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I enjoyed this book and its sequel. Russel could have easily split this book into two or three--but instead creates a great semi-epic work. This is good writing, with an interesting plot that keeps you reading. However, if you are looking for a non-stop action ride this isn't your book.
It has the setting and plot for a 'coming of age' epic adventure, but Russell clearly didn't want to write that kind of book. The main character has the mysterious strength/ability/power and the setting is a multi-layered epic struggle of the characters' personal beliefs, set under the larger struggle between political families/entities, set under the larger epic struggle between nations/peoples, again set under the still larger struggle of ideologies/religions. While at first the setting leads you expect a coming of age story of a mystical warrior--the coming of age is really about the spiritual identity of the character and the nature of his reality--not his physical abilities (although that is developed in the book, too).
There is action in this series (wars, assassinations, fights, kick-boxing tournament, etc.), but they are almost downplayed at times. For instance, the central character competes in a kickboxing tournament, fighting something like a half-dozen matches, but Russell skims over almost all physical the action as if it is entirely irrelevant until the last match.
While I do enjoy a true action packed epic--this was a well written and enjoyable book. As was its sequel.
The narrator is fine. However, he's one of those narrators which would do best by simply reading the book and not trying to push his voice into a variety of characters. His effort to do so is a little comical at times--two of the minor characters' voices are just silly. One is a bad Yoda impression and the other is straight out of good fellas (odd in this feudal Asian society). Luckily these characters have minor roles, so it doesn't get annoying.
8 of 8 people found this review helpful
This was a very good book. The world that Russell creates is beautiful and intriguing. He "paints" a magnificent landscape with gorgeous settings and characters. The writing is pretty good, although it does seem to slip at times, but not so often that it takes away from the overall story. Russell provides a great mix of action, tension, quiet meditation scenes, war, fighting, and court intrigue that keeps the story fresh and keeps the reader engaged.
One thing I did not like was a story line he introduces very early in the book, and to me seemed like it would be central to the book, but he leaves it behind and only touches on it briefly throughout the rest of the book. Maybe he'll spend more time on it in the second book. Other than that, it's a really good book.
Elijah Alexander does a pretty good job with the narration, however, there is something about his voice that took me quite a while to get used to. He is very breathy and often soft spoken which was very distracting for me at first. Most of his character voices are quite good and distinct, but some are just bad, such as the horrible Yoda type voice he uses for one of the minor characters.
Overall, I'd recommend this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it.
4 of 4 people found this review helpful
Set in medieval Japan, this book quietly drew me in. Not an overly complicated plot but the characters are full-bodied and believable. I was particularly taken with the Botahist monk perhaps because he reminded me of the television series with Grasshopper.
The attention to detail, the poetry, the cha (tea) rituals, the calligraphy - all have a very Japanese feel about them and the description of the landscapes and the clothing always felt very integral and not at all like 'padding'.
The reading is brilliant. The speaker has a feel for the way of making his voice autocratic Japanese without attempting accents - and his ability to speak in a female voice is excellent.
The only disappointment was to find that the story is in two parts and part one had come to an end. I hadn't known that there is a sequel to it - which as yet, is not in the Audible library.
I thoroughly enjoyed this book and look forward to the Gatherer of Clouds.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful
Would you listen to The Initiate Brother again? Why?
No I already listened to it. Dumb question. Am I buying the sequel? Yes.
Who was your favorite character and why?
Unlike the Goblin Emperor or Imperial Radche where we fall in love with one character this was a nice balance of characters. Shu Lin is the most interesting for obvious reasons but he doesn't talk that much.
What does Elijah Alexander bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you had only read the book?
This was a very high degree of difficulty audiobook. More then 50 Asian characters. Narrator did a good job of having the required 50 voicings and keeping the characters straight in my head. Not the *brilliant* performance of a Luke Daniels or Peter Kenny but a very good performance given the degree of difficulty. I was able to keep the characters straight in my head and was not frequently distracted by the narrator, which is "above average" to me.
Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?
Again this is a dumb question. It is a 17 hour audiobook so no. I finished it in 3 days and am buying the sequel. So I liked it. that's what you want to know right?
Any additional comments?
The narrator has clearly studied Chinese and Japanese dubbed movies. These are typically acted in a "broad" soap opera like manner, and that element is included here. This is not some sort of "culturally insensitive performance" WATCH a Chinese movie, this is what they sound like. So given the challenges in voicing 50 something Asian characters this was a good job.
Books with lots of characters and intrigue can be hard to follow in audiobook format. This story was big and complex enough that I had to engage my brain the whole time but not so big I was frequently confused. A sign of good writing was that any time I began to question a motivation or plot point, a character would soon ask the same question. If you like court intrigue "manners" and the like this was an interesting new setting and an enjoyable audiobook.