The SnowRaven Chronicles: The Treasure of Okra-Bane by A.J. Spencer, the 2nd installment in the SnowRaven Chronicles series. The lady SnowRaven sets out to claim the fabled treasure of Okra-Bane, hidden amongst the mysterious circle of stones - the ancient remnants of a long forgotten civilization deep in the snow covered mountains of Andora. But little does she know that a swarm of vengeful Vosharian are stalking her, awaiting the ideal moment to strike, or that the circle of stones holds many, deadly secrets to ensnare treasure seekers. The most terrifying is the ancient creature that sleeps deep within the mountains: a pagan god to the ancients, mere myth & legend to this enlighten age, a force to be feared by all who dare to steal its most coveted treasure.
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Well, it's not actually Conan, but I would say A.J. Spencer's Shaska does a lot to remind me of Conan tales set early in his career. Shaska's attitudes and manner mirror Conan the thief; her attitudes and indomitable nature. The world feels similar to Hyborian Age as well - littered everywhere with princely estates and hidden treasure tombs. Add to that guns (setting it apart from Conan) and Cthulhuian horrors, stir, and serve!
Overall, it's a good story, if a little short. I could have done with a little more peril traversing the treasure cave. While there are dangers it seemed a little easier than it should have. That may just be how the author sets up his hero - maybe she comes off as a little too unstoppable.
Matt Franklin's narration and accent are smooth as silk. That's both good and bad. I'd buy more just to listen to him read, but his might not have been the best genre for him. Many times I just felt like the action was lacking a sense of danger - like the heroine was a little too casual throughout, though this may be as much the writing as the narration. There were also some unforced errors, like double-reading of lines of text.
If you're into the fantasy genre this is a great quick read. I'd give it a solid 3-1/2 stars both for story and narration. The series has a lot of potential, and I think they will get even better as the tales go forward.
Note: Even though this is Book 2 in the series, it works as a stand alone.
Shaska the SnowRaven returns! In this installment, she gets swept up in the hunt for a long-coveted but much guarded treasure, the treasure of Okra-Bane. But this isn’t the only thing she has to contend with – there are yet more Vorsharians! These are the giant insect creatures we met in Book 1. They are vengeful, plentiful, and organized. Shaska and her friends may truly be in trouble.
The story starts off with Shaska and Linx (her mutated fox-serpent friend and pet) having a hot bath. They are guests of a city duke and are getting use to pampered life. Alas, some smelly mud has blocked the pipes and is fouling the tub. Shaska rouses the innkeeper and heads to the basement to figure out the problem. She starts off in decent boots and a silk robe, but as you might imagine if you read Book 1, Shaska is soon fighting some monster in just her boots. By the end, victorious, she is in need of a good hot bath.
Folks, I have a new love, and her name is Shaska the Warrior Shepherdess! The story weaves fantastical feats of bravery and strength with bits of humor and the appreciation for nude athleticism. Told in a high, epic warrior’s tale manner, we follow Shaska as she defeats monster after monster (clothing optional), completing one impossible task after another.
Linx, her steadfast companion and sanity check, does his best to curb her enthusiasm for the dangerous. Alas, the allure of chasing down a long lost treasure is too much for Shaska to ignore. Linx, Shaska, and her nearly-manly warrior companion we met in Book 1 (I forget his name – Karso? Borus? Ugh… I know I am totally off) head off to adventure, gold, and glory. Anyway, he provides some sane advice and comedic relief. Together, they face a horrible mud creature, and later on, a tentacled ancient god. You just knew there would be tentacles, right?
As with the first book, I have to chat about the nudity. In this installment of the SnowRaven Chronicles, the author found clever ways (as oppose to simply blatant ways in Book 1) to have Shaska end up disrobed. On occasion, it was the only way to save her life. Shaska herself doesn’t see any shame in her nudity, or anyone else’s, and this is a very straightforward and refreshing attitude to have.
All told, this was a pretty entertaining SnowRaven tale. I reveled in the action sequences and gave my little snort laugh at all the jokes. I now want a mutated talking fox companion of my own.
Narration: Once again, Matt Franklin did a great job. I love his bardic voice for these books, making the fight scenes seem like something out of a Norse edda. His monster voices are the best!