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This is a very well told and extremely well read story about overcoming fear, a parable about the terrors we all face and the consequences of giving in to them.
While retaining many of the common fantasy tropes, the story avoids cliche and gives it's characters real inner lives. I enjoyed this from beginning to end, rarely less than engrossed.
I hope there are more books available from these excellent authors.
This was one extraordinary book, one that I could not stop reading / listening to.
While this husband and wife team have been writing and receiving awards for books since 1994, their works are, for the most part, in the Ukrainian and Russian languages. Written in 1997, The Scar is apparently the first to be translated into English and has only come to Western shores this year. While this is the middle book of a trilogy, unlike other trilogies, this installment stands quite well on its own though I hope that the remaining installments become available in English. I cannot wait to read them. These are masterful writers.
While not one for spoilers, I will only say that this is a book of the fantasy genre that, while there is sorcery and sword-fighting, none of it is gratuitous. While there is a great deal about love, there is not too much romance. For my liking, all of these were good attributes. The book is about great courage and great cowardice, self-discovery and redemption. This is a wonderfully rich and vivid story about our humanity, our psychology and the nature of both. For me, perhaps the most powerful aspect of the book had to do with the power of forgiveness. This is story-telling at its best.
When beginning to listen to this book, I was already engaged (but not engrossed) in listening to one and reading another literary work of fiction. I was becoming drained by the complexity and work that I had to put into both. The Scar’s simplicity allowed me to just relax and enjoy one of the more remarkable books I have read/listened to. While simple in its parable-, morality play-like nature, it still had the depth and richness of quintessential Russian literature. The characters are richly and completely drawn. The plot is riveting, surprising and unpredictable to the end. The prose, perhaps owing to the translation by Elinor Huntington, is engrossing, lyrical and poetically beautiful.
The narration by Jonathan Davis did justice to the book. Sometimes narrators are so good that they draw one’s focus away from the book and toward the performer. For the most part, that was not the case with this selection. The narrator disappeared and the book revealed itself in all of its beauty. I will say this, though, there are passages in which the narrator’s voice became possibly a bit too stentorian. That was a distraction for me but the passages were few and far between. I think that it was a personal thing and I will not dock him for it. He did a superb job.
Rating this book is difficult for me. Thinking out loud, I would like to give it 5 stars but I gave that number to The Brothers Karamazov. 4 stars might suggest that the book was less than stellar. I would like to rate it within the context of the rest of the trilogy because of some unmentioned comments but two-thirds of that are unavailable. So, in the interest of enticing you to rather than dissuading you from reading this masterpiece, my fine reader of reviews, 5 Stars it is. You will not be disappointed.
93 of 97 people found this review helpful
Download this book for the sheer beauty of listening to it-- it's such an aesthetic pleasure the story hardly matters. I suspect Jonathan Davis could narrate a dishwasher assembly manual and make it enthralling. Davis's exposition is like a gently flowing sylvan stream beckoning the listener to explore its charming bends. On the other hand, listening to his dialog is more like listening to a dramatic reading of a play than a book, the voices of the characters are so distinct and read with such drama. After listening to this book, I checked out samples of some of his other narrations and found them good, but not nearly as entrancing as the voice he takes on for this book. More, please! The only downside is that his dialog is SO dramatic it often goes from a shout to a murmur, sometimes quite quickly. While the performance is wonderful, the extreme volume changes can create a logistical headache. Some of the quieter conversations, particularly involving female characters, required me to dial the volume way up.
I also think I have literally never read a book translated from another language that flows so beautifully and has such a lovely and natural style of prose. Translator Elinor Huntington did a wonderful job, and I expect she took some significant translational liberties with the text to ensure that flow. The language and phrasing is an interesting blend of modern and archaic, but always apt and never stilted. I don't speak or read a word of Russian, but I'd give an eyetooth to know how much of the credit for this lyrical beauty should go the Dyachenkos and how much Huntington imposed.
Oh yes, you want to know if the story is any good. It's... fine. It's a simple, almost fable-like archaic tale of courage, cowardice, and redemption that is a perfect vehicle for Huntington's wonderful translation and Davis's marvelous narration. I felt the biggest weakness was that the main character, Egert Soll, is not particularly likeable at any point during the story, He goes from being an arrogant jackass to a sniveling self-loathing worm, and it is never easy to feel much sympathy for him or understand how the female lead could fall for him, particularly given their history. Despite this, I was reasonably engaged by the story until the very end, when I felt the final denouement was fundamentally unsatisfying.
The Bottom Line: Proof that an "okay" story, perfectly told, becomes something much more than just okay.
14 of 14 people found this review helpful