The SnowRaven Chronicles: Wine & Wizards by A J Spencer

SpencerSnowRavenChroniclesWine&WizardsWhere I Got It: A review copy via Audiobook Jukebox (thanks!)

Narrator: Adrienne Ellis

Publisher: Joseph Buzzoni (2014)

Length: 3 hours 25 minutes

Series: Book 3 The SnowRaven Chronicles

Author’s Page

Note: Even though this is Book 3 in the series, it works as a stand alone.

In this edition of Shaska (or is it spelled Saska?) the SnowRaven’s adventures, we have high seas, mud monsters, guns, wine, and magic. Plus a little nudity. Shaska is a woman who can fight under all circumstances, armed or not, in fair weather or poor, outnumbered, and unclothed. This volume holds just as much action as the previous books, but a touch more lot. Indeed, I do believe it is my favorite so far.

First, Shaska is still accompanied by her pet Lynx, the mutant fox serpent that can talk. She tries to leave him behind once or twice, to no avail. Her first adventure involves sailing with  crew into unknown peril to retrieve the flag of a long lost something or other. Supposedly, many have tried to reclaim this banner and failed. And Shaska doesn’t lose a few sailors in the reclaiming of the banner, but then she gives the remaining crew a burlesque-like show using the flag afterwards. This scene in particular made me think of a short story written by Robert E. Howard in which the pirate queen gives Conan a similar dance.

But once she makes it back to land, there are more adventures, more plots and schemes, and more bad guys. If you have read the first 2 books, then you will know that there is a touch of machinery and modern weapons. Here, in this volume we see more of that and it is well done. Even Shaska, a traditional warrior Shepherdess from the high snowy mountains, finds it hard to argue with the advances that come with engineering.

Once again, the Scout Tommy Calvor (spelling?) makes an appearnce. He’s been in the series since Book 1 and I really should give him credit. He provides comic relief and sometimes the common sense. By now, he has rescued Saska a few times, even if sometimes it was just by happenstance.

As with all the books so far there is nudity using such terms as buxom or rock-hard thighs or lithe figure. Shaska ends up naked more than once and yet still defeats her foes. We had one mud monster last book – and we have another in this installment. I don’t mind the nudity because Shaska doesn’t – in herself or in others. Plus, these books are written in such a way as to be just a smidge over the top, like an epic warrior poem where all the deeds, all the foes, all the curses by the gods are a bit exaggerated. And I like it. A lot!

Narration: You might have noticed that the first 2 books had a different narrator (Matt Franklin) than this book (Adrienne Ellis). With the first 2 books, I was positive the narrator was saying ‘Shaska’ but with this book the narrator is obviously saying ‘Saska’. I had to dig through the SnowRaven Chronicles FB page, but the spelling is Saska. So thanks to Adrienne Ellis for saying it clearly and setting me on the right path. 

Unfortunately, I really enjoyed Matt Franklin’s performances more. He had more of a stage voice making it feel like an epic poem read out loud to a crowd over a campfire. Adrienne Ellis had a decent voice for Saska and for the plot narration. However, most of her side character voices all sounded very similar and for some reason they sounded like slightly screechy old grandmothers. I noticed this for high nobles (male) and women and sometimes Lynx. When we did have an old woman, the voice worked. All together, she didn’t have the variety of character voices I was hoping for.

What I Liked: Great cover art; fun plot; plenty of bad guys or monsters to fight; the banner dance (a nod to Robert E. Howard?); the further integration of technology. 

What I Disliked: The narration was not as good as the previous 2 books. 

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