We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker: Hunting for Hope (and Life?) in a Hopeless Place

Am glad to welcome the Book Tour for We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker today—it’s one of those books that I don’t feel quite adequate to talk about, but we’ll give it a shot. Be sure to check out some of these other blogs on the graphic below, as well. There’s some great blogs covering this one.

We Begin at the End

We Begin at the End

by Chris Whitaker

eARC, 464 pg.
Zaffre, 2020

Read: April 4-7, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


Thirty years after (the then minor) Vincent King was imprisoned for killing a girl, he’s released to a world he can only barely recognize. His childhood best friend, now Chief of Police, picks him up from prison to drive him back to the small coastal town they grew up in. Geographic changes, economic changes, societal drift, and other pressures have radically altered this community.

But some things remain—the high school jock who’s athletic future was derailed by an injury still drives the car his father bought while he was in High School, and works to recapture the physical condition he was in then. Chief Walker—Walk—is still hung up on his high school sweetheart (who moved away not long after King was imprisoned). And Star Radley, Vincent’s then-girlfriend, and sister of his victim, still lives in town, still shaped by the events of thirty years prior.

Star has two children—thirteen-year-old Duchess and her little brother, Robin. Duchess does most of the care-taking of Robin, feeding him, getting him ready for school, making sure he’s sleeping. She’s doing everything she can to raise Robin (and protect him from the world), and to keep her mother healthy for Robin’s sake. On the eve of Vincent’s return, Star tries to overdose on pills—and not for the first time.

Walk’s a constant presence in the lives of Star, Duchess, and Robin—but not a necessarily welcome one. Still, he’s the steadiest and most reliable adult in the children’s lives (and in some way, Duchess does depend on him and look up to him).

That’s the status quo that King’s release upsets. What follows is a chain of heartbreak, calamity, tragedy, violence, vengeance, and depravity. There’s a little glimmer of hope, too—but it’s hard to find, and there’s a lot of suffering surrounding it.

Whitaker delivers this in lean prose, without wasting a word. It’s almost as if he took Leonard’s rule to “leave out the parts that people skip,” and dialed it up to 11. The prose matches the emotions, the characters—beauty, ornament, sentiment have no place in their lives, and it’s largely empty from the novel. There’s not a word out of place, each one carefully placed for maximum impact and effectiveness.

Each character has a depth that you don’t always see. Whitaker doesn’t explore the depth too much, doesn’t explain it—but he shows that it’s there. Duchess, in particular, is a character so well drawn that I can practically see her. I won’t forget her anytime soon.

There are some problems, not many, but they’re there. The text in the ARC (and perhaps this will be addressed in the final text) contains a couple of sloppy Britishisms—terms that would be commonplace in the UK, but have no place in a US character’s mind. Particularly if they’re a poorly educated child. Whitaker’s language is so precise, so clear, that having something like that just takes me out of the text—ruining the spell.

Secondly, Whitaker’s sparse style occasionally works against him. Every now and then the prose works against him, making a scene difficult to parse. Just a few more words (judiciously placed, obviously) to flesh things out could help.

I wish I could say that I enjoyed this book—I really do. But I didn’t. I did fall under its spell, the stark, bleak outlook affected me (I wonder how I’d have reacted to a thing or two if Duchess’s and Walk’s plights weren’t in the back of my mind the last couple of days). This is not your typical Crime Novel. It’s not written in the typical fashion, with typical characters and motivations, with typical ends in mind. The terms “moody” and “atmospheric” seem like understatements. It is powerful, skillfully written—and will stay with you for quite a while.

Do yourself a favor, take the plunge.


4 Stars


My thanks to Tracy Fenton and Compulsive Readers for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) provided via NetGalley.


This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Smoke Bitten by Patricia Briggs: Mercy Deals with Unexpected Threats from Every Direction

Smoke Bitten

Smoke Bitten

by Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson, #12

Hardcover, 342 pg.
ACE, 2020

Read: March 24-28, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


There’s just so much going on in this novel, it’s hard to know where to start—this may be the busiest Mercy Thompson novel yet. Well, okay, we’ll start with the titular bit. Something/Someone has escaped from Underhill. This seems fairly impossible, but I guess even nigh-omnipotent sentient spaces make mistakes every now and then. Doubtlessly the Columbia Basin pack would’ve gotten involved at some point, but since Mercy recognized the threat before the Fae—or anyone else—did, they were on the front line for this. Whoever it bites, it controls. It can shape-shift to look like anyone, too. It’s deadly and doesn’t seem to have much of a plan beyond creating as much chaos and gathering as much power as it can.

While dealing with that, another threat to the pack presents itself. There are some new werewolves in the area, and their goal is simple: become the new pack in town. As Adam’s pack is now independent of The Marrok, these wolves have decided they’re ripe for a takeover. None of these are wolves to be taken lightly—some have recently left a pack run by very dominant Alpha, which took some strength. All of them have strong reputations amongst the wolves (generally positive), although one is known as the wolf who’d do things that Charles Cornick wouldn’t do for his father. These are not going to be easy to face off against.

The thing that’s the most distressing (and given what I’ve just talked about, that’s saying something) for Mercy is that there’s a problem between her and Adam. The roots of the issue go back to before we met Adam, but something happened in Storm Cursed to tip Adam over the brink. The latest meddling by Adam’s ex, Chrissy, made it all boil over and threatened the peace and stability of the pack—as well as their marriage. We see Mercy at her most vulnerable since…well, probably since the attack at the garage (or what The Monster tried to do in Bone Crossed), which stresses for the reader how bad the situation is. The two take some positive steps, but things aren’t resolved wholly here—and I hope Briggs doesn’t patch things up quickly between the two between novels. I think we need to see the pair continuing to work through things.

There’s a few more things going on, too, including some fun with Sherwood (who is quickly becoming a favorite character), some interesting developments with Jesse’s life, and some interesting character development in general with pretty much each of the pack members we usually get time with. Oh, and lest I forget, an old friend comes back.

One final thing to mention: last year, while talking about Storm Cursed, I said:

There’s something that happens in the climactic battle scene that I want to talk about more than I want to talk about anything else in this book—because in the long run it’s going to be bigger and more important than anything else that happens or I’ll eat my hat. It’s so small, so quick that it’d be easy to miss—2 sentences on one page, then twelve pages later 2 more sentences. And Briggs has at least one novel’s worth of plot seeded right there. I love when I see an author do something like that and make it look effortless. And I think I’m underselling it. But I’ll have to leave it there—maybe in book 12 (or 15) when it happens, I’ll remember to say, “Remember that thing I didn’t talk about in Storm Cursed? This is it.”

Well, Briggs gave that seed plenty of water and a little fertilizer in these pages. I still don’t feel comfortable talking about it in detail for reasons I can’t explain. But whoo-boy, I can’t wait to see what Briggs has in mind.

So, yeah, like I said—a lot of balls in the air. Or plates spinning. Pick a metaphor you like best. And I think Briggs did alright by them all—yeah, I’d have liked a bit more time with the new wolves, but we didn’t need it—and I’m not sure we’re done with them (maybe in the next Alpha and Omega book if not in an upcoming Mercy novel?). To deal well with all these elements and keep the novel moving quickly and resolving in a satisfactory manner (with a few more strings than usual left for the next installment) speaks highly of Briggs’ skill. Fans of Mercy Thompson shouldn’t wait to grab this, people who are curious about the series should be able to come on board now, too (although, you really ought to read them all). Briggs is at the top of her game now, and it’s just fun to watch.


4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Back to Reality: A Novel (Audiobook) by Mark Stay & Mark Oliver, Kim Bretton: A Parallel Universe/Body Swap Story Story Full of Laughs and Heart


Back to Reality

Back to Reality

by Mark Stay & Mark Oliver, Kim Bretton (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 6 Min.
The Bestseller Experiment, 2019

Read: March 19-25, 2020


Oh, boy… how do I talk about this? I thought about calling this a bundle of joy, but that means something else. A bundle of audio joy, maybe? This was just so much fun that I want to start with that. If you’re looking to have a good time, this is a book for you.

If you read the Book Spotlight I just posted, you’ve got a good idea about the plot (and if you haven’t read the Spotlight, why not?). But for the sake of completeness here’s the gist: connected by something across the multiple parallel universes, two versions (one 18 and one almost 2 decades older) of one woman swap bodies for a few days. The older version works in PR, is the mother of a teen who can’t stand her, with marriage problems. The younger version is a pop star on the verge of breaking through in the ’90s. If they don’t swap back, there’s every sign that they won’t survive in this new world. But how can they do that?

That sounds sort of intriguing, I hope. But the book never really feels like that kind of Fringe-inspired take on a Back to the Future/Freaky Friday mashup, because of the voice, the style and approach of Stay and Oliver—which is characterized by humor and heart. It’s like early-Rainbow Rowell/Jennifer Weiner/Emily Giffin/Sophie Kinsella. These are strong women in very strange circumstances, surrounded by interesting characters responding to unbelievable situations.

We meet Jo on a night out with people from the office, which turns into an alcohol-fueled karaoke sensation (Jo has a fantastic voice, but a lot of stage fright). I enjoyed this chapter so much that I probably could’ve written 3-4 paragraphs about it alone and would’ve read an entire book about this woman’s life (especially because what happens to her in the next couple of chapters deserved a complete novel to see her respond to). It took me a little longer to get invested in “Yolo” (the 90’s version), but I came around and started rooting for her, too.

I am not the target audience for this (note the authors I mentioned above—some of which I only know through my wife’s description). And there were a few times I asked myself why I was listening to this—each time, I decided I was enjoying myself enough that I didn’t care if this was my typical read or not. There’s just a hint of SF, a dollop of Time Travel (more like jumping between parallel universes), and a healthy amount of “women’s commercial fiction.” This is a recipe for a wonderful literary dessert.

I’ll frequently (maybe too frequently?) talk about an audiobook narrator bringing the text to life. And Kim Bretton does that. But she does more than that—she fills it with life. Dynamic, energetic, vibrant…are just some of the adjectives that spring to mind. I was very happy when I just looked over her other audiobook credits and saw a couple of titles I was already thinking about—if she’s doing them, I’m giving them a try. (although, if I never hear her do another American male accent, I’d be more than okay).

Funny, sweet, amusing, heartfelt, laugh-inducing, touching, comic, imaginative—and did I mention humorous? This is 606 minutes of pure entertainment. I really encourage you to put this in your ear-holes. It’d probably work almost as well in print—Bretton’s great, but she has to have something to work with—but in audio? It’s close to a must-listen.


4 Stars

My thanks to Overview Media for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials (including a copy of the novel) they provided.

A Few Quick Thoughts about The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle (Audiobook) by Stuart Turton, James Cameron Stewart

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

The 7 ½ Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle

by Stuart Turton, James Cameron Stewart (Narrator)

Unabridged Audiobook, 17 hrs., 4 min.
Tantor Audio, 2018

Read: March 6-19, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

Too little information and you’re blind, too much and you’re blinded.

If I said everything I wanted to here, I’d blind you with too much information.

In the interest of A. Time and 2. Not wanting to overwhelm you with anything but mostly III. I don’t want to take away the impact that reading/listening to this would bring to you. So…I’m going to be brief.

Let’s start with the publisher’s description:

The Rules of Blackheath

Evelyn Hardcastle will be murdered at 11:00 p.m.

There are eight days, and eight witnesses for you to inhabit.

We will only let you escape once you tell us the name of the killer.

Understood? Then let’s begin…

***

Evelyn Hardcastle will die. Every day until Aiden Bishop can identify her killer and break the cycle. But every time the day begins again, Aiden wakes up in the body of a different guest. And some of his hosts are more helpful than others.

For fans of Claire North and Kate Atkinson, The 71/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle is a breathlessly addictive novel that follows one man’s race against time to find a killer—but an astonishing time-turning twist means that nothing and no one are quite what they seem.

When I grabbed this audiobook, I remembered less than 1 percent of what I’d read about it. I just remembered bloggers loving it. Also, it was on Chirp, so…you know, cheap, and I needed something to listen to. So without even reading the blurb again, I grabbed it.

What a mind-bending book. I’ve seen comparisons to Clue (the movie, not the game), Agatha Christie, Groundhog Day, and Quantum Leap—I’d add Knives Out. Those comparisons are all apt. Add those things with some incredibly brilliant writing—there are sentences here that justify the expense and/or time involved just to hear/read them. Throw in a clever, clever book and it’s a real winner.

It’s sort of a fantasy. It’s a very old school mystery. It’s impossible to encapsulate. The themes explored include:
bullet Identity
bullet Memory
bullet Vengence
bullet Corruption (inner and public)
bullet Forgiveness
bullet Redemption

Stewart’s narration was pretty solid—occasionally I wondered about his choices for female voices—but all in all he kept me engaged and entertained.

I thought the book dragged a bit from time to time, but it’s hard to think of anything Turton really could’ve cut/rearranged to help that–and the large portion that didn’t drag made up for the rest easily. To say that the plot is intricate is to undersell it, I don’t remember the last book I read that was quite this intricate and well-constructed. It’s truly impressive, thoroughly entertaining, and completely provocative.

Listen to it, read it, whatever…put it on your list and you’ll be glad you did.


4 Stars

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Joker by Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo (Illustrator): One night in Gotham and the tough guys tumble

Joker

Joker

by Brian Azzarello, Lee Bermejo (Illustrator)

Paperback, 144 pg.
DC Comics, 2019 (DC Black Label Edition)

Read: March 18, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!

That’s what he is, I guess: a disease that infected Gotham City…

…of which there is no cure.

The Joker is inexplicably released from Arkham and he quickly discovers that he’s broke. And well, he might be insane, but he’s not crazy enough to let people get away with that. The Penguin, The Riddler, Two Face, etc. are to blame. As far as he’s concerned anyway.

With the help (at least presence) of his new henchman, Johnny Frost, Joker sets off to get his property back, to get a little revenge, and generally wreak havoc. You know, as you would if you were the Clown Prince of Crime.

That’s really all I’m going to say—it’s bloody, it’s depraved, it’s dark, it’s twisted. It’s not revolutionary, it’s not a reinvention of the Joker. It’s a good story about the character that’s been a favorite of readers for decades.

Oh, sure, the Dark Knight puts in an appearance—but it’s at the end, and he’s not even brought up for most of the book. Then he’s there and things go the way they usually do when he shows up.

The art? Hoo-boy. It’s something else. It’s…visceral is the best word I can come up with it. Even if you don’t like it, I don’t see where you can’t have a strong opinion of it—I find it striking, memorable…and visceral.

I really enjoyed this one and highly recommend it to any comic reader, or anyone who wants to see what the world of Batman can look like in the original medium instead of film.


4 Stars

2020 Library Love Challenge

This post contains an affiliate link. If you purchase from it, I will get a small commission at no additional cost to you. As always, opinions are my own.

Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree by David Ahern: It Made me Happy to See that Derry and her Fortune-Telling Alter-Ego are Back

Madam Tulip and the Serpent's Tree

Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree

by David Ahern
Series: Madam Tulip, #4

eARC, 258 pg.
Malin Press, 2020

Read: February 26-27, 2020

Derry frowned. ‘Why is everything so complicated?’

Bruce thought about that. He shrugged. ‘‘ Cos we’re not dead?’

This is a mystery novel that’s hard to talk about—because for the longest time, it’s not a mystery novel at all it’s a novel about a couple of under-employed actors, their rising TV star friend, and an insecure pop star. I want to stress that this isn’t a complaint, it’s a description. By the point that it becomes a mystery novel*, you’re already invested in all the characters and the situations so everything becomes heightened.

* Sure, we all knew it was going to become a mystery novel because that’s what the Madam Tulip books are. But there were at least three ways it could’ve become one before the murder is discovered.

For those new to this series, Derry O’Donnell is a young Irish-American actress in Dublin. Her best friend, Bella, has got a new and regular gig on TV and her career seems to be going somewhere. Meanwhile, Derry and her pal Bruce are still looking for their big break. And Madam Tulip? Well…

Madam Tulip was her fortune-teller alter ego whom Derry had created as a means of making some cash on the side. A woman of indeterminate age and exotic dress, skilled in Tarot and card reading, Madam Tulip was the perfect act for celebrity events. She wasn’t even an imposter or any kind of fraud. Derry was, after all the daughter of a seventh son of a seventh son. But too often, Madam Tulip had led Derry into situations she would rather have avoided and the company of people best left to their own devious devices.

That last sentence is a very understated way of describing the series. Like Jessica Fletcher, dead bodies have a tendency to turn up when Madam Tulip is nearby. This time, thanks to some of Bella’s machinations (as well as a favor from an old friend), Derry is going to be working at the birthday party of a pop star. Before the weekend is over, Derry finds herself as a confidante to the star and (separately) another member of the band. Their manager is trying to get Derry to be his informant, if he can’t get her to influence (via Madam Tulip) the singer.

Derry’s torn between wanting to help everyone but the manager (but she, Bella and Bruce need the manager for something they’re trying) and wanting to leave them all to their own devices. because they’re all a bit too much. But she really can’t get away from it all—especially when a murder is discovered.

The mystery aside, the most intriguing part of this novel to me is the way that Derry thinks of Tulip—and how it changes from the beginning of the book to the end. I don’t think I can discuss it without spoiling something, so I’ll just say that I didn’t see it coming, and really like the way that Ahern dealt with it.

There’s a sweet little romantic story that gets just the right amount of attention and space. And I now realize that I don’t have much else to say about it—I liked this guy for Derry.

Since Day One, I’ve thought that Derry’s father, Jacko, could be the stand-out character of the series with the capability of stealing every scene he’s in. It’d be really easy to overuse him. Ahern hasn’t done that the way that I can imagine it’d be easy to do so far. In fact, I’d argue that he underused Jacko in this volume. He’s decided it’s time to publish his memoirs—which will include “a tell-all exposé” of the art world—an idea that terrifies Derry’s mother (and makes for fun reading). He’s even hired a ghostwriter and expects to publish soon. I liked his storyline, but thought it ended a bit abruptly. But that’s really just me being disappointed that we didn’t get more of Jacko—because it was executed just right.

Derry’s pal Bruce, struggling actor, former SEAL, jack-of-all-trades (it seems) is (again) a real highlight of the book. He continues to be Ranger to Derry’s Stephanie Plum—just without the money, the team or the flirtation (and the post-flirtation stuff). I really enjoy him as a character—not just when he’s pulling Derry’s bacon out of the fire, but for the nice, quiet moments of friendship and support. If Ahern decides to give Tulip a break and focus on Bruce for a book or two, I’d be in the front of the line for that.

This is the best one yet in this series—yeah, I said that in my post about #3, Madam Tulip and the Bones of Chance, too—it was true then and it’s true now. There’s more depth to the characters, more subtlety to the story—and even some of the story beats that should be expected by now (because Ahern’s used them in every book) took me by surprise. It’s just a pleasure to read one of these books—Madam Tulip and the Serpent’s Tree was a little oasis of enjoyment in the midst of a stressful week for me, and I relished retreating to it.

I’d been eagerly checking Ahern’s website off and on for news about this release before he emailed me about it. I like this world, I look forward to spending time with these characters, and the Serpent’s Tree not only solidified these feelings it intensified them. These are fun mysteries, and the little touch of the supernatural (which takes on different nuances in each book) helps keep them fresh. Would this work as a jumping-on point? Yup. Any of them would—take the plunge, you’ll be glad you did.


4 Stars

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for my honest opinion, which is what you just read. The opinions expressed are my own.

Venators: Magic Unleashed (Audiobook): This Introduction to a Fantasy Series Continues to Entertain on my Third Time Through


Venators: Magic Unleashed

Venators: Magic Unleashed

by Devri Walls, Daniel Thomas May (Narrator)
Series: Venators, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 20 mins.
Tantor Media, 2020

Read: February 26-27, 2020
Grab a copy from your local indie bookstore!


When I saw that The Write Reads was doing one of their Ultimate Blog Tours for this book, I jumped to volunteer without thinking—sure, I’d be more than happy to help Walls promote her book. Shortly after I committed, however, I started to have second thoughts. What on earth, am I going to be able to say? I talked about the first edition of the novel back in ’16 and then again with the second, retitled, and improved edition last year. How is it possible to do anything but rehash what I’d said before? Then, Walls announced that an audiobook edition was going to be released. Phew.

If you remember what I said about the post last year*, you can skip the next seven paragraphs, because I’m going to basically plagiarize myself for a bit until I talk about Daniel Thomas May’s work.

* No, I can’t imagine anyone does, I didn’t. It’s just a joke.

This is a portal fantasy about a world called Eon, populated by humans, elves, vampires, werewolves, elves, dragons, etc. There are connections between Earth and Eon, allowing travel between the two—although they’re not as strong as they once were. It turns out some humans from Earth have a certain invulnerability to the kinds of magic employed by the various races (like a werewolf or vampire bite, but not, say, an invulnerability to a werewolf tearing off their head). Thee humans also have other enhanced physical attributes allowing them to go toe-to-toe in combat with members of these races. Which has made these humans a powerful force for good, and a potentially tyrannical force as well. Eon’s known more of the latter lately, which has led to a lack of recruitment.

But now, society’s on the verge of collapse into chaos, warring tribes trying to wipe out other races in a fight for dominance, and the end of law. So some people have taken it upon themselves to reintroduce these humans, Venators, to Eon. Enter Tate, a warrior who is convinced that Venators are the key to Eon’s survival—he’s been to Earth before, and now returns to bring back some people he observed then. Six years ago, he encountered a young teen named Grey Malteer—who was forever changed by their brief encounter. Now in college, Grey is about as well-read in the lore of the supernatural and weird as is possible for someone to be while stuck on Earth and not being known as a crackpot (although he’s regarded as pretty eccentric, probably well on his way to crack-pot status).

An acquaintance of his from childhood, now attending the same college, Rune Jenkins is repulsed by the same things that Grey is focused on (while also drawn to them). Rune is totally unprepared to accept that the supernatural is anything but wild fiction until she’s attacked by goblins and rescued by a large blue man (the aforementioned Tate). Which really can only make her a believer—or drive her to some sort of psychotic break. Thankfully, she goes with the former. Tate brings Rune and Grey into Eon and sets before them the calling of Venator.

To oversimplify things: from here out, the two are introduced to this world, the beings that populate it, the political realities that govern it (and see them only as pawns), and they begin to embrace their new identities, while engaging in a brief battle or two. While Rune and Grey are introduced to all this, so is the reader—and it’s clearly the point of this book—to bring the reader and these two into Eon, give us all a taste of what’s to come and help us get to know the players. There is a clear plotline and definite story here—don’t get me wrong—but the major function is to provide a foundation for things to come.

The book would have to be a lot longer to serve as anything other than an introduction—the ruling council alone is made up of enough characters we’d need a few more chapters to really get to know them and their goals—although they can be summed up in lust for power and influence for themselves and their race to the possible detriment of every other council member/race. Then you throw in Tate; his allies (however temporary) the vampire Veridia and the shapeshifter Beltran; the two humans; and the council’s enemy, Zio—and really, you’ve got enough players that you really can only skim the surface within 354 pages.

We get to know Grey and Rune enough to see they’re well-developed and three-dimensional, and many of the rest show signs of being that developed, but we don’t get to see that fully displayed—but we see enough to know that given the opportunity, the characters will be easily fleshed out. One thing I noted in particular while reading this is just how many seeds Walls planted in the characters and situations to come back to in future installments. This foundation is built in such a way that several books can be built on it—it’s really impressive to note.

Yes, this is written for the YA market, so there’s a bit more action than others might use. There’s a focus on certain kinds of emotional beats, and that sort of thing. But it’s more of an accent to the storytelling than other writers would’ve made it. For some reason, Mercedes Lackey’s Hunter series and Brandon Mull’s Beyonders Trilogy come to mind as I think about similar series—but the YA-ness of both of those comes through more strongly than it does with this book.

So, how does this translate into audio? Very well. I’ll admit that it took me a while to get into May’s narration. For some reason, I’d expected a female narrator—someone like Kathleen McInerney, Khristine Hvam, or Lorelei King—so May threw me a little. Which isn’t a reflection on him, just on my preconceived notions. And I thought the initial chapters were a little rough—it seems like it took him a bit to “get into” the bok. But I think that’s a characteristic of the novel itself, it doesn’t really take off until the humans leave Earth.

Once there, the book—and the narration—settle in. The Venators find a sense of calm on Eon that they’ve been denied on Earth, and it’s May captures that—but what really sealed the deal for me was his portrayal of the vampire Verida—it sounded like he had extra long teeth that he had to talk through. From there, it was smooth sailing. Tashara and Beltran were a couple of the other highlights—most of the Council were captured well, also. I’m not suggesting that he didn’t do a fine job with Tate, Grey or Rune—it’s just those others seemed a bit more interesting (and Tate’s accent seemed to wander around awhile before becoming consistent).

May narrates with a good energy, a nice pace, and shows the text to be what it is—very approachable. I had no problem sticking with him and didn’t want to speed up the narration or skip ahead or anything else. He captures the tone of the book, the emotions of the moments, and the characters. All in all, it’s exactly what you want in an audiobook.

On this tour, we were encouraged to ask Devri Walls a question as part of our posts, so here’s the one that kept coming to me while I listened: Why are the Venators immune to Vampire Bites, Werewolf Bites, but not at all immune to succubi, incubi, [Book 2 Spoilery things]? I have a theory, but I’d like to hear it from the horse’s mouth (if for no other reason than my theory is probably wrong).

I ended up rating it a little higher this time—I’m not sure if it’s because I’m more familiar with the material so I can appreciate the little things more, if it was May’s narration, me just being in a generous mood, or what. Or it’s just me being inconsistent. Eh, whatever. It’s a fun little story. It is a foundation-setting kind of story, introducing the world, the magic system, the fantasy races, and many characters, so we don’t get too deep with anything. But now that things are established, the path is clear for more subtle, more layered storytelling to come.

In Print (electronic or paper) or on Audiobook, this is a solid YA fantasy that’s sure to please. Go get it for your own enjoyment and so TPTB continue to let her produce these books.


4 Stars

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My thanks to The Write Reads for the invitation to participate in this tour and the materials they provided.