Beauty and The Beast Hated and feared, magic was banished from the land. But now, freed from the spells of the wicked bloodmages, magic-both good and evil-returns. And Aren of Fallbrook feels her own power of sight strengthen and grow…. Overcome by visions of mayhem and murder, Aren vows to save her village from the ruthless raiders who have descended upon it-and killed her family. With the return of wildlings to the hills and forests, she strikes a bargain with the Hob, a magical, human-like creature imbued with the power of the mountains. But the Hob is the last of his kind. And he will exact a heavy price to defend the village-a price Aren herself must pay....
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AUDIOBOOK PROBLEMS: I do not recommend this as an audiobook. It should be read, not listened to for three reasons. The first problem is knowing if something is a vision or is happening. For example Aren is talking to a man, has a vision, and then continues talking to him. At first I thought the entire thing was conversation. Then I realized, no she was having a vision in the middle of the conversation. For most of her visions, I was confused. In the physical book the visions are in italic, but the italic is not communicated by the narrator.
The second problem is hard-to-follow-point-of-view-changes. I had trouble figuring out who was talking and some of the actions. Most of the book is first person narrated by Aren, but parts are third person. This is a fine style and it works well with another audiobook I’m listening to. But somehow in this book the transitions are not clear. For example Aren is narrating: I walk here, I do this. He is lonely. He sees them walking. (It switched to third person Hob’s point of view without telling me.) Maybe the physical book has paragraph separations or something. But several times I was confused about point of view.
My third problem was the narrator. She used a generic American accent for first person narration which was excellent. Then she used a fake-pretend-British-like accent for all dialogue which was bad. It was such a disconnect to be in Aren’s thoughts with the American accent but as soon as Aren speaks it’s the fake British accent. Second, I really hated this accent. I don’t know what it was. It wasn’t genuine. I like British accents, but this was disturbing. Here are examples. I’ve beane thayah befowah (I’ve been there before). He combed down (He calmed down). I knaow it’s hahpenning (I know it’s happening). It hut (It hurt). But I must repeat the narrator was excellent when speaking generic American. She has a wonderful voice, with good tone, pacing, and speed.
ABOUT THE STORY: I liked the idea of Aren and Hob together, but that relationship was not developed. I didn’t feel any emotional connection between them. He seemed like a helpful and caring teacher. I would have liked seeing his loneliness, his pain, his desires, and how he felt when doing things with Aren. Throughout the book there is a lot of the narrator’s feelings, for example Aren saying I feel so tired, or I haven’t eaten since yesterday. But there are no feelings of anyone else, so I wasn’t drawn in to anyone else.
The author’s strength may be scene description. But her weakness is not enough action moving the plot or about the plot. There were multiple story lines, and they were not well developed. There was not enough information and interaction with the numerous raider groups. Some scenes felt contrived when Aren thought characters were dead but later learned they were not. When Hob came into the story it was a little better. But on balance it was boring, and I wanted it to be over.
The biggest problem is too much telling and not enough showing. The result is that it reads like a newspaper article. Newspaper articles summarize events. They can be satisfying and enjoyable, and maybe that’s why so many people like this. But it could be so much better. There was such potential. The author created wonderful creatures. And I liked the world and the plot set up, but the author just did not give me plot development and “showing.” An example of her “telling” is in the following excerpt.
“He hadn’t found any ghasts here, but I met most of the rest of the very weak and horrid. Poltergeists he said were both powerless and mindless, not worth the effort of approaching them. The weaker benevolent spirits like driads and nyads he’d shown me as well. The dryad had been soft spoken and solid seeming. He reminded me of the ancient oak he called home. The nyad had been shy, leaving as quickly as she’d responded. Caefawn hadn’t seen her, though he’d been sitting beside me the whole time. Some of the spirits we’d looked for like the willow wisps we couldn’t find. I could tell it made Caefawn sad, though he didn’t say anything. One or two of the creatures had attacked me. Sometimes their attacks were physical, like the noglan throwing sticks. More often they were mental. As I learned to defend myself the Hob would find a new stronger more contentious thing to call. Caefawn said that most of the stronger spirits like the earth guardian would know when I was about and come on their own if they chose. I could summon the lesser spirits whether they willed it or not. Some of them I could dominate if I chose, but it made me increasingly uncomfortable to do so. It felt wrong, even evil to do more than defend myself. Gram always said that if something felt wrong, it probably was. “So what’s it tonight?” I asked cheerfully. I was starting to feel brave in the night. Facing off with noglans and ghosts had made me less afraid of the darkness, silly me. Still it was easier than facing the villagers.”
Following are my questions about the above “telling.” We don’t see her meeting, saying hello, interacting with, or fighting sticks with any of these creatures. What did the dryad say to her that was soft spoken? Why did she see the nyad and Caefawn not? Where and how did they look for the willow wisps? She says one or two attacked her. How many was it? When a creature did a mental attack, what was it like? How did she feel and respond? She said she learned to defend herself. What exactly did she do to defend herself? How did she summon the lesser creatures? Build a fire? Chant? What did she do to dominate? Sit on them? Stare at them without blinking? She has interesting descriptions but she doesn’t show “actions.”