The Wheel of Time…books 1-3

I’ve pretty much posted about all the audiobooks I’ve listened to recently, which means I’m going to have to start posting about the books I listen to right after I’ve finished them.  The problem is I’ve only gotten through three books in The Wheel of Time series, and I really don’t feel that’s quite enough to say whether I like the series yet.

The first two books were pretty mediocre.  There are a couple interesting characters, but the plot was mostly just Odyssey / Lord of the Rings travel drudgery.  I feel that the travel plot is often used to give the appearance of plot momentum when there really isn’t any (I like LotR, but it was a slog to read).  What’s more, the main male protagonists aren’t all that interesting.  Rand al’Thor is so dense it’s a surprise he’s physically malleable enough to bend his own joints.  Perrin Aybara is just Rand’s wolf-man equivalent.  Matrim (Mat) Cauthon is completely useless for anything till book three .  In fact, in the first two books, the interesting characters are the female characters, who seem to have believable personalities and character arcs (relatively speaking).  Everyone else seems brainlessly driven by the mediocre plot.

The third book, however, finally starts to make Perrin more interesting, continues to develop the female characters, and actually manages to turn Matrim (Mat) into one of my favorite characters so far.  That said, this story has only just barely started getting good.  I can’t really say I’m hooked yet, but I see a whole lot of potential, and given that Brandon Sanderson is doing the last few books in the series, I’m willing to keep going in the hopes that things continue to improve.

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The Hollows

It’s been a while since I listened to a book in The Hollows series by Kim Harrison.  I’ve listened to them all, but the last book came out back in February.  Overall, The Hollows is definitely one of the better “like Dresden Files, but from a female perspective” book series out there.  Unfortunately, that’s not saying much.  This genre is littered with books like this, and while Kim Harrison is one of the better female Urban Fantasy authors, I can’t say I’m anticipating the next book quite as much as I used to.

A part of it is that I’m male, and these books were most definitely not written for men.  The romances are idyllic in a way that they’re frustrating to an average male reader.  The dude is either obscenely rich, literally time traveled from the “age of chivalry” (which never actually existed), or his personality is just perfect in every other respect.  She never has a boyfriend (why does she need one in the first place?) that an average male reader might identify with in any way.  No, strike that.  The first boyfriend in the series was a perfectly good character for male readers to identify with (arguably the only one in the whole series).  Unfortunately, he gets retconned halfway through the series into being an asshole retroactively…  Honestly, I could rant about that ad nauseam.  On top of that, the sex scenes (which the author has started including in every book) are completely pointless in every respect.  They neither propel the plot, nor provide anything of slightest interest to the reader in any other way (and it’s not just the audiobook issue; half the time, I literally don’t know what these people are physically doing in these scenes).  Many of these problems get worse as the series goes along.  In fact, most of these problems didn’t exist early on; they’ve only recently started to overwhelm the good parts of the story.

And while I can rant about my problems with this series, I’m still going to get the next book.  I’m as frustrated as I am because I actually care about these books.  The story, apart from the repellant romance stuff, is actually really good.  It’s clear the author had an idea of where she was going with it from the beginning, and I still want to know what happens next.  I suppose I’d like the series more if Kim Harrison took a lesson from Jennifer Estep: plot before romance.  I thought The Hollows was like that earlier in the series, and I hope she gets back to it.

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter

Sheepfarmer’s Daughter is the first book in the Deed of Paksenarrion series. It’s about a farm girl who runs away from home to join the military.

I think the main character in this book is a lot more interesting than the book itself. I feel the author waists this character’s potential by treating her development as secondary to the political issues and the various battles throughout this book; most of which I had a lot of trouble following. The best parts of this book are the non-combat story moments about this character, and those moments are far too sparsely scattered. I’m still mildly interested in what happens to this character, but not enough to stick to this series exclusively.

As a result of my experience with The Way of Kings, I’m giving The Wheel of Time series another attempt. Unless the first book in that series series falls flat on its face, I don’t see myself coming back to the Deed of Paksenarrion series very soon.

The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings is epic awesomeness.  It is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve listened to since…the last Brandon Sanderson book I listened to; maybe even before that.  I don’t know if I can express how much I enjoyed this book.

The audiobook for The Way of Kings is forty-five hours and thirty seven minutes long.  The book itself is easily over a thousand pages.  It’s so long, that audible.com requires you to spend two credits on this one book (and they only required one for Name of the Wind).  I loved nearly every minute of it.  I’ve slogged through more filler material in three hundred page books than were in this entire epic tome.  This book earns its length.  The only problem is that this is just the first book in a potential series.  While the ending is undeniably satisfying, it still left a lot of loose ends.  I want the next book, and I’m slightly miffed that Brandon Sanderson is coming out with another Mistborn book before continuing this series (though I suppose I understand needing to come back at it with a fresh perspective).

The narrators for the audiobook do a great job.  I honestly have no complains at all, which is the best praise I can give audiobook narrators.  When an audiobook narrator is doing his or her job well, they become transparent windows through which the story is presented to you.  A bad narrator presents a fuzzy window; they require you to reinterpret what you heard.  That’s not the case here.  The narrators for this book are Kate Reading (who did the Codex Alera by Jim Butcher) and Michael Kramer (who did Mistborn; the aforementioned previous series by Brandon Sanderson).

Unlike in The Kane Chronicles, the two different narrators weren’t at all distracting.  The characters these different narrators portray are almost never in the same place, so you don’t get two different auditory interpretations of the same things.  There was one instance where the female narrator did a voice for a character in the male narrator’s territory (for lack of a better term), but it was so well done that I honestly had to listen to that part again just now to make sure it happened.  It was so transparent, that I couldn’t remember well enough to be sure.

I initially put off getting this book because it required two credits on audible.com; I couldn’t have been more wrong for doing that.  There is absolutely no question that this book was more than worth it; in fact, I’m embarrassed that I slogged through cheaper books before getting this one.  I loved this book, and I strongly recommend it to anyone who enjoys epic fantasy.

The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

I remember so little about The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N. K. Jemisin that I probably shouldn’t be posting about it at all.  It’s not that I listened to the book all that long ago, it’s that the book held so little of my interest that very little of it actually sank in.  The main character seems nice, and the lesser gods (bound into servitude to the royalty) are mildly interesting when they do things, rather than provide exposition.  The truth is that this book is so full of unimportant material that I can’t remember much of anything actually happening except at the very beginning and the very end.  Very little else in this book seems to have stuck with me.  For that reason, I can’t recommend it.

I’m sorry for that.  Hopefully, my next posts will be more useful.  Coming up: at least the first book in the Deed of Paksenarrion series, and The Way Of Kings.

The Warded Man

Post-apocalyptic pre-industrial fantasy.  The demons won, and have free reign to slaughter anything and everything outside a warding circle at night.  That’s the world we enter into in The Warded Man by Peter V. Brett.  There are some pretty horrific things that happen in this book, but I think the payoff is well worth it.

The story jumps between three characters: a fighter, a healer, and a bard…  Okay, they aren’t actually referred to that way, but they may as well be.  The world kicks these characters in the teeth, and in the course of figuring out how to deal with that, they become powerful people; they become heroes.

As great as that is, this is still just the first book in what I think is going to be a trilogy, and part of me is worried about how the author is going to deal with these characters going forward.  This book, while open ended, had a great self-contained story arc, and there’s a big part of me that doesn’t want to sully that by moving on to the next book.  If this does turn out to be a trilogy, I’d rather wait till the third book comes out, then listen to the second and third books in succession so I’m not left hanging by a typical middle book non-ending (ex: Empire Strikes Back).  Usually, I don’t have a problem with that, but something about this series, as well as the reviews I’ve read for the next book, make me more worried about the next book than I should be.

Of course, with the way I’m always scrambling to find good audiobook material to listen to, I’m likely to cave in long before the third book comes out.

On Basilisk Station

It isn’t fair to judge an entire series on the first book of that series.  The first couple books in any series tend to be the worst, in my experience.   Harry Potter, The Dresden Files, Discworld…  Many of my favorite books of all time are sequels to some pretty mediocre books.  For that reason, I feel sort of bad ending my experience with the Honor Harrington series after book one.  Unfortunately, I barely had enough interest to finish On Basilisk Station, and it left me with no real desire to experience more.

The main problem with this book was the mind numbing exposition and technobabble at every opportunity.  I think that’s why I rarely read hard science fiction.  I want a story, and a lot of science fiction gets easily side tracked by technicalities.  To be fair, there is a good story in this book, but it’s overshadowed by excessive exposition.  Maybe that sort of exposition comes off better in text than it does in audiobook.

When deciding if you want to continue reading a series, one question is more important than any other: do I want more?  I’m glad I listened to On Basilisk Station, but I have no desire for more.