Her name is Alias, and she is in big trouble.
She is a sell-sword, a warrior-for-hire, and an adventuress. She awoke with a series of twisting, magical blue sigils inscribed on her arms and no memory of where she got them.
Determined to learn the nature of the mysterious tattoo, Alias joins forces with an unlikely group of companions: the halfling bard, Ruskettle, the southern mage, Akabar, and the oddly silent lizard-man, Dragonbait. With their help, she discovers that the symbols hold the key to her very existence.
But those responsible for the sigils aren't keen on Alias's continued good health. And if the five evil masters find her first, she may discover all too soon their hideous secret.
©1988 TSR, Inc. (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
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"Really good D&D"
The main character wakes in a tavern inn with tattooed arms and no clue why and what happened. Now she thinks of it, she only has hazy memories of the past year. She doesn’t know what the hell and been going on but is darn sure gonna find out, who branded her and why. She sets out, one adventure leads to the next, is joined by some interesting characters for their own various reasons along the way, until we finally find out. This is the first in a series but good as a stand-alone novel. We have something lizard man like, a singing thief grafter or bard, merchant trading company wizard, a dragon, a calmari, and all sorts of encounters from upper middle class engagement party, to mountain passes and caves, etc.
What I liked so much about this book is that it starts simple, both as to characters and story scope, and then grows as you go, so that I bought it. I felt like I got to know them so they had a less lame and more genuine feel to them. I was not rolling my eyes as the authors tried to make me their characters’ psychiatrist, and having them and their “stuff” deluged onto me and me hoping I had some dry towels.
It had a much more Connan the Barbarian feel to it than Lord of the Rings, which is what a D&D novel should be IMHO. Opinions vary but to me: Fantasy is for LOTR types and D&D for CTB types of stories. Otherwise why bother having two different genera or looking in one instead of the other to find the kind of story you want if their content is the same? I think of it this way: if the whopper were a big mac but with a different name, then burger king would never have taken off.
"A Gift That's Kept on Giving"
A game based Sword & Sorcery Fantasy that is more than it's origins
Azure Bonds by Kate Novak & Jeff Grubb, read by Kristin Kalbli, published by Audible Studios (2015) / Length: 14 hrs 44 min
This is Book #1 of 4 that include these characters. The "Finder's Stone" trilogy plus Masquerades (which is apparently "The Harpers" #10, but I haven't read any of those and wasn't lost at all).
I received this book many years ago as a birthday gift. I was a bit mystified as to the selection. I had only ever played a role playing game once, and not with the person who gave me the book. It's not that I disliked it, but as an unsocial bookworm I would rather be reading. I decided to give it a chance anyway, since the story sounded interesting, and I have read it many times since. When the audiobook came out a few years back, I snatched up almost immediately. I have tried others that are similar, even by the same author, and never found one I liked as much.
This book isn't perfect, and it isn't deep; but I love the characters & the writing, and I listen to it frequently. So it fully deserves my 5* RATING. I also recognize that it might not be for everyone.
Regarding the cover: That outfit wasn’t something she was wearing by choice, and it’s impracticality is specifically called out in the book (which made me smile).
Alias of Westgate: She has missing memories, memories that don't match other people's, and a talent for singing songs that no one else has ever heard of. She's hot tempered & stubborn and completely loyal.
Dragonbait: Nobody knows what he is, other than good with his strange sword. He sticks tight to Alias.
Akabar bel Akash: Bound and determined to prove he's not a "greengrocer" (i.e. non-adventurer). Frequently touts his skill as a mage "of no small water," but is inwardly uncertain of his worth on this quest.
Olive Ruskettle: Mostly just out for herself; her asides on the habits of humans are neverthelee very funny.
Characters from other books that get cameos: King Azoun IV & Vangerdahast / Elminster / Mourngrym / Finder Wyvernspur (there may be more, but I'm not that familiar with the world)
Because this book is part of an existing world, which has been widely explored through games & books, the authors had a rich background to draw upon. I hadn't read any FR before this one, so I didn't know all the background; but I never really felt lost. What needed to be explained was, and the rest just lent depth.
In addition to the various types of characters in our main group, we have priests, sages, dragons, innkeepers, assassins, gods, demons, sorcerers, paladins, and many other types of standard fantasy peoples & creatures.
Note: One of the things I miss when listening to an audiobook is the map that many Fantasy books, including this one, have. If you decide to listen to this book, you can find a good map here . (You want to be looking at the portions in the center right, to the south & east of the big desert in the top center.)
The book drew me in from the very beginning. I loved the writing and the mystery presented. From there it becomes a standard quest tale as Alias seeks to understand what has happened to her. There is lots of action and plenty of more thoughtful character moments.
Although there are a couple more books with these characters, this one comes to a full stop with very few unanswered questions. Alias isn't even in the next one, but she comes back in #3.
HIGHLIGHTS / CAUTIONS:
--Dragonbait gets his name
--A good number of my favorite bits take place while they are in Yulash, including the stuff in the temple of Moander and the encounter with an old foe
--Olive alone, having to decide if she is going to go evil or just stick with being bad.
I COULD HAVE DONE WITHOUT: Moderate swearing / I have problems with character who are thieves, especially those who steal from their companions
OTHER CAUTIONS(?): Akabar is from a "southern" culture that practices polygamy. He already has two wives and they are looking for a third.
Character voices differentiated = Yes / Opposite sex voices acceptable = Yes / Accents good = Yes, she does a good job of devising different accents for people from various fictional regions / Phrasing, Pacing & Pronunciation = Good / Emoting = Good, the non-dialog parts are a bit flat though / Speed = just a touch slow; I listen on regular speed rather than my 1.25, but occasionally bump it up
"what I needed"
this book was exactly what I wanted. delivered in the way I needed it. thank you
"Just as good as I remember"
This is an excellent introduction to the world of forgotten realms. The story flows easily and has a twist you don't expect in a fantasy novel.
"Worth a listen"
Story is pretty good, 1-2 interesting characters and voice actress was very good. Likely to get next book.
It's been quite a few years since I had last picked this book up. When I had noticed it on here, I could not resist to pick it up again. So glad I did.
"Fun fantasy tale."
I first read this book a long time ago when I was a teenager. So, probably about 25 years or so ago. At the time I thought it was great, so when I saw it listed on Audible I thought it'd be worth a listen.
This is one of the old-school, 80's American fantasy novels a la Dragonlance and, as such, it's aimed more at young adults than the likes of Game of Thrones. This is no bad thing in itself but some fantasy fans new to the genre might find this kind of book a little twee.
I was happy to find myself enjoying the tale, which is a good one no matter what age you are, and the characters and events were interesting enough to keep me listening right to the end. I'll buy the second book in the series too at some point, no doubt.
Dragons, magic, sword fights, friendship, a dangerous quest - it's all here and the fact it's aimed at teens means there's some light humour and nothing gets too dark or depressing.
The narrator is okay without being either brilliant or annoying.
Steven A. McKay, author of "Knight of the Cross"
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