the rest of the series. They have the benefit of being fresh and mostly self-contained. However, this one does start to get bogged down with the larger mythos and political scheming that dragged down the original series, and Mr. Sullivan still has a tendency towards talking heads when it comes to exposition. His villains are also not nearly as smart or sly as they think they are, though at least in this case it's not required for them to be since we already know who they are.
So this was good, and the narrator continues to do a good job with all the characters and does his best to make the talking heads sound natural. There were even a few good laughs, but also a few "whaa?" moments. I'll listen to the next one, since I already have it, and see how that one goes.
Fantasy-lite at its most mediocre.
My lord, that thing was long! Two books in one volume is just too much when the exposition is this dry. On top of that, whoever edited the audiobook decided that splitting chapters up into several smaller, shorter chapters was a good idea. Honestly, I think it just contributed to the feeling of "this is never going to end" that I started getting about halfway through.
I like the characters, and the stars are mostly for them. Hadrian and Royce have good banter, and Arista, Amelia and Modina have some interesting conflicts and personal journeys to go through. Really, the women do have the better part of the story here. The problem I'm having with these is the execution. Characters speak the exposition in the most expositiony way possible. Instead of aiming for subtext and intrigue, the characters continue to spew every thought to their enemies because of course that's the smart thing to do. There are no twists or attempts to subvert tropes. There is an attempt at a cliffhanger at the end of this one, but let's face it - everything will be fine, so I'm not worried.
I'm rewatching Buffy: The Vampire Slayer right now and recently got through the season two episode "Lie to Me." At the end, Buffy asks Giles if life ever gets easier and tells Giles to lie to her. He answers:
"Yes. It's terribly simple. The good guys are always stalwart and true. The bad guys are easily distinguished by their pointy horns or black hats, and, uh, we always defeat them and save the day. No one ever dies and... everybody lives happily ever after."
Sullivan seems to be writing his stories with this sentiment in mind, only he forgot the part about it being a lie (with one or two minor exceptions). This is very "what you see is what you get" and maybe it's just the wrong series to be trying to read alongside A Song of Ice and Fire and Young Wizards.
Since I did like the first of the prequels, I think I'll go back to those and see if that was one-time fluke or if Sullivan just got better with time. I'll have to debate with myself if I want to bother finishing this original series though. It's just not holding my attention - though that's no fault of the narrator, whose doing the best he can with the material he's been giving and he's probably the only reason the story even has some semblance of life to it.
Series: The Legends of the First Empire #1
This is a sword and sorcery novel where the people don’t have too many swords. Well, the humans don’t have very many. The god-like Fhrey are a different story, but they also have magic. Well, “Art.” If I were more of fan of straight out sword and sorcery fantasy worlds, I’d probably have enjoyed this more. As it is, it was alright, and I liked some of the exchanges, especially those involving Suri, but there wasn’t anything terribly exciting about it. Some parts were downright dull.
Suri thought people were playing a game when they stated the obvious, so she’d reply to comments like, “You’re alive!” with “Your hair is black.” She’s basically pushing this up to 3 stars for me since it was a very average read otherwise.
Anyway, I can see how some people would really like this but it wasn’t the best fit for me even though I enjoyed parts of it. Overall I thought it was a bit slow and not a good enough “hook” for the rest of the series although I may decide to continue reading it as it comes out.
Previous reading update:
I read this for square #27 in booklikes-opoly “Read a book that has a tree on the cover." At 432 pages, this nets me $5 for my bank, bringing me to $56, and leaves me with two more books to read before I can roll again.
“Unlike your word game, the gods aren’t so obvious, which makes their games a lot more interesting to play. I mean, if Elan came right out and said tomorrow you’ll take a walk and be ripped apart by badgers, you’d be terrified and wouldn’t go out, right? So she wouldn’t tell you that. She might drop some hints, but if you didn’t pick up on the clues or couldn’t figure them out…well, that’s not her fault. Anyway, you go, walking into a horrible badger-ripping death because you didn’t know any better. That’s the way gods play their games and why I think we need to talk to the trees. So we aren’t all ripped apart by badgers.”
So far Suri is my favourite character, I think. She talks to trees.