LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 034 - The Song Maiden, Civil War, First Song, Hounded
LitRPG Audiobook Podcast 034 - The Song Maiden, Civil War, First Song, Hounded
“Hello everyone. Welcome to the LitRPG Audiobook Podcast. I’m Ray. I’ll be reviewing some recent and classic LitRPG Audiobooks for you. I’ll begin with: ”
Score: 7.9 out of 10
Score: 8.7 out of 10
Score: 8.5 out of 10
What Else have they done? Luke Daniels!!!!
Hello everyone, welcome to the LITRPG Audiobook Podcast. My name is Ray and I will be reviewing some current and classic Litrpg audio books for you. You may have recognized that I do like to theme out the shows whenever I can, and today I have a mixed bag. I am going to focus on two collaborations, and two musically themed books. So, I really can’t wait.Today I am starting with:
The Song Maiden: A LitRPG Journey
The Uniworld Online Trilogy, Book 1
By: Jonathan Brooks
Narrated by: Anneliese Rennie
Length: 7 hrs and 14 mins
This is a book that I was admittedly disappointed in as soon as I heard Anneliese Rennie wasn’t lending her singing pipes to, I mean she does a wicked Carpenter imitation, so I had thought she was going to be cranking out some tunes that I could sing by as I listened. But alas, that is not the case, but there is a reason for it and I will explain. Overlooking that I think the book had some things going for it, and it also threw some stuff at us so far out of left field that it actually came from over the stadium walls.
The book is about a mute gal whose hippy musician parents settle down and raise her with a love of music, to a point at which she can pretty much play anything she lays her hands on s long as it doesn’t require her to blow into it. So, no piccolo solo’s for her. On her first day at college things go pear-shaped in a pretty horrific way for her, and she ends up hospitalized and unable to communicate since she cannot use her hands to write with. Her bestie buys her a VR set and a game to keep her occupied while she is bed bound and she goes in totally clueless as to what she is to do.
The cool beans aspect for her is that the game actually provides her with a voice, one she constructs on her own. Which allows her to talk for the first time in her life. She enters the game and then proceeds to do everything a normal player wouldn’t. She befriends townsfolks instead of questing, she never gets a class, or bothers to level. Cadence, the MC, basically shoots the breeze more than she shoots a bow just from her excitement of being able to talk for the first time, and to me this was probably about as realistic as it gets. Someone who has been gagged since the day they were born is suddenly given the ability to say something and you think they’re going to want to go around swinging a sword? I don’t think so. It really fit.
The book slowly becomes a standard LITRPG story, with her leveling and travelling around in group. Another aspect I liked was that Cadence chooses to become a Bard in spite of being a low charisma dwarf. Naturally, she manages to skirt the penalties of her new class, and becomes op to a degree later on as her charisma skyrockets. That was my least favorite aspect, because it went from having a really great premise to becoming a little predictable. Also, the reason that we don’t get Rennie singing is because Cadance uses her perfect voice recall to imitate singers that fit the mood she is in, and sadly she never felt like Karen Carpenter. Actually, Rennie really couldn’t do much singing because the lyrics weren’t overly long, just one or two lines and I think it worked best with her reading them.
The one thing that completely blew my mind was the love scene that came out of no where. Up to that point I was really thinking that this was a great book for my kids to listen to. I’m no prude, and Lesbian scenes neither shock nor offend me but that kind of came out of nowhere and it didn’t feel organic. It felt shoehorned in. Up to that point the story did not scream for a graphic sex scene to appear, it almost felt like Brooks wanted to adult up his tale to draw in the Harem crowd people, and I will even go one further, it would have been much more organic if it had been her best friend who had been the one to initiate the sex, but she wasn’t. It was just out of place and it was jolting. Thankfully Cadence didn’t moon over the encounter for chapter after chapter like I expected.
Rennie does a great job here and she adds a lot of emotional credence to Cadence’s struggles. You can feel her pain from the emotional barrage she gets from her professor, to the physical that she endures that puts her in the hospital. Now, I will say that the bonds of credulity were stretched just a bit at the end when it is revealed just who it was that attacked her, but even then Rennie plays it smooth and carries the story like a champ. She’s never let me down as a narrator, and I know she has the goods to deliver a great tale.
Final score is going to be a bit wonky. I had planned on an 8.2 as I listened, but the sex scene and the over done villain reveal took it down a few pegs. I would have like to have let my younger kids listen to this in the car, but the out of nowhere sex killed that idea, and I don’t want you to think I am knocking this back because my kids couldn’t listen. It is because the scene blew in out of nowhere and really did nothing to add to the story. Also, it was very trite in making the attackers who they were. The odds of it eve being possible that it was them are so astronomical that it is a little insulting Brooks to assume that we would even believe it to be slightly possible. Final score, 7.9 stars, would have be higher but stuff happens.
Civil War (The Rogue Dungeon, Book 2)
By: James Hunter, eden Hudson
Narrated by: Nick Podehl
Series: The Rogue Dungeon, Book 2
Length: 11 hrs and 20 mins
Roark returns in a wonderfully penned tale about his struggle to gain dominance in his dungeon. That is what the title Civil War refers too, in case you were thinking that Captain America or Iron Man were going to show up somewhere along the lines. We do get Cooter Joe and Powner Boner back for more, so that is a plus, and I have to say that Pwner Boner is one of my favorite jerks of all time.
Like I said, the dungeon is embroiled in a uncivil war, and Roark is beset on quite a few fronts as he has to fend off player incursions, assaults from unfriendlies from the lower levels, and even some Dev concerns that he isn’t quite aware of. That is one thing that I think is so slick about this series, it meshes three different dimensions together, Roark’s world, the Game world, and the player’s universe.
This edition of the series is where the steam starts picking up. Book one had a great intro and set up, but this is where things really take off. We get bigger fights, more evolutions, and alliances between different floors. My mad man Kaz tears up as a master chef, and Zyra takes ass kicking to a whole new level. I’d love to see a reference to Kaz becoming an Iron Chef. He gets a cool tenderizer, but he needs a good cleaver and sharpening tool.
We also get to see some crafting, so fans of this portion of gaming will be happy, as will the builders, as Roark goes on and reconfigures his level several times. There is also an addition of some NPC trainers who are actually interesting, and Kaz gets a love interest.
The only part of the book that I struggle with is the burgeoning romance vibes that I get from Roark and Zyra. That is not a happy thing. Zyra is a monster that loves blood and killing, Roark only kills because he has to and wants to save his people. Once this whole battle is done and he can go home he’s either going to stay or take her with him, and if she becomes human I doubt that she’s going to want to go around not killing people all day. AS much as I wish it so I don’t see Roark loving his life as a troll. He’s never once mentioned how much better it as than his being a human, so . . .problems. Either way, I gotten put points into Hudson and Hunter to do the right thing. They have a plan.
I will reiterate that I am always amazed at how great James manages to meld his writing style with that of whomever he partners with in so flawless a manner. The writing here is smooth, flawless, and well paced. They action picks up and never lets up. The characterizations are well done, and I have to say that as much as I like my beefy chef, Zyra has stolen my cholesterol clogged heart. I think I like her more than Roark, but then kick butt assassin chicks have always been my weakness. Actually I am attracted to crazy more than kick buttiness, but we’ll leave my personal life out of this discussion.
What can I say about Nick Pohdel? What haven’t I said already? He plays this series like he was in the world series of poker holding four aces. He powns it. See what I did there? Nick really makes this super fun, and while I think that his weakest point as a narrator is that he can’t do a dozen different female voices that the ones he has here work really well, and are distinctive unto themselves.
I kind of boxed myself in with my review of the first book, because I think I hit it at an 8.5, and I loved this book. 8.7 stars.
Anthem of Infinity Series, Book 1
By: Blaise Corvin, Outspan Foster, Blaise Corvin - foreword
Narrated by: Ramon De Ocampo
Length: 12 hrs and 9 mins
I have to say this was a weird book for me, in fact, I kinda think it was a first. I am always going to be truthful about things and I have to admit that when the book first started I wasn’t a fan. The writing was good, but I really hated the entire apocalyptic setting. The MC, who pretty much lived out the embodiment of the name worm that was given to him by some raiders wasn’t someone I cared about. I actually hoped he’d die, and I actually thought that he would since he very clearly was not the dude on the book’s cover. I enjoy bleak, but I don’t enjoy weak or whiny and that was what worm was, he was a punk.
SO, I don’t want to hit you with spoilers, but I will say that the book makes for a huge change part way in, and the Worm turns. Yes, I went there. Worm then sort of becomes Noah, the guy he should have been all along. And in that instance the entire tone of the book shifts. Worm dries up in the sun and Noah takes his place. Noah is a take no BS kinda guy who sets about taking care of business. See, he can do things to prevent the events that created worm and crushed humanity in a punked out apocalypse from being quite so harsh because of a little thing called . . . ah, ah, spoilers. (Maybe add in the tardis sound just as a hint maybe let it run about 5 seconds). Anyway, Noah very calculatingly implements a 20 year plan to help prep and prepare for an invasion of alien beings called Aelves. No these guys are tougher, faste, and stronger than humans, they can perform magic, and they like to eat humans. So baddies all around. I have to say that it is the building aspect that I truly loved so much. The planning, the prep, the sacrifice, that is the stuff I am a sucker for and I loved it. My favorite part of the book was the scheming baby, you’ll know it when you get there. That was the best. And, when we finally return to the apocalypse I actually found myself looking forward to it. That was when the book really hit 3rd gear and started moving because I was admittedly in need of some action.
So, while the book might have started off a little slow with an unlikable character (for me, and I have to say I really don’t believe that we were ever supposed to LIKE Worm. Sympathize? Yeah, but not like.) He was cowardly and did some reprehensible stuff like going along with the slave trade. So, I really had no empathy for the dude, but once he transformed himself from a spineless wimp into a determined Noah I was cheering him on all the way.
The aelves seem to make some pretty good villains, and I highly anticipate more of them in book 2, because Noah has a bond with one of the higher ups that he is going to have to deal with at some point.
Corvin and Foster do an admirable job here tag teaming this piece of writing. I know I generally praise James Hunter for how well he meshes his writing with his partners so flawlessly, but I have to say that the pair here did a seamless job, and that I would be hard pressed to pick who did what or whose voice it was that we were really hearing. I honestly think that Corvin gave Foster his head, and allowed him just go crazy and if that is the case it was a wise move. It totally worked, and it is awesome to see a collaboration come together a well as this.
Ramon De Ocampo’s narration took me a little while t get used to, he was new to me, and I had to settle in and really listen, and I have to say that he grew on me the longer we went. I appreciated his voice, and the acting that he put into it. Everyone stood out as individual characters, and I never wondered who was speaking. The only thing I wish that he had done was to give the Aelves a distinctive accent. That would have really made them stand out to me, much in the way that all dwarves are Scottish sounding (even though I hate that trope). I kept going to Londo Mollari from Babylon Five, and how Peter Jurassic worked so hard to create a distinctive accent for his race, and then no other Centauri that appeared on the show ever used it. I would have really liked to have had something to say that it was an aelf speaking before I ever heard the character’s race mentioned. Otherwise, great job, and I look forward to more from him.
Overall, even though I was not a fan of the first part of the book just because I didn’t like Worm I think that it worked in making me hate him, because I liked him a lot by the end, and anticipated the Aelves attacking. Final score, 8.5.
What Else have they done? Luke Daniels!!!!
Hounded: The Iron Druid Chronicles, Book 1
By: Kevin Hearne
Narrated by: Luke Daniels
Length: 8 hrs and 6 mins
As a fan of Urban Fantasy I couldn’t help but bring in this book, and it is a really great vehicle for Luke Daniels. I would call this his signature series, even above all of the other Litrpg novels that he’s rocked out so hard like Advent, Ascend Online, Magic 2.0, and even Tamer. The character, the setting, and the conflict all combine into a zeitgeist for modern celtic mythology. Yeah, I’m pulling my Irish card here, and have to admit that I do have some ancestral pride in the hero being anyone other than Brian Boru or Cú Chulainn.
The story starts off with 21 year old book shop owner, Atticus O’Sullivan just having nice quiet day. Truth is he’s 21 centuries old and is hiding out in Arizona because of a centuries long ownership dispute over a magic sword. Atticus wants to keep his head down and stay out of trouble, but his ancient rival an old celtic god has discovered him and things go sideways rather fast for him. There are tons of sword fights, deadly magic, gods, and fey to make you want to pray for a movie to come along. The series, not just book 1, is just that good. Plus, it is infused with humor throughout, but doesn’t try to be funny. The humor is organic and comes about naturally.
The story is not only an excellent introduction for the series, but it sets up a lot of what is to come as Atticus deals with the Morrigan, werewolves, vampires, all of whom are ostensibly his allies. For me, the best part of the series is Atticus’s loyal Irish Wolfhound, Oberon. I will say that Hearn really knows how to mesh the ancient with the urban. He keeps the tale fluid, exciting and nail biting.
It is Daniels, however, that brings this tale to life. Like I said, my favorite thing about the books it Oberon, the dog. I could listen to Daniels voice that character all day long. He doesn’t pull a Scooby Doo or Astro voice. He makes the dog sound smart and excited, and I fully credit his portrayal of the beast for the reason Oberon became popular enough to warrant his own short story about Oberon and a Squirrel. How many times can I say Oberon in this paragraph?
Daniels pretty much uses he standard voice as Atticus, but he plays great Viking vampire and werewolf attorney. He also does a great job playing as a sexy bartender at Atticus’s favorite restaurant. He even pulls off a ghostly female hindu witch. Seriously, there is a reason that this guy plays in the major leagues. He is pretty hardcore. Without a doubt one of my top narrators.
The series is great early on, but I have to say that towards the end, i.e. the last 3 or so books, it does become kind of preachy about the environment. Still all the elements are there to make for a great Urban fantasy, and I have to say that this is probably one of the best known UF titles after the Dresden Files. You might argue Shayne Silvers, but to me this is in the same category as Dresden. Top notch story telling and unbelievable narration combine to keep you hooked. Trust me, once you start you won’t stop until you finish it up, and you will get the short stories as well. The only flaw in the whole series that I see is that the covers look like cheap knock offs from a failed Supernatural, i.e. Sam and Dean Winchester, series. The covers just don’t fit the look or feel of the series and they are what kept me from getting them for the longest time. Don’t miss out, this is Daniels definitive series. It will take a lot for him to top this line. I highly recommend this series if you are a fan of UF, fantasy in general, great storytelling, amazing characters, and original magic systems.
Thanks oh so very much for watching everyone, I do appreciate you taking to the time to watch or listen to the show. If you want to support us, you can like the LitRPG Podcast facebook page or the YouTube Page, or just share and like the video. I’m going to ask for more suggestions for the Is it LIT segment, I’ve got a good one for next time, but will always need ideas. Please leave comments or suggestions in the comments below, and feel free to tell me whatever you like. I enjoy the feedback.
For LitRPG Audiobook Podcast, I’m Ray. Keep listening!!!
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