Podcast Review #40: The Crown Conspiracy

Title: The Crown Conspiracy
Author: Michael J. Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 11 July 2010 – 24 July 2010
Located: iTunes, Podiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast, Dead Tree version, electronic versions
Rating: G but with some mild violence and intense scenes

There are few people that get me excited by just telling me what the next project they are going to be working on is. Fewer still that can cause this excitement when they explain it isn’t their own story. Nathan Lowell is one of those for me. You see, I just respect the guy, and to this point, he hasn’t steered me wrong. So earlier this year when he started talking up fellow Ridan Publishing stablemate Michael J. Sullivan, I have to admit, my interest was piqued. I was even to the point where I was about to lay down $5 for the Kindle version (to read on my iPhone, LOL) when Mr. Lowell announced he would be turning it into a podcast. Well, I might trust Mr. Lowell, but “try before you buy” always appeals to me, and having it be a Nathan Lowell reading is sure to add value. At least that was my thought at the time.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: They killed the king. They pinned it on two men. They chose poorly.

There’s no ancient evil to defeat, no orphan destined for greatness, just two guys in the wrong place at the wrong time. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, make a profitable living carrying out dangerous assignments for conspiring nobles until they become the unwitting scapegoats in a plot to kill the king. Sentenced to death, they have only one way out…and so begins this tale of treachery and adventure, sword fighting and magic, myth and legend. (stolen from Podiobooks.com)

Production: The production of this work of podfiction is exactly the same as previous Lowell productions. I know he has just built a new recording booth, and it looks very nice and I hope Mr. Lowell found it comfortable, but to be honest, I didn’t notice any quality differences between this and previous works. On a positive note, I didn’t notice any differences between this and any of Mr. Lowell’s previous works. (Yes, I did mean to write that twice.) Mr. Lowell put every bit as much effort into this production as he has on any of his own. If you’re a fan, you know what I mean. One complaint, and I really don’t know whom it belongs to. There are only ten episodes. Don’t let that fool you into thinking this is some novella. It isn’t. Most of the eps clock in at close to, or over, an hour. And that is without any author/reader meta stuff going on. That is story. No no. That isn’t a complaint. The complaint is that when you download the entire story, the eps don’t load in a sequential order, so you might (if unwary) skip an episode and find out something you didn’t want to know. You have been warned.

Cast: Not much to say hear. Again, it is a Mr. Lowell straight read. Again, if you’re a fan, you know what that means. If you’ve been living somewhere that for some reason has banned Mr. Lowell’s podcasts, suffice it to say, he is a master of the straight read.

Story: Ah… the story. So far you’ve heard me talk a lot about Mr. Lowell. But that will be the last mention because the story belongs to Mr. Sullivan. And wow. WOW. What a story. I make no bones about it. When done well, fantasy is my favorite genre. Done well to me means creating believable characters and sticking them in situations where they behave believably. You can add never seen races and throw in some magic if you want (I mean you have to make it speculative somehow right?). I have heard rumblings when someones favorite series takes a shortcut into “it was God” and I must agree, unless that has been part of the story line all along, it is a cop out. Mr. Sullivan doesn’t use that device or any other, because this is a solid story that stands on its own merits and characters. One other thing I found to be true about Mr. Sullivan’s writing also brought me much joy. Have you ever read a book, and you wonder to yourself why the characters didn’t do certain obvious things before going to the extremely obscure but fun solution? Or at least ask the obvious questions? I have the feeling Mr. Sullivan has read these types of stories, because the characters do ask. They do think. They live.

Verdict: This is a fantastic book. Truly and simply fantastic. For those of you that despise dragons and magic, take heart, there are no dragons and little magic. There are some fantasy elements, but truly not that many. For me, the mark of a good story is wanting more. By the time the end was drawing nigh, it occurred to me I was going to be truly peeved if this was a one shot book. (Yes, I know, the full synopsis gives that away. I didn’t read it.) For those of you that have given up on the free model. Don’t listen to this work of podfiction. Seriously. Because if you’re reaction is remotely like mine, you’ll be heading to Ridan Publishing’s or Mr. Sullivan’s site to buy the electronic version of the Crown Conspiracy and it’s three existing sequels (with two more to follow) now and a bound copy for later.

Disclosure: I follow almost everyone involved with this book, including Mr. Lowell, Mr. Sullivan, and Ridan Press. I was also contacted by Mr. Sullivan’s publicist, Mrs. Robin Sullivan, about possibly doing a review for the book. At the time I had, I believe, one episode left to listen to. I ensured her it would be given consideration but there was never a promise implied. Also, nothing was offered or received in return for this review.

Comment Pages

There are 13 Comments to "Podcast Review #40: The Crown Conspiracy"

  • Thanks, Odin.

    The new booth didn’t really change the production profile for the files, but it keeps my sound floor more consistent, is a more stable environment so that I don’t have to rebuild it every time I need to record something, and does a bit to help deaden outside sounds. That means my post production time is reduced.

    Doing ten long episodes wasn’t ideal. They were very tough to produce with some of the raw narrative files running over two hours. That’s a long time to read and a longer time to edit. The difficulty came from one of the longer chapters that had no handy breaks in it. Going with a strict time based episode length would have meant we broke chapters in the middle (sometimes twice depending on length) and I didn’t really think it added a lot to the listening experience. We opted for a “one chapter per episode” design to keep the story telling as coherent as possible within the form.

    I’ll let Michael comment on the story itself, but I have to say “Dang, this was a fun read” and if I didn’t have to get Owner’s Share written, I’d be working on Avempartha now!

    We should talk about the episode order thing, because it shows properly in my queue. If you got an interim download, the way Podiobooks rebuilds the episode list on each release (and the fact that I release more than one at a time) causes a bit of a problem until the book itself is finished. Anybody subscribing now that the book is complete shouldn’t have a problem.

    Thanks, again, Odin. Your kind words are most appreciated.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks Nathan! I’m glad the new booth is working for you. It looks great, and ANYTHING that helps save work/time is a boon. No doubt about it.

      I know I’m a bit of a odd man out on this one, but I love long eps. I know the wording in the review was a bit shaky on this point, but the length didn’t bother me at all. I just didn’t want anyone to think because were small number of eps that this was a short book. It isn’t.

      Due to your extreme posting rate, I didn’t have a chance to start this story until you were complete. (And then mainlined the story in 2 days.) I don’t know what the issue was with the load order, but I suspect it has something to do with iTunes as I often go through the iTunes store rather than download directly from Podiobooks.com.

      Thanks to both you and Mr. Sullivan for bringing us this fantastic story!

  • I must confess that I’ve only listened to the first chapter so far, but based on that I would agree with Odin’s review. So why am I even commenting then?

    First, it was a very strong opening chapter, at the end I wasn’t sure if the focal character of the chapter was going to be the “hero” or the “villain” of the novel. But the writing compelled me to the point that wherever the author decided to go with it, I knew I was in for a great story.

    Second, some of you readers might be put off by Odin’s glowing praise of Nathan Lowell. I will admit that he appears biased in this respect. However, in my opinion it is a bias definitely not without merit. I’ve been listening to podiobooks and audiobooks for a long time, very few people are as accomplished in doing a straight read of an audio novel as Nathan Lowell. He might not be the voice for all audio fiction (or maybe he is); but *if* he isn’t, he seems to match very well with the voice work he chooses to do. And The Crown Conspiracy is right in Nathan’s vocal wheel house.

    I do want to complement Odin1Eye on his “disclosure” section of is blogs. I think there needs to be more of this in blogs, especially review blogs. As Odin’s reviews continue to gain more readers and have more impact, these continue to become more important. BTW, congrats to Odin for gaining enough exposure that a publicist would contact you, and for being the kind of guy that wouldn’t change his review standards in the slightest for a 100 such contacts. 🙂

    I give Odin a thumbs up for this review, but as always it is great to read comments left by other people; especially those with a dissenting view – but I’m sure Odin likes the other kind just as much.

    • odin1eye says:

      I get so excited when I see a comment pending (then am crushed when it’s spam, lol) that I welcome ALL points of view. I want to stress that these reviews are just my POV. I’m no better or worse than anyone else and am just trying to bring to light a story that might not be on someones radar to this point.

      Thanks for the comment Richard!

  • TerminusVox says:

    To really hear the upgrade in Lowell’s production facility & technique do what I did; listen to this novel & follow it with Lowell’s Quarter Share! The main thing I noticed was low-level background noise.

    I enjoyed Sullivan’s Crown Conspiracy and I’m looking forward to more!

  • Odin, would you just stop for a while, Please? Almost every time I read one of your very professional critiques/reviews I have to go add another to my to listen to list! How many podiobboks can my iphone hold? I guess we will find out! I come back to your reviews all the time, to find new books. To say thank you does not seem enough. However-Thank You!
    Alright, alright. Keep them coming, I will just have to listen faster!

    • odin1eye says:

      LOL… thanks Arlene! I’m glad I’m helping you fill up your iPhone with content worth listening to. I mean, why should I be the only one with a full iPhone!

      Thanks again and I’m sure you’ll enjoy this one!

  • Scott Roche says:

    Good stuff mate. As I said on Twitter I’ll be giving this a listen too. You’re not the only big fan of Mr. Lowell by any shot. I reckon, no in fact I know, he’s not a perfect writer or podcaster. He had to edit just like we do. But his finished products have yet to disappoint and I declare that Quarter Share the book is better than Quarter Share the podcast, though I couldn’t tell you exactly where the difference are.

    • odin1eye says:

      Sorry it has taken me so long to reply, but you’re right, nobody is perfect, but man… what great stories he will always be associated with. And now he gets to be associated with one he didn’t even write. Cheater. LOL.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • Just wanted to drop in and say ‘great review’ – I know it made Michael’s day as well. The length of the episodes was definitely something I worried about. The book was obviously not written for audio and Michael, myself, and Nathan debated whether we should break at some of the “sub-chapter” pauses where POV changes or you jump to a different character doing something at the same time as others. But, the book does have a very structured chapter setup and in the end, while challenging for Nathan, I think represents the book well.

    As for the first chapter…It is unusual to start a book not focusing on the main characters and some people have “put it down” after the first chapter as they don’t like a character they like – little do they know Archibald is a minor side character and the opening scene is really just to show how they pull a magic trick by stealing the letters – demonstrating their skill but not actually seeing them do it. The “concept” is like the little scene at the start of a movie or television show (For instance House where you see the patient getting struck with a disesase but the real characters are House and his team which enter after the opening credit roll. if you read the print version it has 10 chapters two short ones at the front and back and pretty lengthy ones for all the rest – each chapter has section breaks – sometimes only 2 other times as many as 8 where point of view changes or you jump to another character who is doing something at the same time as another.

    Anyway thanks for the review and thanks for those stopping by to add a comment – it is great to hear what other people think about Michael’s writting.

    • odin1eye says:

      Thanks for the comment Robin! I can not tell you how much I enjoyed this story. Having Nathan read for you can, of course, never hurt, but again, what a great story. I am enjoying the sequel very much too. (Just wish I had more time to read.)

      Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE long episodes (that paragraph was poorly worded at best). I was the one cheering Tee Morris’ decision to go nuts with Morevi Remastered eps. I do know I’m a bit unique in this among those I’ve talked to, so thought best to give a warning.

      Thanks again for the comment and encourage your husband to WRITE FASTER.

  • I’m always so late coming to these things.

    Thank you Odin for taking the time to write a review, it doesn’t hurt that it happened to be positive.

    I have a general rule against replying to reviews of my work as it sounds self-serving to thank a reviewer for a positive write-up, and petty to argue with a negative one. I also think it might make a reviewer uncomfortable should ethics compel them to write a bad review. In this case…well Nathan started it, and he’s just as much a part of this project as I am.

    I find it interesting that people feel my writing fits Nathan’s voice style, as my books are written very differently from his. Nathan’s Solar Clipper series was written to be read aloud, tailor made for podcasting and refined from years of experience. My books are meant to be read off the page. I never expected—never anticipated hearing them presented verbally. If you aren’t a writer, this might sound odd. What’s the difference? For one thing, you need more speaker identifying “tags,” the he said/she said lines to let the listener know who’s talking. In written form this is often handled by new paragraphs. And then there are lines like: “he whispered,” that are unnecessary when Nathan has already whispered the line. So while my stories are not designed for verbal delivery, Nathan does a great job—way better than I can. I just wish I could bring him along when I do public readings.

    Following up on the first chapter discussion, the first chapter of Crown really should have been a prologue rather than a first chapter. It is half the length of the rest (except the last chapter, which should have been an epilogue,) but I hate prologues and epilogues, so it was incorporated into the story.

    Thanks again Odin, hope you stick with the series.

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