Podcast Review #21: The White Shadow Saga: The Stolen Moon of Londor

Title: The Stolen Moon of Londor
Author: A.P. Stephens
Genre: Fantasy
Released: 14 September 2009 – 29 November 2009
Located: iTunesPodiobooks
Formats Available: Podcast, Dead Tree, eBook

The Stolen Moon of Londor is one of those podcasts that I happen to subscribe to strictly due to having an opening in my playlist and because I recognized the name from promos in other podcasts that I had listened to. I have never, to my recollection, tweeted with Mr. Stephens and I am unsure whether he follows me. I love taking steps into the great unknown and listening to things that I have no predisposition towards. Some of the more enjoyable among my recently listened to podcasts were found in this way. I truly love when podcasts are recommended to me, and I would be interested in hearing one that I was warned against, but in the end, we all make up our own minds. And that is as it should be.

So, on to the review.

Synopsis: The era of peace among the elves, men, and dwarves comes to an end when one of Londor’s twin moons disappears from the heavens…..Without the moon’s balancing effect, evil forces grow bold, and warfare, sickness, and chaos threaten life itself.

Hearing the prayers of desperation that ride on the violent winds, the ancient wizard Randor Miithra, servant to the elf-gods, takes it upon himself to mend the world he has sworn to protect. The task will not be an easy one, though, for the wizard, too, has begun to feel the effects of the world’s imbalance. As Randor struggles to maintain some semblance of his powers, he meets a secretive band of colorful characters from all walks of life, drawn together by a common goal: to find the stolen moon, whatever the cost. It does not take Randor and his motley company long to see that someone or something does not want the moon returned to the heavens.

The road is perilous….the stakes have never been greater….will they find victory…or will they only find their deaths? (Stolen from Podiobooks)

Production: The production qualities of The Stolen Moon of Londor were all within my acceptable range. There were a few instances where the audio had some problems, but not to the point where it was impossible to hear what was going on. Mr. Stephens (or his producer if he had one) did do a nice job of keeping production elements consistent, and to a minimum. I am sure I will likely surprise no one when I say I was thrilled that The Story So Far was NOT a production element that was used.

Cast: The cast was a cast of one. The Stolen Moon of Londor is one of those unique podcasts that are narrated by someone other than the author. In this case the name of the narrator is Richard Webster. Mr. Webster has an accent placing him somewhere in the U.K. I cannot say where for sure, but his accent is unique. It is crazy to criticize someone for the way they naturally speak, and I won’t do that here. I am sure my native lack of accent (yes, that is meant to be sarcastic) would be as inherently difficult to understand where Mr. Webster originates from as his was from time to time for me. Again, let me state plainly, this is NOT an issue, NOR is it a criticism of the narrator. I will go a bit farther however, and say that I didn’t find Mr. Webster’s voice particularly pleasing. Again, this is just my own opinion and I would find it just as fair to say my voice is nothing I would want to hear for several hours in a car either.

Story: One of the things that drew me to The Stolen Moon of Londor is the fact that it is “high fantasy”. For me high fantasy was the corner stone of my formative years. JRR, Terry Brooks and the like kept me up at night well beyond “lights out” and this form of literature still has an appeal to me that is hard to resist. I will admit also that this soft spot might make me a bit forgiving when it comes to this particular genre and I have enjoyed many tales that I’m sure some would consider terrible. Wizards, elves, dwarves interacting with humans… how can you go wrong?

Verdict: You can. I feel I must add a new category here: Pass. I can forgive a lot. Especially in a story that was graciously provided to me at no cost. If it were just “I didn’t care for the sound of the narrators voice,” and everything else was stellar, that really isn’t a complaint worth making. Production CAN ruin a good story. I listened to one entire podcast where the PRODUCTION almost made me quit a dozen times. However, it is the story that always (to me) is the most important quality. And it is the story in The Stolen Moon of Londor that makes this podcast novel a Pass in my book.

I feel that to make my case, I must discuss plot elements in a bit more detail than I normally do, so I’m warning the reader (you) now, that partial spoilers might be coming. In essence, this story is a questing story. I love quests. A well done quest is a founding stone of fantasy.  It is also a fellowship tale. Again, a hallmark of high fantasy. My problem is this particular fellowship was made up of characters that all need reworking so that you can appreciate at least ONE of their motivations. The fellowship starts out with an elf mercenary, a shadowy human, a gallant knight and an intellectual dwarf. Okay fine. Almost immediately they pick up three more elves, of royal lineage and a wizard. Later more characters are added. In my opinion, not a single one is likeable. One elf is a crown prince of a petty kingdom. He treats the rest of the party, including his own brother, in a manner that would get him thrown out or worse early on. The gallant knight turns out to be a coward and worthless in most fights. The dwarf is an artist, great! But he is also a coward and a whiner. The wizard is ineffective and the shadowy human is so shadowy as not to have a personality other than morose. NONE of the characters are given preeminence and it is impossible (at least for me) to know whom I should be rooting for.

As I’ve stated before, I’m very character driven. So some readers might think that if they prefer action, then they might enjoy this story. Again, I would have to say, Pass.

Many places throughout the story there are battles that almost always are reduced to duels between characters. From the first of these fights on, it became apparent to me that no one, not even a werewolf, would be allowed to die. Instead, the warrior who should have slid his sword into the conquered’s heart, stands around soliloquizing until his opponent escapes. This doesn’t happen just once either, but more than all James Bond villains combined.

The final insult to me however happened in the final episode. A relatively unknown author, in my opinion, has no business writing a story that doesn’t end. Let me make sure you understand me. I am not saying it is left on a cliffhanger. I’m saying there is NO ending. It just stops and in the last minute informs the listener why it is called the White Shadow Saga. The second story in the series is slated for later this year I believe (Yes, that is right, here we have a story that doesn’t have an ending, with a year before it picks up again in book two), I know what I’ll be saying to it. Pass.

Disclaimer: I don’t follow Mr. Stephens on Twitter, and to the best of my knowledge have never conversed with him. I was not offered anything to write this review. However, as with all authors I do appreciate him putting his time and effort into something and then presenting it free of charge. I don’t regularly beg for comments, but if you have listened to the story, and you have a differing opinion, I do implore you to speak up. As has been printed at the top of this blog since day one: My views are my own, are yours?

~ by odin1eye on 22 March, 2010.

17 Responses to “Podcast Review #21: The White Shadow Saga: The Stolen Moon of Londor”

  1. I have listened to… a few minutes. Then again, I am a voice snob. But I agree with what you said about the narration.

    • The narrator does a fine job, that was just a personal preference on my part. And like I said, I’m sure not one to throw stones.

  2. O.K. blog readers, this is as close to a “rant” as Odin1Eye gets. This felllow is the class act. Notice how he backs up his points and gives the benefit of the doubt. Notice how he differentiates between his personal preferences and objective criticism, but gives us both. Notice the lack of personal attacks. I think critics (professional & otherwise) need to take note and try to do likewise.

    This is why I’ll read Odin1Eye review anything, including … say technology http://www.niftytechblog.com/2010/03/blubridge-auto-talk.html

    I personally would like to read a post from someone who liked this book, to find out why. And I’ll tell you a “secret”, Odin1Eye would love to as well. *Heck, if you are in his neck of the woods, he’d probably buy you a coffee. Assuming, of course, that you can pry him away from his lovely family that now includes a brand new baby girl. I’ve seen the baby pictures.* 🙂

    Accent? Y’all don’t seem to have an accent to me (though it’s kind of hard to tell by reading). *Of course, I don’t have one either* *hehe*

    • Thanks mainframe. I’m glad you recognized how hard I tried to make sure I qualified things I felt were facts as well as those things that were strictly opinion.

      You are also very correct in that I would love for someone to rebutt me in a thorough but professional manner if they truly enjoyed it.

      Thank you for taking the time to write your comment.

  3. Yet again another fine example of why the reviewer is perhaps the best I’ve ever read and why I pay close attention to his reviews. I’m not saying he’s infallible. I’m saying he’s yet to lead me astray.

    • Wow. Thanks Obi. I am definitely not infallible. However, I do try to write what I feel, but again, they are only MY feelings. I will definitely try to keep the record going, but please be vocal if you ever disagree.

  4. Thanks for the detailed review. 🙂 Indeed, it is a Saga and more character development is in the works as the Saga presses on. Sorry you were not able to latch onto any character in particular.

    As for the audio production, I am having the first chapter re-recorded this week or next and have already had Ch 2 and beyond remastered by a sound editor I know at ILM. Those should be released soon.

    There were plenty of deaths in the bigger clashes, ala Ch 1 and the last couple chapters in the book. But the Saga isn’t over. Still plenty of time to kill off some folks.

    Appreciate you reviewing the book/audiobook. Here’s hoping you will give Book Two of Three a try later this year. 😀

    Have a good one.

    • I am glad you took the time to read the review and very glad also that you decided to leave a post. Regardless of how I felt about the story personally, I really appreciate all authors that are willing to podcast their works. Thank you very much and good luck with your future novels.

    • Great to have comments from the author of the reviewed book. Especially when some of the points of criticism are addressed so well.

      It can be hard for me to get around to some of the longer podiopook series (I haven’t listened to Metamore City or the Heaven series yet – *I know! I know!*) but I’ll try keep this one in mind to give it a listen sometime.

  5. I’ve tried this and while I haven’t given up on it … yet, the fact that I haven’t gone back to it where I have gone back to others in the same time frame means it’s just not grabbing me.

    I will say that for me the narrator’s accent presented no issues. He sounds Scots to me (could be wrong) and that’s an accent I rather enjoy. Regardless, that’s not the deal breaker for me.

    I find things hard to follow in what I have listened to so far. Perhaps with something this epic a multi-voice podcast is truly called for? I think of trying to listen to Morevi as a straight read and without a phenomenal narrator I don’t think it would make it.

    I didn’t get far enough in to speak to characterization, but even in an epic you need to establish characters quickly and in an ensemble there should be at least one you should identify with readily.

    Thanks for a great review with excellent, honest, and well stated criticism. This is why I keep coming back to read your stuff.

    • Thanks Scott! You make a great point and one worth replying too. Let me try to clarify my point. It isn’t the accent I had any problem with. It was the voice. And again, my voice is why I WRITE these reviews, so I’m not trying to be too critical, just stating my preferences.

      Thanks again!

  6. I have to admit the audio quality might not be top-notch like other podiobooks, but like you said, it is not bad enough to give up on the audio quality alone. If I had to guess where the narrator was from, I would have to say somewhere in northern England. Doesn’t sound Scottish to me. As for his voice, I enjoyed it. He spoke clearly and as the chapters went along, I saw him improve with the reading of the story.
    A side note, I think you mixed up the title of the book a few times, calling it The Fallen Moon.
    As for the story and characters: The plot is very unique. A moon that vanishes into thin air? How often do you run across something like that? This is a very nice twist and fresh to the fantasy scene. And I don’t see how you cannot appreciate one of the character’s motivations. Everyone has their own reasons for being there. The wizard is there to find resolution to the problem, the gallant knight is there because his masters commanded him to help the journey and his dwarf friend got pulled along unwillingly. You can see the elf mercenary is there for the money, the character making it clear he wanted a bunch of it. I agree the elf prince is a jerk, but you can expect something like that from a spoiled prince who thinks he is privileged. His motivation? To bring his kingdom and his people back to normalcy. He declared this more than once in the book. Geil, his elf knight follower has a just cause for being there, to protect the other prince from harm.
    Not every knight and dwarf need to be these grand warriors that can take down an entire army alone. The wizard, as stated in the story is suffering from the missing moon and the imbalance it created. You could see before it happened that he was using magic and destroying lots of bad elves in the first chapter. Imagine if your power source and link to health was taken away. Would you stay relevant for long? There is more to being a wizard than throwing magic around and fixing everything with a wave of the wand or snapping your fingers. I believe the wizard in this story is very good, he is wise, leads the way with knowledge of the world and with his words.
    I don’t see how you can say that no one dies in the story. There is a large battle in the first chapter where a bunch of soldiers die (remember the burial scene?). There was a scene there with the wizard and merc elf fighting many elves at once. And there were werewolves that died, too. Remember the wizard’s magic that destroyed the ones surrounding the good guys? Remember how there was a three vs one battle with the werewolf to begin with, then other werewolves joined the battle? If I recall, the character who was about to kill the main wolf began to crumble and failed in his mission. There wasn’t any sign of a James Bond moment in this story. How about the scene with the monks in the castle? There were battles of 3 or 4 vs 5 or more bad guys. Yes, there were duels in the book, but if you have seen any martial arts movie, there is a combo of 1 vs 1 fights, 1 vs many, 2 vs 2, etc. Not every fight needs to be a multiple affair.
    When Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came out in 1954 (as a stand alone of the trilogy, due to publisher’s wishes) it did not have a big red bow wrapped on it when it ended. Sagas are more than one book. Not every story has to be all happy-go-lucky and everything is good when it ends. Frodo and Sam take a boat and head towards their greatest nightmare. The Stolen Moon of Londor ends with them heading towards the next part of the tale. And with Lord of the Rings, readers had to wait months to get the next book (the three spread out across 1953 and 1954).
    I highly enjoyed this story. Had some interesting characters, not all the same and some even different than other fantasy writers have made. The plot is unique. There is plenty of action. Since it is an epic story, it might be suited better for some in a text form.
    It is a well-written review, but maybe some of it might have been lost by just listening to it. I cannot wait for the next part of the saga to come out.

    • You know, Mr. Stephens, in his comment below, mentioned audio quality of the first eps, and I have to admit, I don’t even recall an issue, so I guess it really didn’t bother me at all. I agree, the narrator doesn’t sound Scottish to me. I have a friend that IS Scottish and he placed him as Northern UK, and I am glad you enjoyed his vocals. I agree that with voices, it is strictly a point of preference.

      You are absolutely correct, and I must apologize. Ever since I heard of Mr. Stephens story I have been calling it (incorrectly) The Fallen Moon… I have no idea why… I hope that I have rectified that and I truly thank you for your calling me on it.

      I am glad you enjoyed the characters and found something compelling about them and their motivations. I completely agree that not every knight, dwarf (or any other character type) needs to fall into stereotypical roles, and I do applaud Mr. Stephens for breaking the mold there. I also agree that in most fantasy novels battles and/or wars usually devolve into a series of duels. My point on the deaths was simply that no one of any importance, good or evil, dies and it IS in several places due to the victor of the duel getting sidetracked from his purpose (killing his opponent) to gloat, which in mind is very similar to a Bond villain.

      As far as the story ending, my point was that it was anticlimactic as that there didn’t seem to be any reason to end the story there as there was no resolution of any of the story elements. I will agree with you once more that this might be due to the fact that this is a saga, but it still left me feeling underwhelmed.

      I would like to thank you Casey for taking the time to support a story you obviously enjoyed very much and for stating your case very well without resorting to “flaming”. I hope that you will always continue to do so.

      Thanks again.

  7. I admire the blogs written in for this site. They are honest opinions, well thought out and fair.I read them with an understanding that my opinion may not match his, but it will be accepted here. I love the truth of that. I have and will continue to read them as very thorough reviews, however with the understanding that we may not always agree.

    The Stolen Moon of Londor by A.P.Stephens. Yes, I said I liked it. Yes, the first few chapters had sound problems, however, my book did too, until I re-recorded, then levelated everything and re-released it. I have done this, written and recorded a 135,000 word novel, I know how difficult it is. I started from not even knowing how GarageBand worked to turning out a decent sounding product. Not perfect, but I think decent. I have a hard time criticizing anyone else about sound as long as I can continue to listen to the story. If the problem irritates me enough, I quit listening. However, if I like the story I will read it. A.P. had a few sound problems, but not enough to stop me from listening.
    The accent, I knew, from listening to his interview on Podioracket.com that a friend of A.P.’s read it. And actually, I like the accent. Stolen Moon is a folk tale, a myth, a tale of wizards and elves. The land of the birth of these stories is Great Britain. Even if I am reading to myself, The Lord of the Rings or others, I hear it told in a British accent in my head. The accent added to the story for me.
    The characters were interesting. I met a wizard who could not heal himself, a mercenary I liked for his boldness and rashness, who hides a secret I want to know, and a spoiled prince who was worried about saving his people. We did not get deep into their ives before the disaster of loosing their moon so we do not know what really motivates them. But they do band together and usually act as a group and I did care about the group in the end.
    At the end, they are trapped in a cave. We learn it is a labyrinth that has trapped an army for many years. The band helps the army, lead by a woman, fight the enemy who has been chasing them for centuries. We are left wondering how they get out and if the army will be able to follow. The wizard grows weaker and the mercenary falls deeper into his depression. It is not such a pressing question that I cannot wait for the answer, but an intriguing one that I will enjoy finding out how it is solved when the next book comes.
    I know A.P.is a gamer. I am not a person who plays these games, but I could see this scenerio in my head in a game using this story. I am in Second Life and I have seen that computer land portrayed in one story you just highlighted here, Dreamer’s Thread by Starla Hutchton. Her dreamland is Second Life. This affects me as I listen. I see the dreamland characters as avatars. The way they live and move, appear and disappear are all in Second Life. I think, if I did not know Second Life, I would enjoy it more. However, I understand gamers think in terms of the game and that is how The Stolen Moon comes to me, with that understanding.
    I bought several copies of The Stolen Moon, because I want to give one to my grandsons. They love being read adventure stories and I hope will enjoy reading A.P.’s books once they grow out of the Clone Wars/Star Wars obsession that has hold on them now. I would classify A.P.’s book as a YA/teen boy story. One I was not held captive by, but enjoyed the story.

    • Excellent comment Arlene. I am glad you took the time to comment. I am also glad that you took the time to tell us what you enjoyed and why. I respect that. Thank you.

      Just want to try and clarify one thing, even if you didn’t say it or even imply it. I didn’t mind the accent of the narrator as such. It was difficult to understand a few times, but so what?I am glad I don’t live in a world where everyone doesn’t sound like me. VERY glad. It was actually the narrators voice that bothered me a bit. And again, that he did this at all is amazing and much better than anything I could do.

      Thanks again!

  8. Wow, I see a lot of positive comments! I have one also, maybe not as well worded as the others but positive none the less.

    I have been an fan of Sci Fi and fantasy for a very long time and I have read, and listened to, A.P. Stephens The Stolen Moon of Londor.
    The narrator of the podcast, at first, did take me a little by surprise. He does have a very strong accent and I couldn’t seem to place his origin either. But after the first few episodes I felt his accent actually lent an air to the podcasts reading. To me a least, it was almost as if he was a person re-counting the story of the quest. Somewhat similar to the narration in the movie 300.

    I found the novel to be well written and as for relating/connecting to story’s characters it was easy for me to do so. I actually found the assembled questing party to be quite unique and refreshing to what I have encountered before.

    The party has a mage, Randor, that is actually weakened by the loss of Beldas and as he continues to weaken; Randor through shear will and determination continues to lead and overcome. Randor is not the typical mage that is growing or great in power (After the loss of Beldas that is) that you typically see in questing party’s. One who’s great power usually plays a key role in the party’s success. It seems to me Randor will be relying more on his knowledge and wit than his magical powers as a mage.

    Also I don’t think I’ve come across a Dwarf, Lorn, in a questing party that has not been a battle hardened stone cutter, hearty drinker and cocky to boot. But instead one that is timid and interested in wood carving? I found that to be very interesting!

    As for the Elves, I’ve found the Elves in most tales to be aloof/arrogant but also usually restrained and purposeful in their actions. While one of the party’s Elvin character Arnanor is quite arrogant he is on the other hand quite brash and impulsive.

    Then you have Gildan the party mercenary. I think this is first time I’ve encountered a mercenary with such a sense of loyalty to his employers. Usually when the going gets tough mercenaries get going thinking of themselves first. Live to fight another day and cut your losses. it seems to me Gildan would actually fight to the death if it’s necessary to fulfill his obligation.
    There are more items I could point out but I think you can see the point I am trying to make. This is not your typical Fantasy novel with the typical fantasy characters. Don’t make the mistake of judging this book by its cover and its genre. I found the novel very refreshing from the typical fantasy novel/stories of this type.
    Also the book is a saga, which to me would mean there would be more than on book involved in the story’s telling. And I am looking forward to Book II of this series!

    • Thanks for the well thought out comment Frank, I sincerely appreciate it. Also, of all the comments in favor of this podcast, yours is the one I agree with the most. Although I didn’t care for the characters much (personal preference) I would agree the roles Mr. Stephens had each race play was somewhat against stereotype. Thanks again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: