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Smith could have chosen any of the characters in his story to be his main character. He might have made it a "coming of age" tale and chosen one of the sons. Or a sinister tale of desperation and sorrow by choosing one of the children who were stolen. These days, it's become popular to have an "anti-hero" and make the villain the protagonist; in which case he might have picked the Baba Yaga to tell the story.
All of those plot lines have been done before, however, and some of them are getting quite tired. Instead, Smith chose to tell the story from the perspective of Luka, a father and retired Russian soldier living in the Ukraine- the result surprised me. Luka is one of the most well written characters I've ever come across.
Still, it's not just Luka's story. There is tremendous depth and subtlety everywhere you look here. It's clear how much thought Smith put into crafting this. Even the setting cold, quiet, and dangerous- is given a personality. The result is an utterly unique tale that is haunting me days after finishing it.
As for Bronson Pinchot- I fell in love with him as a narrator while listening to Larry Correia's Grimnoir Chronicles (for which I hear he's been nominated for an Audie- well done, sir). I cannot imagine a better actor to voice this story. In the beginning, the thick Ukrainian accent threw me. By the end, however, I could not help but marvel at how absorbed I became in the story- completely thanks to Pinchot's abilities. He successfully creates distinct men, teenagers, soldiers, women's and children's voices without distracting you. He voiced both the bark of command and the choked crack of despair during this novel- I really can't praise his work enough.
You will want to listen to this book. You will want to re-listen to this book. It is that good.
16 of 16 people found this review helpful
The opening scene in The Child Thief, the slow, portentous approach of a mysterious stranger across a frozen landscape, is riveting and absolutely perfect. Incredibly, the book manages to sustain the same mesmerizing, understated quality throughout until the last words of the story, prepared for and half-expected and yet still immensely powerful, leave the listener breathless.
Even as I was drawn inexorably into Dan Smith's dark, harrowing narrative, I had initial misgivings. It seemed to me that some of his characters acted in ways which were too foolish or ignorant for me to credit them even in a remote Ukrainian village paralyzed by fear of the imminent arrival of Stalin's GPU. Before long, however, these considerations had become irrelevant. Even though I occasionally doubted an action, I always believed and understood the emotional truth of the character, and the irresistible momentum of the events established their own logic and carried me along, completely fascinated and captive to the storyteller's voice. The result was the briefest thirteen hours I have ever spent listening to a book
There are a few author/narrator pairings which strike me as extraordinarily "right." Richard Ferrone reading John Sandford's "Prey" novels; Jo Nesbo's work read by Robin Sachs; Steven Pacey's masterful command of Joe Abercrombie's fantasy novels all come to mind. Bronson Pinchot's hypnotic, absolutely bone true first person voice telling Luka's story belongs in that company. It is as fine an example of voice acting as I have ever heard-- restrained, measured, almost painfully quiet and richly expressive of the man and his profoundly moving experience.
It is difficult for me to imagine a listener who would not be caught, entertained and often thrilled by this recording. I strongly recommend that you add it to your wish list, and I suggest you begin it when you have a nice stretch of free time so that you can savor it with few interruptions.
48 of 52 people found this review helpful