In the second installment of the A Fire Beneath the Skin trilogy, Rina Veraiin has youth, beauty, and strength. She is a born warrior, able to outride any man, deal death with her fierce blade, and command awesome and mysterious forces granted to her by a set of magical tattoos. Now as the newly minted duchess of Klaar, Rina confronts a menace that threatens her world in a divine conflict that will push her newfound abilities to their limits.
As sinister and magical forces unite against her, Rina's only chance at stopping them is to gain new tattoos that will increase her powers beyond anything she has known before. United with her few trusted companions, she makes her desperate quest across a bloodshed-ravaged land while war brews among the gods.
With the enchanted world of Helva hanging in the balance, Rina must learn to wield extraordinary power to save herself and her people, before unimaginably powerful forces - and the savage fury of the gods - tear apart the land forever.
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Narrator hamstrung by poor story and production
The first thing that could have dramatically improved my listening experience would have been a production value to support Hardingham's narration. Hardingham does nice work, but had no support from the production team.
When getting into what Gischler needed to do to bring the score up we get into a couple more issues.
1) This story is clearly intend only for those that have read the 1st book. If you haven't read the 1st book you'll find the characters blank slates, and about as 2 demential as you might get. Even after having listened to the 1st book I found myself growing to care less and less about the characters as they seemed more like chess pieces on a board than real people. Part of this likely ties in with my next point.
2) The story is all over the place. It's the end times and the gods are waring, the kingdom is on the brink of invasion from a nearby Empire, and the Duchess is trying to out maneuver the political machination of the king and those within the Capital. With so much happening the story rushes along at rapid speeds. Gischler tries to cram 2 separate stories into 1 and his work suffers for it. As I mentioned above I grew to char less and less about the characters because they honestly could have been anyone. Even characters developed in the previous book suffered from this. Many characters lost that special 'spark' that made them stand out. With so little development of the characters or story Gischler depends on the 2 story plots to fatten his word count.
3) Story isn't finished. I don't mean that there are plot lines left untied or it wasn't a clean end, I mean none of the plot lines are finished. There's no real sense of 'end.' It's more like the first act of a play that gets you invested and the breaks for intermission, except you have to pay for your ticket to see the second half and figure out what happens.
4) Invaders have an odd obsession with the main character. The invaders from the pervious book, the remains that got left behind, have an odd obsession with the main character (the Duchess). I found myself scratching my head why they'd bother with her, or use so many resources on her. There were far bigger and more important things for them to deal with, but they kept trying to deal with her. If it'd been an attempt at revenge I could have gotten that, but that was never established. Why?
5) The characters don't feel challenged. The Duchess never felt like she was truly threatened or over her head. I never felt like the challenges she face were actually giving her problems or that she wasn't going to be fine. This holds true for all the other characters. I never doubted their survival, no mater what the author threw at them.
6) It's never really clear who knows what when, how, or why. The passing of information between characters needs to be cleaned up a bit. For example the invasion was supposed to be a secret, but the kingdom knows. It seems like the invaders know that their plan to keep it a secret is bust, but it's never clearly implied or stated one way or another.
7) *Bonus round* While Gischler does a nice job in his descriptions he spends far too much time getting into the descriptions of combat. Fights seem to drag on longer than they need to, and I'll admit I skipped ahead (more than once) to get past the fighting.
While I felt Gischler's writing us subpar in this book in his pervious work, Ink Mage, he did far better. Characters were developed and felt unique. I wanted them to succeeded and was interested in the plot that he developed. Didn't feel that in this book-but I know he can do it. Gischler's ideas are solid and the world is fascinating. Where Gischler suffers is in the delivery of the his ideas.
Most certainly! I felt that Hardingham did a fantastic job narrating. The reason for the terrible performance score is due to the terrible production support Hardingham had. There were odd pauses within sentences that hadn't been edited out. There are also at times background sounds. Sadly these problems persist throughout the book.
Despite these problems Fiona Hardingham does a nice job carrying the book. I kept pushing through the story because Hardingham helped to breath life into these characters and drew me into the world with her voice. While Hardingham did a fantastic job, I felt the production problems caused far too many problems and I had to dock performance stars. I felt like I was watching a fantastic actress perform on stage with the lights and mics turning on and off at random times.
I can return it.
As for an actual 'redeeming quality' is Fiona Hardingham herself. Read my thoughts on Hardingham's performance.
- Teddy Hoffman
This is not a novel