Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Audiobook Review: The Beginning of Everything by Kristen Ashley


The Beginning of Everything 
(The Rising, Book 1)
By Kristen Ashley

Narrated by Liz Thompson, Dina Pearlman, Stella Bloom, Joniece Abbott Pratt, Esther Wane, Gemma Dawson, Robin Miles, Clara Francesca, Lance Greenfield, Jakobi Diem, Ralph Lister, John Hartley, Rupert Channing, Sarah Coomes

Blurb: 
From the unparalleled imagination of New York Times best-selling author Kristen Ashley comes an enchanting new audio-first fantasy romance series that will sweep you away!

Once upon a time, in a parallel universe, there existed the continent of Triton. The land was filled with beauty, but it was also splintered by war. Out of the chaos grew a conspiracy to reawaken the Beast, a fearsome creature who wrought only tragedy and devastation. The only way to stop him was to fulfill an ancient prophecy: Triton’s four strongest warriors must wed its four most powerful witches, binding all nations together and finally bringing peace to the land.

This is the story of their unions: the quiet maiden Silence and the savage king Mars. The cold warrior Cassius and the fiery witch Elena. The steadfast soldier True and the banished beauty Farah. And the pirate king Aramus and the mysterious queen Ha-Lah. Their unions will not be easy, but each couple must succeed, for the fate of their world is at stake....



Available for purchase at 

This book is an Audible Original, available only in audio.
Part of the Audible Escapes Program
The digital and print books will be released in Summer 2020.


Viviana's Review:

I really liked it, enjoyed the characters and can't wait to start the second book. With that said, the previous statement didn't occur until I was about half way through the book. Here's why...

As with any new series, especially one as epic as this one is (e.g. lots of characters, sub-plots, different POV, etc.). the first part of the book/story is dedicated to world building! I am totally okay with that! Kristen is known for giving the audience an in depth look into the world she has created. There is a LOT of details and descriptions meant to immerse you into the story and that world. We are introduced to the vast cast of characters and where they fit into the game that is the story.

So why did I only begin to truly enjoy the story about half way through the book you ask?

Well, I did mention the vast number of characters and did you see the number of narrators included in this book? Each main character is voiced by a different narrator within that character's POV chapters. This isn't done in a duet style but rather similar to dual where the narrator performs all of the characters within the character's POV. This made it difficult to discern who was who especially since we don't know who everyone is yet. Some narrators have a very distinct voice/tone that I was totally able to say "Oh that's Lance" or "Hi Stella" but the other narrators are all new to me. I believe that it would have totally helped if Audible had included the list of the cast and who they were voicing. THAT would have helped immensely and would have ensured that the listeners were provided with a guide to help them navigate this brand new world. As I knew this was a common complaint/issue (included in reviews and SM posts) I reached out to Kristen and her assistant and they provided me with the list, which is included below.

Additionally, as we're being introduced to the characters, we, the listeners, are 'popped' into a scene and then transported into another in the next chapter. New introductions. Then another one, and so on and we're trying to follow along with the different narrators and trying to put the pieces together to figure out where they all meet up/relate to one another on the board. With this said, once I learned the narrators and began to pick up on the different accents (more on this later) it became much easier to follow along.

After I finished listening, I searched to see if there was any information out there that would help me keep track of people & things. Turns out that Kristen has written a glossary for this series! Woohooo! Once I reviewed it, I got a better understanding of some of the world she has created. Click here to be taken to the glossary on Kristen's website! This list also include the characters and where they fall within the world (e.g. which Lieutenants are who's). NOTE: keep in mind this glossary is for the ENTIRE series, so there will be some terms you will learn/come across as you continue with the series.

The story begins to pick up the pace once we get to the mid-point which is when I don't want to put the book down. I knew that The Rising Series is four books, serialized, so I waited to listen to book 1 until book 2 was releases. The rest of the books released close to one another so that didn't cause any concerns. I truly don't understand why some listeners were upset that:

  1.  There wasn't a true ending. From day 1 that Kristen announced this series, she said it was a spin off of The Fantasyland Series which follows a similar if not the same recipe! She also shared that the story would be told throughout the four books. So.... this is basically one LARGE/LONG that is divided into four books, hence 'serialized'.
  2. Lack of romance/no HEA in the end. See #1. This book is the beginning of story... we're being introduced to the world, the characters, and what the 'cause' is and of course the characters themselves are learning what's going on as the listener does. There is chemistry for some. Connections for others... so again, its the beginning. I know I would NOT have been pleased if it was an "insta" love for any of the couples. It wouldn't fit with their personalities.
  3. The opening scene... many have said this book should have come with a trigger warning because of the opening scene (not including spoilers but reviews have mentioned why). Again, if you've read Kristen's books before or just her Fantastyland series (aka the second book specifically) such a scene shouldn't be a surprise. NOT because she has them all the time (human sacrifice wouldn't fit well in a contemporary romance, ya know.) but because she doesn't gloss over the ugly. She doesn't hide behind the hurt. 
I also want to address that this is a Kristen Ashley book... the heroines are strong and smart. The heroes are complete alphas. YES there is sex! YES there is 'colorful' language! Yes things are going to be described at length to give you details (you may skip through some of that when you're reading, but its not easily done when its in audio, just saying). Lastly, YES there is a reason why things are on the page vs. fade to black or skimmed across. Trust Kristen as the author. If you have not read her books (or any other author) before, do a little bit of research to see if this will be your "cuppa tea". Check out the reviews before getting it. Just because you didn't like some aspect of the story (e.g. m/m scenes, language, too much sex, not enough sex, etc.) doesn't make it a bad book/story. Its just not one you enjoyed.

Something I think is also an important factor... If you're not a fan of audiobooks or you have never listened to an audiobook before, I do NOT recommend you listen to or have your first be this series. The print version is schedule to release this summer so while I'm sure you hate waiting, it will be better for you if you do.


The Narrators Review:
They all did a fantastic job! There is A LOT of information and details involved in this series with the characters. Kristen has made this world extremely diverse (woohoo LOVE THAT) from culture, to rituals to language and of course customs. Each narrator was consistent throughout the entire book all the while providing each character their own unique voice/tones.

They totally rocked their performance! So much so, that I've begun to look into other titles they have narrated. I will also be adding them to my list of recommended narrators not only to listeners but also authors when asking about casting!

All the narrators truly brought the characters to life!!


Overall, Kristen has again created a world filled with magic, sensuality, action and adventure. Her characters continue to develop as the story moves along and the listeners is brought along with them on the journey. I'm extremely curious to see how each couple handles their relationships and how they will all work together to end the Rising.


Rating: 3.5 Stars - Really LIKED IT! 



Disclaimer:

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Audible in exchange for an honest review. This review is my own opinion and not a paid review.



Casting Info ( Narrator, Character, and chapters)

Liz Thompson
  • Princess Serena

Dina Pearlman
  • Queen Ophelia
  • Melisse of the Nadirii Sisterhood

Stella Bloom
  • Queen Elena (Princess Elena)

Esther Wane
  • Marian (plus her section of Marian and Jellen)

Gemma Dawson
  • Queen Mercy Axelsson

Robin Miles
  • Prologue
  • Sisters of the Beast
  • The People of Mar-el
  • The Sisterhood of the Nadirii
  • The Great Coven
  • The Squad of the Sisterhood of the Nadirii and the Airenzian Battalion
  • The People of Airen
  • Triton

Clara Francesca
  • Queen Farah (Lady Farah Magos/Farah Magos)
  • Nyx Chronis
  • The People of Firenze

John Hartley
  • King Cassius
  • King True (Prince True Axelsson) The Priest (Jellan reads)
  • Jellan (G’Jell/ Jell/ Go’En) plus his section of Marian and Jellen
  • Brothers of the Beast
  • Nick Walsh
  • Reginald, Royal Warden

Sarah Coomes
  • Queen Silence (Lady Silence Mattson)

Lance Greenfield
  • King Mars Laches
  • Frey Drakkar
  • Dax Lahn
  • King Noctorno
  • Chapter 149 - part 2
  • Chu of the Trusted
  • Faunus of the Trusted
  • Lorenz Chronis

Joniece Abbott Pratt
  • Queen Ha-Lah Nereus

Jakobi Diem
  • King Aramus Nereus
  • Magnus Reardon (Aramus Reads)

Ralph Lister
  • Galbdor and Welbrix
  • Baldrick, Grand Fell of the Gnomes of The Doors
  • G'Seph (Seph/Go’En)
  • Hans Swensson
  • Johan Mattson, Former Lord of Arbor (Lord Johan Mattson)
  • Sir Alfie Henriksson, King’s Counsellor  
  • The People of Wodell
  • Chapter 149 - part 1

Rupert Channing
  • Teddy/Tedrey/G'Drey

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