A tale of two mornings:
- It’s a lazy Saturday. You wake up at 10 to the gentle thrumming of rain outside your window and the smell of breakfast wafting through your door. Your significant other hands you a cup of coffee (or tea, if you like), and you curl up on the couch with a new book, drinking in that sweet caffeinated goodness and fresh imaginative world alike.
- Your alarm bleats angrily and you come to, bleary-eyed and hungover (you weren’t drinking, of course, that’s just how morning feels now), and suddenly there’s a toddler standing on your pillow demanding pancakes. You look at the clock– it’s 6:33 AM. Your significant other rolls over and somehow ignores the child and the wailing now coming through the nursery monitor. There’s a book sitting on your bedside table; you’re on page two.
Hyperbole aside, if your days look more like scenario #2, chances are reading time is a luxury you don’t have. I’m a reader by nature, but with life’s busyness it can be a challenge to buckle down and get through a book. With that said, getting my fix via audiobook has been a game-changer. It’s not the same, true; but it’s the next best thing!
If you’re pressed for time but still crave diving headlong into a new world, allow me to present my first Audible Laudable: The Infernal City.
The Infernal City is a fantasy novel by Greg Keyes, set in the fabled Elder Scrolls world. (The Elder Scrolls was created as a video game franchise by Bethesda Game Studios.) Decades after the Oblivion Crisis, a floating city appears out at sea near Black Marsh, the homeland of a race of reptilian people known as Argonians. Here, in the city of Lilmoth, a young Imperial woman named Annaig with a gift for alchemy and her friend, the Argonian Mere-Glim, discover nearly too late the city’s monstrous purpose: to harvest the souls of those below it and raise an army from their undead bodies. With the help of her home-brewed flying potion, Annaig and Glim escape the massacre, but find themselves trapped on the city, known as Umbriel, itself. Their only recourse is Annaig’s magic locket and her desperate message sent to the only hero whom she thinks can help: Prince Attrebus Mede.
When the young prince receives Annaig’s call for help, he sneaks out with his armed guard to track Umbriel despite his father the Emperor Titus Mede’s orders to ignore it. But all is not as it seems- Attrebus faces betrayal unlike he’s ever known and is kidnapped, beginning a journey that has him questioning everything.
Meanwhile, the newly commissioned Junior Inspector Colin Vineben, a member of the Imperial city’s shady Penitus Oculatus, investigates the prince’s disappearance. His suspicion that the arrival of Umbriel and the prince’s fate are intertwined lead him down a dangerous path. At any rate, one thing soon becomes clear: Umbriel isn’t stopping on its own.
My introduction into the Elder Scrolls world was through the game Skyrim. I am a casual (read: terrible) gamer, but the complex story arcs and fantastic imagery and settings in the game enthralled me. Hoping to learn more about the world, I discovered The Infernal City, and it did not disappoint. The characters are intriguing and believable- full of strengths and weaknesses that make it easy to identify with them and get wrapped up in the story. I found the world-building was done well, too- even if you aren’t familiar with the setting, the author does a decent job of describing races and places without bogging down the narrative with exposition. The actual writing itself is beautiful and reads out loud naturally.
Disclaimer: As one might expect, there is plenty of violence as well as some other some semi-adult content, so maybe think twice about listening to it in the car with your kids. Also, this book has a sequel so mentally prepare yourself for a cliffhanger!
In any case, if you love the saga and world of the Elder Scrolls games and have, like me, been pining away for more, The Infernal City is just the fix you need. Disagree or have more to add? Say so below!