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review 2015-08-26 10:43
The Least Envied
The Least Envied (Songs Unsung, Book 2) - Sean DeLauder

From the first page you are thrown in to a new and exciting world, which quickly becomes the norm. Full of strange creatures (Wogs sound terrifying and sort of cute at the same time- think bony gremlins), fascinating technology and well written characters.

One of the things I really liked about this book was it made me think, there are many philosophical threads throughout the story, but one of the most interesting is about heroes. What makes someone a hero? Is it a one off act of strength and bravery? Or a series of smaller actions? Once a hero is that you then stuck for life? Or can even initially dubious characters become the heroic archetype? Yet this is done subtly and cleverly throughout, no heavy handed take home messages here.

Something I enjoy in my fantasy fiction is humour, humour at daily events/ideals and humour between characters, knowing nods to us as readers that yes the world is a big and scary place, but it is incredibly strange and often hilarious. This is something that Sean writes well and makes the characters come to life.

The plot is quite complex and there were times I had to stop to remember quite what was happening. The only thing I would improve is the length, it’s slightly too long and would benefit from a couple of chapters being cut.

However, overall I thought this was a very good read, interesting, funny and thought provoking. Definitely recommended for fans of fantasy, westerns and Sci-fi.

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review 2012-12-27 00:00
The Least Envied (Songs Unsung, Book 2) ... The Least Envied (Songs Unsung, Book 2) - Sean DeLauder 4.5/5

In The Least Envied, one easily recognizes the first leg of what Joseph Campbell described as “The Hero’s Journey”. The Hero's Journey is a deeply satisfying narrative structure found in all sorts of drama, storytelling, myth, religious ritual, and psychological development. To begin the journey, a hero first receives a Call To Adventure, which the hero refuses, of course. Fortunately, a magical guide comes to the hero's aid and helps the hero Cross the First Threshold, into dangerous realms where the hero enters The Belly of the Whale, which separates them from the known world, and where the hero will undergo a metamorphosis.

We all know and love the structure because the adventures the hero faces will not only be challenging and exciting, but will illuminate some concept and enrich our understanding of the world, and ourselves.

The plot structure is the only aspect of The Least Envied that was predictable. The characters, dialogue, actions, and ambiance are fresh and intriguing. Sean DeLauder begins his novel with "So this was the fabled West, gritty and mean." But this is not the US West—it is the West of some strange world, with strange steel-boned creatures and giant monsters that stomp through Dirtburg, a dusty town with characters that had me hooting and cursing, all at once.

DeLauder writes with an unique style that I enjoyed from Speaker for the Trees. His voice is fresh and interesting, but this novel is not for fast reading, and certainly not for skimming. So much is unexpected that nearly each and every word has to be dissected and savored. The attention is worth the effort because the images are quite vivid and wonderful.

Many themes are explored during this hero's adventure—the nature of heroism, for one, and fate, among others. There is an undercurrent of philosophy here, but without preachiness or pretension, more like Lord of the Rings in some respects, yet thoroughly modern and gritty in others.

Now that you find yourself primed and ready for this adventure, I must admit that I was one of Sean's First Readers, lucky enough to possess the manuscript before publication. Be patient, for he'll have the edited version out sometime soon—and then all of us can wait for Part II together.
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