Welcome to one of the three October 11th stops kicking off the blog tour for Dark by Paul L. Arvidson and narrated by Benjamin Fife, organized by The Audiobookworm Promotions. Be sure to follow the rest of the tour for more features, reviews, interviews with the author and narrator, and more!
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About the Book
The Dark Trilogy Book One
by Paul L. Arvidson
Narrated by Benjamin Fife
Genre: Fantasy, Steampunk
Page Count: 383
Audio Length: 9 hrs 2 mins
Add it to your Goodreads TBR!
In the strange
labyrinth of pipes on the planet called Dark, things are falling apart. Dun doesn’t want to be a hero, he just wants to find an answer to the terrifying dreams he’s been having. But the answers, the real answers, are going to take him places he’s never imagined and tear him from the only home he’s ever known.
With a half finished map from his missing father, an old friend, a new friend and the mysterious Myrch to guide him, he journeys through parts of his world he’s never imagined. Are his dreams real foretellings? Who can he trust to be who they say there are? What are the strange forces that seem to be literally pulling their world apart?
As he travels through a world that is much bigger than he thought it was, what he won’t know will kill him. And everyone he knows.
My Rating: 4 Stars
Dark is an interesting high fantasy/steampunk hybrid of a story unlike any other I’ve read before. I hear it’s the start of a trilogy, and I’m intrigued to read the rest. This book is set on a planet called Dark which has layers of livable levels, but not all levels are equal. Our protagonist Dun and his rag-tag team who set out on a quest to discover what has happened to the “machine makers” come from a place far beneath the surface in a village of people that are much more wolflike and primitive than people closer to the planet’s surface. Wealth and knowledge have both been lost this far down.
I’m a sucker for steampunk, and I love stories that analyze how different cultures would think of advanced technology. It’s an interesting concept to put the vastly different cultures, the primitives and the technologically advanced, on the same planet, and in a planet that has apparently been extensively altered by the advanced species no less. I like the concept of a planet that has been turned partly into a machine, and once I understood that that’s what has happened on this planet, some of the vocabulary our main characters use made a little more sense. Time is measured in clicks, spans, and cycles. Spans is a pretty pedestrian alternate term for days, and cycles can be planetarily linked but clicks stood out as new to me. I had no idea why they would use such a word until I realized the planet itself probably clicks or ticks rhythmically.
Similarly, I didn’t realize that our main characters actually weren’t bare-skinned humanoids right away and actually found the wolf-like vocabulary annoying. It felt like an old, tired way to demonstrate how primitive these people are. Perhaps I missed some description near the beginning that would have dispelled that sooner. It’s not until very close to the end when the main characters make a big deal out of the fact that one character doesn’t have fur that I realized they do have fur. This then lead me to wonder if the death prayer-thing one of them utters at one point about “to the egg again” means these fur-covered people literally lay eggs? Again, either I missed the details that confirmed that earlier on, or the details weren’t there. If I missed it, it was because the beginning was so heavy in world-building that felt like the set up for 6th century Wales peasant village rather than the steampunk adventure I was promised, and I was bored. Most first book high fantasies suffer this sort of pitfall, though, so I don’t consider it too much of a flaw. Either world-building gets in the plot’s way, or the plot gets in the way of world-building, the reader it left with questions. In this case, most questions were answered in time, so that’s a plus.
Once the main cast hits the road and starts encountering other peoples from other villages as they get closer and closer to the surface, the story gets a lot more interesting and compelling. Once they finally reach the land of the “machine folk,” I had to finish the rest of the book in a single session. We finally got to the techy steampunk bit, and I want more!
This is a review for the audiobook specifically, so let’s talk about the narration. Overall, excellent performance from the narrator. He was clear and easy to understand (even at the times when I felt the need to play it at 2x speed) and he did a good job of making different characters sound distinct when speaking. I loved the dedication to incorporating sound effects and the completely different vocalizations and language of the creatures the main cast finds just outside the land of the machine folk. My only complaints are that there was a point where the clicking of something moving up above the characters as they were speaking at some point was a little too loud in comparison to the actual narration, and one character was given an accent that was quite jarring. I believe it was Merch, and the purpose was to make it clear that he’s very different from everyone else, but somehow in this machine planet world this person blending in with fur-covered and possibly egg-laying primitive people kind of sounded Scottish sometimes but also vaguely slavic. This wasn’t a character that seemed to have actually come from a group of people who might have once been Earthlings, so the distinct accent that could be clocked as familiar pulled me out of the story at bit at times.
Overall the narration was very good, and if I could award half-stars on Audible and Goodreads I would call it a 4.5, but I can’t so a 4 it must be. It wasn’t a 5, but it was very good.
As for the story itself and an overall rating for this title, I’m also going to say 4 out of 5 stars. Again if half-stars were possible on all the platforms I’ll be posting my review I would give halves, and the story element would get 3.5, but I can’t, so again 4 it is. Either way, that all averages out to 4 out of 5 overall.
I listened to this title in order to provide my honest review in conjunction with a blog tour for Dark with Audiobookworm Promotions, and I would like to thank the author Paul L. Arvidson for the complementary Audible code. My thoughts are my own and my review is honest.
Meet the Author
Paul Arvidson is a forty-something ex lighting designer, now SFF author who lives in rural Somerset, UK. He spends his non-author time bringing up his children, fighting against being sucked in to his wife’s chicken breeding business and preventing Morris the Dashund contributing to his typing. His SFF works form ‘The Dark Trilogy’. Dark is the first book in the trilogy and came out in 2017. The sequel Darker came out in 2018 and the series will be completed by a final book in 2019. There will not be a prize for guessing it’s title.
Meet the Narrator
Benjamin Fife has always had a passion for learning. With a mind that remembers all sorts of numbers and useless trivia, he regularly wins local radio shows and enjoys confusing people with sci-fi quotes.
Fife grew up in Southeast Idaho. He attended college at Idaho State University, where he met his future wife in their music theory class. They have been married nearly 20 years and now have six children and a whole menagerie of animals. When their oldest daughter was three or four years old they started reading aloud from novels every night at bedtime, and have continued the tradition ever since. The family loves exploring various worlds and topics through Fife’s wonderful reading skills, which get better every year. They all have his Christmas Carol voices memorized (and the older kids are known to quote along with portions), since he has read it to them every December.
Benjamin enjoys all kinds of sci-fi and fantasy – both books and shows, is an extreme eclectic music lover, and prefers his chocolate to be of the 90% cocoa variety. Above all, he loves to be with his family. He loves recording audio books, and is delighted to tell people, “I’ve finally found what I want to be when I grow up!
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