By Robert Asprin and Jody Lynn Nye
Published by Audible Frontiers
Read by Noah Michael Levine
I have to admit that after listening to Myth-Taken Identity I really was hesitant to listen to any more of that series. It was a long and slow-moving story, possibly because the two authors each seemed to have their side to tell. There was too much of showing what the bad guys were up to from their own points of view (it was entirely unnecessary to the story itself) and I found it depressingly predictable. It was a disappointing outing by two very talented authors. And I felt the reader, Noah Michael Levine (same as this book), had so badly hammed it up that I was tempted several times to just turn the thing off and move on to another book. All that kept me listening was my policy to not review anything I have not listened to all the way through.
One of the problems with the last book is that Skeeve was not in it. I felt the M.Y.T.H. Inc subseries failed, partially from that same lack, although it was an obvious attempt to breathe a little life back into the stories by tossing away the template the first few books had relied on. The sad truth is that Bob Asprin had fallen into the publisher’s trap; “Give me something exactly the same, but different!” It is not entirely his fault. It is hard to write a sequel that will both satisfy a publisher and be original every time. Admittedly nothing satisfies a publisher more than big sales numbers, but that sort of comes after the publication. Getting them to listen to a sales pitch often means showing how the current story is just like your last big seller.
In this story, we get to see how Skeeve is doing. Well, if one has been reading the series in sequence they already know he’s been secluded in an old inn with his assistant/accountant/probable love interest, Bunny. There in the peace and quiet, frequently broken, along with the walls by the crashes of playing dragon and unicorn, he is learning to perform the magik he is reputed to already know. Meanwhile, back on Deva (known for the Bazaar where making a deal with a Deveel is the only sort of business you are likely to do) Aahz, the loud-mouthed Pervect (from the Dimension Perv, meets three much younger Pervects looking for Skeeve to give them advanced lessons). Aahz refuses, but when they offer to pay, he changes his mind and sends them on their way. And since Skeeve decides to accept these three as students, he ends up taking on three others as well. But his students have a secret agenda… well of course they do… And that’s enough of a synopsis.
The hints as to what is coming are thick on the ground so there really are no surprises and so the savvy reader must decide for him or herself, whether it is worth the ride. One thing I like about this series is that each story builds on what came before it. Tat’s is a hallmark of good story-telling. Unfortunately, if this book were a TV show, at least half of it would have been a typical clip-show with dozens of flashbacks to events from previous episodes. The reminiscing was thick on the ground and the story would have flowed much better if not for all that. There were just too many characters from the past with cameos that the story, while too predictable was slow to develop.
However, credit where it is due, this was a better story than the last even if it was not up to the standard set by the first two or three books of the series.
Noah Michael Levine has an amazingly flexible and versatile voice with an encyclopedic number of accents at his commands. However, he hams it up far too much in the books I have heard him read in this series so far. He also mispronounces several words that should have been obvious which drove me up the wall as I listened. Part of that, I suspect was an attempt to get the book entirely in one take, but the director (or producer?) should have stopped him when he made mistakes and corrected them. Editing the take afterwards is not all that hard, after all… at least the production values were too good for me to believe he just sat there with a voice recorded to read it. In fact, I know someone did do some special effects as a group of voices chorusing something really were performed as a chorus of voices a little too often to be funny.
Once again, Mister Levine chose to give Aahz a horribly cliché “Jewish” accent which fell on my ears like drops of poison, but for some reason most of the other people from Aahz’s home (Perv) did not have his accent. Instead, however, we get to hear several really annoying whiny voices and a bad imitation of a talking dog (a Canidian, eh?) and the over-done voices made the lame puns all the harder to take.
So we have a half-baked story and an overdone narrator. And yet it really could have been worse. Fans of the series in general will probably like this.