Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Thorn Queen – Dark Swan Series, Book 2

1.   Storm Born (January 12, 2010)    
2.   Thorn Queen (December 10, 2009) – 4 out of 5
3.   Iron Crowned (February 22, 2011)
4.   Shadow Heir (January, 2012)

Author:  Richelle Mead  
Narrator:  Jennifer Van Dyck 3.5 out of 5
Length:  11:07, available on audible here  

FTC Disclosure:  Audible Frontiers has graciously provided me with an audio version of this book for reviewing purposes.  Aside from this courtesy copy, I have received no payment or services in exchange for this review.

In Storm Born, Eugenie Markham discovered that she was not just a powerful shaman who maked her living banishing other-worldly creatures out of the mortal realm.  She found out that she is half fae.  As the daughter of the late Storm King, it is prophecy that she will give birth to a son who will conquer the mortal realm for the fae.  At the beginning of Thorn Queen, Eugenie is stuck between two worlds.  In Arizona, Eugenie is still the shaman her mom and step-dad raised, living with her were-fox veterinarian boyfriend, Kiyo, who wants nothing more than for her to stay away from the Otherworld.  But she can’t do that.  Not after Dorian, the fae Oak King, tricked her into bonding with the land she conquered, and becoming its queen - the Thorn Queen.  On her first trip back after months, she discovers that she's in charge of the health and happiness of the people she conquered and her reluctance to rule is causing starvation. With her crazy half-sister still on the lam, the Thorn Land’s economy dying, and gentry girls disappearing, Eugenie needs to choose. Choose between humans and fae, between the mortal world and the Otherworld, between Kiyo and Dorian.  Something has to give.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely.
This is a typical Richelle Mead book.  Meaning, it’s fantastic.  If you’re not familiar with the author’s writing (such as the Georgina Kincaid or Vampire Academy series) then, to put it simply, the writing is dynamic and sexy.  The characters’ motivations, loyalties, and appeal to the reader change from chapter-to-chapter but in a way that’s believable and credible to each character.  For example, Eugenie in Storm Born hates the fae, kills them liberally, and is disgusted by non-human men,  Even at the end of Storm Born, her feeling about her own heritage can best be described as self-loathing and fear.  Loathing for who her real father, the Storm King, was and what he did to humans and gentry alike, and fear that her power, which she developed with some force, would turn her into him, make her more gentry, and take over her identity.  In Thorn Queen, these feelings shift.  Richelle Mead delves into what it means to be human – the good, the bad, and the ugly.  She also discovers what it means to rule, to be responsible for others, and how far she's willing to go to protect them.

As always, the sex scenes are phenomenal.  Between kinky bondage sex with Dorian and the rough, passionate instinct-driven sex with Kiyo, I enjoyed the emotion that came along with it.  It causes a good deal of tension and drama.  Here we really see Eugenie’s jealousy of Maiwenn, Kiyo’s ex-girlfriend and another fae queen, whose pregnancy has brought Kiyo so much joy and the insecurity this causes to Eugenie who knows she can never risk getting pregnant because of the prophecy.

On Narration:
Jennifer Van Dyck, who also narrates Rachel Vincent’s Shifters series, has a no-nonsense tone, that works well since Eugenie’s character is supposed to be tough, butt-kicking and over-all intimidating.  Her voice for Dorian is proper - slightly British, very aristocratic, bored and self-involved – it is just as the man is described.  I also enjoyed how the reading generally reflected the tone of what’s happening in the book. Not to give too much away, but there is a scene in this audiobook that concerns abduction, drugging, and sex assault.  Jennifer Van Dyck’s voice slowed and becomes detached, which deepens the experience for the listener.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Hounded – The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1

     1.   Hounded (April 19, 2011) – 4 out of 5
     2.   Hexed (June 7, 2011)
     3.   Hammered (July 5, 2011)

Author:  Kevin Hearne  
Narrator:  Luke Daniels3.5 out of 5   
Length: 8:11, may be purchased here

FTC Disclosure:  Brilliance Audio has graciously provided me with an audio version of this book for reviewing purposes.  Aside from this courtesy copy, I have received no payment, services or other reimbursement in exchange for this review.

He may look 21 but he is 21 centuries old, and for the last 2,000 of those years, Atticus O’Sullivan has been hounded by Aenghus Og, a fae Celtic love god from whom he stole a magical sword.  Atticus, the last of the Druids, has been hiding out rather successfully in Tempe, Arizona, running a New Age store.  The only ones who know his true identity are his faithful wolfhound, Oberon (with whom he can communicate mentally), his werewolf and vampire lawyers, and Morrigan, the fae queen of destruction.   Unfortunately, as the internet makes the world smaller, the Tuatha Dé Danann (the fae) discover the true identity of Atticus O’Sullivan and are again coming for the sword.  Tired of running, Atticus has decided to make Arizona his last stand. 

The Druids: they’re about more than just trees.
This audiobook was not what I expected.  I expected any tale about a druid to be another Lord of the Rings-type, high fantasy, Renaissance Faire-like, tight-wearing tale. Hounded is not. This audiobook is very modern, very urban fantasy, incorporating the real world, the real police, including jurisdictional and media concerns.  Tempe versus Phoenix cops?  Check.  Can’t go to the hospital because of the paperwork that requires? Check.  I really appreciate that real world considerations.  It makes the cynic in me happy.  

Also, having first read the official blurb on the book, I was worried about how many different supernatural creatures are in the story: werewolves and vampires and witches and fae and Norse gods and miscellaneous demons, oh my!  Usually, with that many different paranormal types, the reader starts to trip up over the storyline.  Here, it worked because the focus remained on the fae.  Atticus is the only Druid, and his power is witchy, making it easier on the reader.  With the lawyers – the vampire and werewolves – these characters are ancillary enough not to complicate things.  The only trip-up I found was with Granuaile MacTiernan. When we find out what’s up with her, I did roll my eyes.  It was just a tad too much for me.

Overall, Hounded was a joy to listen to.  The writing itself is very skillful and conversational.  The tension is there continually, and it builds easily from scene to scene, at times, honestly shocking.  I enjoyed learning with Atticus which characters he could trust and which he should fear.  There are some very sexy moments, although the writing is PG-13.  Also, there’s a ton of humor in this audiobook, especially from the wolfhound, who’s obsessed with Genghas Khan and French poodles, and Atticus's old neighbor, who hates the British and drinks like a fish.
On narration:
Luke Daniels does not sound like a 21-year-old, but he sure does sound like he knows his Celtic.  His pronunciation of old Irish names is spot-on.  When he narrates Oberon, he sounds like a big, loveable, fuzzy, panting hound. When he reads female voices, he doesn’t pitch his voice up high, but he makes his tone softer and breathier, which works as most females in Hounded are sexual characters.  His accents, specifically Polish and Hindi, were passable.  Overall, the reading went well with the story.