Rigel has always known he is not quite human, but the only clue to his origin is the otherworldly bracelet he has worn since childhood. His search for his parentage leads him to the Starlands, where reality and fantasy have changed places. There he learns that he is a human-starborn cross, and his bracelet is the legendary magical amulet Saiph, which makes its wearer an unbeatable swordsman.
Fighting off monsters, battling a gang of assassins seeking to kill him, Rigel finds honorable employment as a hero. He knows that he must die very soon if he remains in the Starlands, but he has fallen hopelessly in love with a princess and cannot abandon her. Through the imaginative landscape of the Starlands, Rigel's quest leads him to encounter minotaurs, sphinxes, cyclops, and more fearsome creatures in Dave Duncan's latest fantasy series.
©2013 Dave Duncan (P)2013 Brilliance Audio, Inc.
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"Forget the mattock; dig in with a teaspoon"
Not having read Duncan before, I did not know what to expect, only that the book was recommended to me by audible based on my other reads.
One good thing about this book is that it includes all the trappings of heroic fantasy. Orphaned hero seeking his parentage, living on the edge of society because he's just a bit different, gets whisked off to a magical land where he discovers he has some special amulet which makes him extremely powerful, but also comes with its own enemies and perils. And then you throw in all the things that are supposed to be in a fantasy novels, centaurs, minotaurs, harpies, elves, sphinxes. Notably lacking: a bearded dwarf that spoke with a Scottish brogue.
Unfortunately, because of this, it seemed like a novel built from stock parts.
It is a quick fantasy read that will not challenge the reader. It moves along fast enough and doesn't bog down. It is OK so long as you don't try to dig too deep.
Another good thing about this book is the reading. Podehl does yeoman's work deepening characters that Duncan wrote pretty flat. He deserves quite a bit of credit for raising this book up in my estimation.
Now about those characters...
This is one piece where the book really fails. The characters are almost all one dimensional, many wouldn't even have that if it weren't for Podehl's reading. The evil megalomaniac is a bad guy, because he's a bad guy. His evil henchman performs odious acts, because that is what you do when you're an evil henchman. The main character acts heroically. Why? To impress a girl. That's new. The reader just can't identify with what is essentially a cast of cardboard cutouts.
I would not recommend this to anyone except maybe the convinced Duncan fan who knows exactly what he or she is getting into.
I picked up this book without a lot of hope but was a little bored. Next thing I know I was sucked in! There are truly many twists that you do not see coming, and from a huge reader that is hard to do to me!
The book does a great job of making you feel for the lead, while also filling out the other players in the story very well. The world is fleshed out amazingly well, and leaves you wishing to go yourself!
If you enjoy good Sc-Fi or Fantasy you will almost certainly enjoy this book as it does a wonderful job of weaving the two together.
I highly suggest you give this one a try, I am currently reading book 2 of the duet and it is just as good as the first and for the price these books are a steal!
"Princess of Mars meets Kingkiller Chronicles"
This book is exactly what I wanted it to be: a light, popcorn listen.
I wasn't' expecting Rothfuss or anything, just a mildly humorous fantasy book that was set in modern day, which is what this turned out to be. You have Rigel who is head over heals for the alien (It's cool, he's half alien after all). Rigel wields the most dangerous weapon in the known universe and is shunted to another....realm? Planet? Galaxy? Something. Here he is a lower class citizen in love with the upper class. Because of this he gets stuck in the middle of a great assassination plot. Where everyone wants to either use him or make sure no one else can use him.
You know what? The best way to describe this book is the lovechild (I made a joke, read the book to get my glory) of Patrick Rothfuss (I actually checked to see if it was him under pseudonym) and Edgar Rice Burroughs circa Princess of Mars.
I'll finish this series as each book comes out. And I'm not going to recommend this book to anyone, if any of what my review or the book flap sends you.... it's exactly what's on the tin.
Mr. Podehl digs a phenomenal job while reading this . I never noticed a single miss read, and his voices were consistent with the individual characters that he had assigned them and they were done with such enthusiasm that I actually could imagine that I was listening to a movie rather than someone read a book. The story line was indeed a different twist on the Elven Race, but there was really nothing about this story that just kept me on the edge of my seat in fact I caught myself not caring about rewinding if I missed a part while multitasking, which is c unusual for me because I am that guy that everybody gets mad at for rewinding a movie a hundred times just because I missed one word. But it wasn't horrible.
"Great narration, not so good story"
The narrator was excellent (he narrated Patrick Rothfuss' Kingkiller chronicles aka Name of the Wind books) with a plethora of completely different-sounding and convincing voices and while the book had a lot of interesting themes and fun moments it somewhat lacked in the character development.
Indeed, the author manages to craft a convincing universe where fantastical creatures such as elves, minotaurs, centaurs, mermaids, basiliks, cockatrices and more exist that is evocative of how the world in The NeverEnding Story exists.
However I couldn't help but notice how one-dimensional unconvincing some of the characters were. In this respect the main character, Rigel, was my biggest issue: having lived a hard life on Earth from an early he's understandably paranoid and skittish given the extra burden of his mixed heritage of human and elf. When he's finally thrust into his homeworld he falls head-over-heels for this elf soon after meeting her (despite her shark-like teeth and bat-like elf ears, WTF Duncan lol) even though she comes off as somewhat of a slut (which she herself suggests), seemingly bedding several different male elves over the span of a few days. But what's more disturbing than his lack of self-esteem and his total lust-driven boyish infatuation is the fact that this previous cautious, perceptive and paranoid young adult completely throws all caution to the wind and devotes and pledges himself to the object of his affection without really taking time to understand the new world he finds himself.
Another reason I didn't find his infatuation and overwhelming desire for the female elf in question to be genuine is the fact that she considers practically any race other than her own to be chattel and beneath her notice and this includes humans and human-elf progeny which is what Rigel is. This xenophobia went on to increase my dislike for Rigel as he very clearly states his affection and sense of kinship towards humans and yet somehow overlooks his love's racism. This is further compounded by how perceptive and intelligent he's shown to be as the story progresses and just made me shake my head in confusion and abject incredulity.
Lastly I didn't like how all female elves were depicted as never wearing anything but a glorified loincloth. Granted, the males also sported the same attire (or lack thereof :P) but I just see this as the author's objectifying of women which I believe is completely unnecessary in this book.
I greatly enjoyed Dave Duncan's The Seventh Sword series when I was younger and was looking forward to this series but it left me disappointed and I'm not sure if I'll purchase the second book in the series.
"Nick Podehl ruined this book"
I just can't stand Nick Podehl's narration!!! I think this book would be really entertaining if they had a better narrator. The book itself was pretty good. The problem was with Nick's narration caused me to drift off and I would have to rewind the book and really focus on the book. I love David Duncon's The Magic Casement series and this series was just not as good.
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