Audiobook Review: The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan

24 04 2012

The Cold Commands by Richard K. Morgan (A Land Fit For Heroes, Bk. 2)

Read by Simon Vance

Tantor Audio

Length: 16 Hrs 48 Min

Genre: Fantasy

Quick Thoughts: While The Cold Commands doesn’t work as well as a standalone novel as the Steel Remains did, Morgan’s compelling characters and crisp action allows this bridge novel to achieve more than just setting up the finale. The Cold Command establishes the characters credentials for the task they must undertake, offering interesting character reveals, and deepening the bonds between this unique trio.

Grade: B

The Cold Commands was nominated for a 2012 Audie Award in the Science Fiction Category.

I have to admit, I have a horrible record with epic fantasy. All too often, I will read the first book in a series, and enjoy it, but when the next books come out, they get put on the backburner, and eventually overwhelmed by my TBR pile. The Big Fat Fantasies have really rarely been my favorite type of read. I rarely come into a series because I read some synopsis and am instantly drawn to the material. Things like magic, elves, dragons, and wizards aren’t buzz words that brighten my heart. The majority of the traditional fantasy novels and series I have read have been either recommended to me, or are by authors I have discovered through their other speculative fiction work. One of my issues is that often Fantasy novels are just so long. In the time it takes me to listen to one novel in George RR Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, I could have listened to 5 normal sized audiobooks. So, while I have listened to the first two volumes of David Anthony Durham’s Acadia series and enjoyed it, I have yet to fit in the nearly 30 hour finale, The Sacred Band.  I have listened to exactly one of Joe Abercrombie’s First Law novels. I totally mean to continue and complete these series, but for some reason my easily distracted brain gets drawn to the five other books I could be listening to. Over two years ago I listened to Richard K. Morgan’s first foray into more traditional fantasy, The Steel Remains. I really enjoyed the story, and its complicated main character Ringil. Yet, I’m not sure if I would have taken on the second novel in Morgan’s Land Fit for Heroes saga if it wasn’t for armchair Audies. Yet, again, taking on this challenge of listening to all the nominees in the speculative fiction categories of the Audie Awards gave me the motivation I needed to take on an audiobook I was already interested in.

At the start of The Cold Commands, Ringil’s attempts to go home after the events of The Steel Remains are not successful. He is again a hero in exile, roaming the land, sticking his nose where it really doesn’t belong. When he finds himself in the midst of a slave revolt, he again must run for his life. Eventspush his towards familiar allies, who are in all too familiar trouble. The early parts of The Cold Commands suffers greatly from being a second book in a planned trilogy. Morgan did such an excellent job tying things up in The Steel Remains, that there is a sort of listlessness in the action of the early parts of the novels. Luckily his trio of main characters, Ringil, Archeth, and Egar Dragonbane are interesting enough that the seemingly randomness of their actions is offset by the handling of the situations they get into. Morgan writes some of the crispest fantasy action sequences. Often time in Fantasy, the hand to hand brutal sword fights become sort of a blur to me, but Morgan’s writing is lean and mean and easily visualized. For me, it wasn’t until the Ringil and Archeth’s storylines begin to merge, that the novel begins to take on some cohesion. While much of the novel is setting up the epic quest to discover the dark force that is rising up, which will obviously be the focus of book three, the second half of The Cold Commands has some big reveals for Ringil, and Egar, and some hints of things to come for Archeth. One of my favorite aspects of The Land Fit for Heroes is Morgan’s ability to poke fun at the genre. Whether it be an immortal’s snarky rant about "The One" or Ringil’s incredulity at being called a farm boy, Morgan offers a lot of dark humor and not so subtle jabs at often overused Fantasy tropes.  While The Cold Commands doesn’t work as well as a standalone novel as the Steel Remains did, Morgan’s compelling characters and crisp action allows this bridge novel to achieve more than just setting up the finale. The Cold Command establishes the characters credentials for the task they must undertake, offering interesting character reveals, and deepening the bonds between this unique trio. 

I really can’t believe it’s been nearly a year since listening to my last Simon Vance narration. Simon Vance is a veteran of the industry, and as I understand it from my twitter timeline, his voice can make ladies swoon. While I didn’t swoon to his reading of The Cold Command, it definitely helped me make my way through some of the slower parts of this novel. Vance reads The Cold Command with a soft confidence. He has the ability to slow down his reading, especially the ending of the sentences, to give greater impact to what he is reading. This works particularly effectively during the action scenes which can often come off rushed and confusing, instead the narration allows the reader to visualize each stroke of the sword, and spray of blood.  One of the toughest things about narrating Fantasy novels is that there is no easy reference to accents. Being that these are fictional settings in a fictional world, the narrator must create various accents for the characters and keep them consistent. Vance achieve this feet, bringing the characters alive by tailoring authentic sounding accents to the personalities of his characters. The Cold Commands wasn’t as instantly compelling as The Steel Remains and there were some muddled and murky moments. It helped having a talented and engaging narrator like Vance leading us through the murk.

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2 responses

25 04 2012
Armchair Audies Recap ~ 4/24/2012

[…] Guilded Earlobe reviewed The Cold Commands, The Daughter of Smoke and Bone, and Hard […]

29 05 2012

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