Marc reviews the audiobook version of ‘Point of Hopes’ (Astreiant 1) by Melissa Scott and Lisa A. Barnett. This book was re-published by Lethe Press on March 29th, 2012 and is about 350 pages long. The audiobook was released by Lethe Press on September 16th, 2015, is narrated by Matt Leisy and is 17 hrs and 3 mins long.
RGR received a free copy of this audiobook in exchange for an honest review.
Why I read this book:
Ever since finishing the ‘Nightrunner’ series by Lynn Flewelling, I have been searching for another fantasy series with a similar literary quality, extensive worldbuilding and interesting, three-dimensional LGBT characters. What a surprise to stumble upon such a series by mere accident, when Lethe Press asked RGR if any of us were interested in listening to the newly released audio version of ‘Point of Hopes’. Jackpot!
Nicolas Rathe is a pointsman, a dedicated watchman in the great city of Astreiant. During the annual trade fair, with a city filled with travelers and merchants, someone is stealing children. The populace is getting angry and frightened and convinced that a foreigner must be to blame. Rathe calls on the aid of both an out-of-work soldier, the handsome Philip Eslingen, and the necromancer Istre b’Estorr.
The art of astrology is a very real power in the kingdom and plays as much a role in politics as greed and intrigue. Rathe finds himself struggling to find the children before a major astrological event brings about catastrophe.
The first in a series of fantasy novels filled with adventure, intrigue, and gay romance.
This book was originally released in 1995 with a different cover. When it was re-released by Lethe Press, it also received a new cover that is much more appealing to me. Readers get a sense of the main characters and the city and are drawn into another time. I love the sepia tone and the astrological devices that were integrated in the background. For me, a perfect fantasy cover that told me enough about the world to get me excited.
The city of Astreiant is divided into several points, which are different districts that are secured by watchmen and women of common birth, who act as policeforce in the city to keep the queen’s peace. Rathe is such a watchman and readers are introduced to the city and the world by first learning how things work in his district, before the story opens up to the larger city. The district is very important to the character, the story and the reader’s understanding of the world. The title is relevant, intriguing and easy to remember.
The narration of this audiobook was great and drew me into this new world. However, the audiobook editing wasn’t quite on the same level. I would have wished for someone to listen to the whole audiobook and notice that about every 2 hours in the 17 hour running time, partial sentences are repeated (once even three-times). Personally, it did not much curb my enjoyment of the audiobook, but such reminders of listening to a story instead of being part of a story could and should have been avoided.
First, like with book one of the ‘Nightrunner’ books, I should mention that the romance between the two main characters does not start in this book. In ‘Point of Hopes’, Rathe and Eslingen meet, work together and form a friendship of mutual admiration, liking and trust. As far as I know, it takes until ‘Point of Knives’ (Astreiant 1.5) until their friendship changes into something more. Their sexualities are not really a relevant part of this book, though I enjoyed the knowledge that Eslingen is a bisexual man and diverse sexual orientations seem largely acceptable in the city of Astreiant.
This story takes place in an alternate medival fantasy world, where astrology is real and powerful for all citizens and strongly influences their lives. There is real magic in this world, but it is more subtle than I anticipated and grounded in medival history. I love when a world is richly detailed and feels realistic and believable, even with its fantastical aspects.
The interesting main charcaters are a big part of that. They are not perfect, but very likable and very human. It is easy to sympathize with them and care about their fate. There is Action, greed, political intrigue and a mystery that scares the whole city and creates a tension that is maintained until the very end. The stakes are high and the conclusion is rewarding and I can’t wait to continue this series.
HIGHLY recommended to any fantasy fan!!!
The Rating: 9/10 Pots of Gold (90% Recommended). Compares to 4.5/5 Stars.
Melissa Scott was born and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, where she discovered science fiction as the direct result of breaking her arm during junior high gym class. She was banished to the library, and there the assistant librarian suggested she might enjoy “what’s his name, Heinlein – or that Andre Norton guy.” He was right. She devoured everything available at school, and then discovered the collection created by the Little Rock Public Library’s À Son Goût Trust, which had been established to purchase “books people like to read” — SF, fantasy, and Westerns
Scott studied history at Harvard College, where she was involved with the now-defunct college-sanctioned SF ‘zine that spawned the Harvard/Radcliffe Science Fiction Association, and was introduced to a new round of SF, particularly media SF — like Dr. Who — that had been unavailable in her home town. After graduation, she was admitted to Brandeis University’s comparative history program, and also sold her first novel, The Game Beyond, quickly becaming a part-time graduate student and an — almost — full-time writer. She earned her PhD from Brandeis with a dissertation titled “The Victory of the Ancients: Tactics, Technology, and the Use of Classical Precedent.”
Over the next twenty years, she published eighteen original novels and a handful of short stories, as well as tie-in novels for both Star Trek: Deep Space Nine (Proud Helios) and Star Trek: Voyager (The Garden). She won the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer in 1986, and won Lambda Literary Awards in 1994 for Trouble And Her Friends, 1995 for Shadow Man, and again in 2001 for Point of Dreams, the last written with long-time partner and collaborator, the late Lisa A. Barnett. Scott has also been short-listed for the Tiptree Award, and won a Spectrum Award for Shadow Man.
During Barnett’s struggle with breast cancer, and for several years after her death in 2006, Scott focused on short fiction. She returned to longer work in the summer of 2009, when good friend and fellow writer Jo Graham invited her to participate in a new project: Legacy, a six-book series of tie-in novels for Stargate: Atlantis, to begin where the fifth season had ended. Scott was immediately hooked by the idea, and she, Graham, and Amy Griswold completed the project in 2013 with the release of Stargate Atlantis: The Inheritors. Scott and Graham also began a new series of adventure novels set in the 1930s, featuring aviation, magic, and secrets hidden in plain sight. The first two novels, Lost Things and Steel Blues, are available as of this writing, and the series will continue as The Order of the Air. Scott and Griswold also teamed up for the original novel Death By Silver, a gay Victorian murder mystery with magic (or fantasy with murder), and will continue the series with A Non-Conforming Death. Scott has also returned to the world of Astreiant for two more books in the Points series (Point of Knives and the forthcoming Fairs’ Point) and has more original work on the way.
Scott currently lives in North Carolina, where her living room overlooks a pond filled with alarmingly active and carnivorous turtles.