I had a difficult time reviewing “The Eye of Strife” which is a contemporary fantasy book written by Dave Duncan and narrated by Anthony Lee. The book provides little in the way of a description to those considering a new book to read. The only details we are given is that the book is about a God who summons a number of witnesses to testify about a jewel which has been lost for centuries. The Eye of Strife is the first book I have listened to by both this author and narrator. A number of the author’s fans, in their reviews, recommend reading his other material over this book; which seems to tell me that my gut feelings after listening was correct. I cannot speak for the author’s or narrator’s other works, but this one was hard for me to complete. The author appears to be quite a prolific writer and well like author. However, as you will see in my review below, I cannot recommend the book itself nor the audiobook edition do to the number of blemishes and bumps along the way. I’m a big fan of both science fiction and fantasy genres, but there were too many flaws for me to fully enjoy this one.
As a contemporary fantasy story, I enjoyed the varied characters including priests, priestesses, kings, gods, etc. I enjoyed some of the background details, but most of the time they were lacking. I liked the premise which the author laid out in the book’s description, but for me, the execution fell too short on delivering what was promised. If I had one thing that most impacted my dislike for this story, it would be that the book felt less like a tale being told than simply a large dump of events and details like that of a linear computer game. Most of the time I felt pulled along in the story instead of being lead and shown the beauty of it.
I did not feel the book had any life nor did the characters have any dimension to them. Everything felt flat. The descriptive words used to paint the scene were often muted or back and white only. I wanted color and life which was lacking throughout the story. Maybe this was the author’s intent based on the story revolving around a trial-like environment. At times the back and forth between past events and current were confusing as they did not have any solid transitions allowing the listener to smoothly be lead back. There were also points of interludes that attempted to reveal some new information, and at times that work well. As a whole, it just did not work for me. I felt the humor and writing style was more geared towards a young adult (YA) audience than what I have come to expect in a more mature author. For me, the book lacked any level of action or suspense; and some of this may be due to the way it was narrated, the story, or both.
Let me turn to the books narration. Anthony Lee is a newer narrator on audible and I take this into effect while writing my reviews. Even for a newer author, I had numerous issues with the book’s narration. For a book which I believed would be lively, the narration lacked inflection and felt jagged. I felt his ability to narrate the number of different characters was weak and at times confusing for the listener. The audio itself had at least one, if not two, places I noticed it was patched to correct for missing or wrong wording when first recorded. There were also quite a few places where there were volume inconsistencies between chapters. Most professional narrators I know make sure to normalize chapters to a specific level prior to release.
For parents and or younger readers, take note that this book contain a fair amount of crude humor, scenes containing adult subjects or can be graphic in nature which may not be appropriate for younger audiences. There is also a light use of vulgar language sprinkled thought out its pages.
In summary, I found the number of flaws in both the story and narration something I cannot overcome. Even though the audiobook is nearly six hours in length, there were a number of times I was going to mark it as a DNF; Did Not Finish. I expected more from an author who has written so many well received books. As others have recommended, this may not be the best text where the author shines, and maybe a few others would have been better suited for me to listen too.
Disclaimer: I was voluntarily provided this review copy audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator.