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Author: James Maxey
Narrator: Jake Urry
Series: Dragon Apocalypse, Book One
Length: 13h 20m
Publisher: James Maxey
Released: May 29, 2017
Genre: Epic Fantasy
Greatshadow is the primal dragon of fire, an elemental evil whose malign intelligence spies upon mankind through every candle flame, waiting to devour any careless victim he can claim.
The Church of the Book has assembled a team of twelve battle-hardened adventurers to slay the dragon once and for all. But tensions run high between the leaders of the team who view the mission as a holy duty and the super-powered mercenaries who add power to their ranks, who view the mission primarily as a chance to claim Greatshadow’s vast treasure trove. If the warriors fail to slay the beast, will they doom mankind to death by fire?
James Maxey’s mother warned him if he read too many comic books, they would warp his mind. She was right. Now an adult who can’t stop daydreaming, James is unsuited for decent work and ekes out a pittance writing down demented fantasies about masked women, fiery dragons, and monkeys. Oh god, so many monkeys.
In an effort to figure out how Superman could fly, James read a lot of science, books by Carl Sagan and Stephen Jay Gould and Stephen Hawking. Turns out, Superman probably wasn’t based on any factual information. Who would have guessed? Realizing it was possible to write science fiction without being constrained by the actual rules of science proved liberating for James, and led to the psuedo-science fiction of the Bitterwood series, superhero novels like Nobody Gets the Girl, and the steam-punk visions of Bad Wizard.
In 2015, James was honored as the Piedmont Laureate by the United Arts Councils representing Orange County, Durham County, and Wake County. This is almost certainly a sign of the ongoing cultural decay gripping the nation.
James lives in Hillsborough, North Carolina with his lovely and patient wife Cheryl and too many cats.
Jake Urry has been narrating and producing Audiobooks since February 2016, and in that time has released 17 titles, including The Cryptic Lines by Richard Storry, White is the Coldest Colour by John Nicholl, and the PI Harlan Ulrich series by Ambrose Ibsen. His narration work is often dark and suspenseful, and he developing a reputation for Mysteries, Thrillers and Horrors. In 2017 Jake will be working on more work by John Nicholl and Richard Storry, along with a sprinkling of Fantasy adventures.
I had the pleasure to read a paperback copy of this book some years ago and I recall I really enjoyed it. That hasn’t changed at all now with this new audiobook version. It was a real treat to revisit this epic quest and these interesting characters.
In this little corner of this world, there are plenty of islands and some of the last bastions of true wilderness. That’s because an elemental dragon, Greatshadow, resides in the depths of one of the islands volcanic mountains. Stagger, who dies very early on in the book, watches as his friends, frenemies, and a few unknowns are gathered together to take on the great task of killing Greatshadow. They hope to free humans from his tyranny, forever making fire safe to humans to handle. each of the questers has their own reasons for going on this journey, ranging from a holy quest to a great treasure hunt. Stagger is along for the right, his spirit being tied to his old dagger that he left with his drinking buddy Infidel.
First, lets talk about the characters. Yes, there are plenty of them, but most of them are pretty interesting. Stagger is a 50ish man that never did much more with his life than hunt up treasure, drink himself stupid, and hold a silent crush on Infidel. Now as a ghost, he’s taking an active role in one of the greatest (and perhaps most foolhardy) acts of humanity in recorded history – the not-insignificant attempt to slay an ancient and elemental dragon. Through this quest, he has to face some old acquaintances and also see people he cares about put in danger. So, he’s kind of having a midlife crisis without actually being alive. These circumstances force him to grow if he wants to make a difference.
Then there’s Infidel. She’s the true focus of this story. Being in her 30s, she’s got this unusual power of super strength and nearly impermeable skin. She’s a tank build like a healthy young lady on the short side. With the death of her best friend Stagger, she has to reassess what she wants to do with her life. She realizes that Stagger made treasure hunting and drinking fun and that she didn’t need much more than that. With him gone, she’s ready for a change.
Aurora was my next favorite character. She’s an ice ogress, complete with tusks. She’s quite good with her ice magic and very talented with a harpoon. In fact, she’s seeking a sacred weapon that belongs to her people and she suspects that one of their party has that weapon hidden away. Then there’s Wreak. I don’t really like him, per se, but he was just so interesting. He’s a half-seed, meaning that his mother bought some alchemically enhanced animal semen and applied it appropriately, coming up with a baby Wreak 9 months later. Unfortunately, it appears she purchased skunk semen…. perhaps on purpose. Just one of those little mysteries that we may never solve. The character list is littered with odd misfits aplenty: righteously angry religious man, a deformed strong man with almost no face, another zealot who can alter reality, a dream spinner (Blade) and his deadly assassin of a dream (Whisper), a flying knight with his shiny armor and mighty hammer, a tattooed man that can shape shift (Menagerie), the time traveling Black Swan, and the thought stealing Relic.
Then we have this quest that’s all told from the viewpoint of dear departed Stagger. It’s not a straightforward quest; the group suffers plenty of set backs. I liked that there was a mix of motivations for going on this quest and then that the quest itself was not so easy. There’s some internal conflicts and pygmies and just the jungle island to cross. Then toss in a little romance that isn’t expected to go anywhere in a hurry. I loved the girl talks between Aurora and Infidel, two warriors with vastly different experiences when it comes to sex. Not all of these would-be heroes make it to the end of the book. Some die out of stupidity. Some die from jungle traps set by the pygmies. Some die doing what they do best and in a noble manner. A few I wanted dead and a very few I nearly cried when they did die.
The ending held a few more surprises. Things didn’t end as I expected them to and that made me happy. This is not a predictable sword & sorcery tale. While the ending wraps things up for this tale, it leaves thing open for the sequel. It was a most satisfying book.
I received a free copy of this book.
Narration: Jake Urry brought a new level of enjoyment to this book. He really pulled out the stops for the variety of voices. I especially loved his creepy voice for Whisper. His muffled voice for the strongman with the face abnormality was well done. His voice for Greatshadow was excellent – deep, ancient, somewhat haughty, and powerful. He had distinct voices for all the characters and his female voices were believable. There were many emotions the various characters lived through in this book and he did a great job at showing those as well. All around, a fantastic narration.
What I Liked: Everything; loved the characters – such variety!; an unpredictable plot; Stagger’s growth as a ghostly character; Infidel’s chats with Aurora; Aurora’s tusks and weapons skills; Wreak’s stinky power; Greatshadow’s sheer presence; a tidy ending with enough room for a sequel; great narration.
What I disliked: Nothing. It was a great listen.
Runs Aug. 20th-27th 2017⎮Open internationally
Dab of Darkness
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