Keys by Amber Kell ~ Audiobook Review by Paisley

KeysTitle: Keys

Author: Amber Kell

Narrator: Derrick McClain

Publisher: Dreamspinner Press

Cover Artist: Anne Cain

Story Rating: 4.25 of 5 Stars
Narration Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars
Overall Rating: 4.5 of 5 Stars

Release Date: 12/10/2015

Length: 06 hours 48 minutes

Genre: Action/Adventure, Alternate Universe/Alternate World, Fantasy, M/M Romance, Paranormal, Steampunk


My name is Octavius Septimus Stalk, but my friends call me Oss. I live in the City of Keys, a town of gears, keys, locks, and wonder. Our forefathers banished magic long ago, bolted the doors and locked everything up tight to keep people out and the town’s secrets in. Four Lock Lords control what information is left, and everyone else is left struggling to survive.

Despite what Thorne, my naïve lover, thinks, I was an orphan, but not a victim. When I walked the streets at the age of 12, I learned fast where to steal the best food, how to use my daggers, and where to hide my would-be attackers’ bodies. No one suspected me of such violence. No one knew then or now that I have magic inside me.

Now, power-hungry men intend to release the magic for their own benefit – at the expense of the rest of the city. We will stop them, even if Thorne must battle his own kin, even if I must reveal my hidden talents and the role I seem destined to play.

Story Review:

I had not made time to read Keys and it had been sitting on my bookshelf since I bought it last fall. My audiobook review is made from only listening to the story, but I will probably need to read it too at some point because I enjoyed it very much.

Amber Kell created an unusual world in the City of Keys. I love fantasy and all of the sub-genres that can go along with fantasy stories. Her creation is set in a steampunk world, and it also has magic. So, it really is a blend of a few of my favorite kinds of fantasies.  I think that one of the issues that goes along with reading (or listening to) fantasies is that the reader has to understand the world, and the unique aspects of the author’s creations in order to feel comfortable and absorb the story without feeling confused. Sometimes I have to read parts of  a fantasy book a few times to really get it. Thankfully this wasn’t the case with Keys. It did take me a few chapters to get into the flow of the story, and be able to visualize the world the author constructed. That was probably because it is a unique world with an interesting history, and allowing it all to digest in my brain took some time.

Magic is an important part of the story. A reader needs to realize this going in to the book or some of the plot pieces may seem out of place. It’s a mash-up of sorts, high-fantasy and steampunk together. Accepting that early on will help a reader accept elements of the book that develop later in the story. I think that marketing this story as a steampunk novel is a mistake, because the magic and fantasy aspects of the book are more important in the end. A reader might be a bit thrown off when the magical elements are introduced because it happens toward the end of the story. I do not want to elaborate on the details and spoil any surprises, but I do think it is helpful to understand going into the book that the steampunk aspect is not the greatest leap of fantasy that the story undertakes.

The tale is told from Octavius’ point of view, and I found him to be a likable character. He is a street rat, and makes no apologies for his sometimes deviant, but often noble actions. His love interest, Thorne, is a sexy sidekick. They are an established couple as the story begins, so this allowed the plot to focus on other matters. I think that worked well because there is a lot to understand about the City of Keys and it’s happenings. Oss and Thorne are a great match, but since it is a first person narrative there were times I wondered what was going on in Thorne’s head.

I think my only (minor) disappointment in the plot had to do with the fact that Oss was keeping a big secret from Thorne, and when it was revealed it was done in a way that was a bit anticlimactic. I believe the author could have used that opportunity to add some spice to the dynamic because the secret was built up, but then it just sort of happened without any huge revelations between the two men. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but more of a missed opportunity for relationship development.  That being said there was more than enough other stuff going on in the book so that it didn’t hurt it much.

The supporting cast of characters is delightful. I am really looking forward to learning more about them and their stories if the series continues. I hope that it does, because Amber Kell has shown herself capable of creating a very entertaining and meaty piece of fiction with exciting potential for future installments.

Narration Review:

Derrick McClain does a wonderful job of narrating the book. He is Oss, and his voice adds humor and passion in the right places. He acts out all of the characters in a unique way, and I found myself being able to keep track of who was saying what during the dialogues. There are a lot of characters in the story, so this aspect of the narration was important and well done.

I read to be entertained, that is why romance is my genre of choice. After all, I spent six years in college so I figure I have dedicated enough time reading for educational purposes. When it comes to audiobooks I listen to be entertained, and I need the story to be captivating and the narration to be perfect, or damn close to it. Nothing is more disappointing than hearing one of my favorite stories ruined by a lackluster narrator. Thankfully the audiobook version of Keys offered the best of both worlds, a creative and original plot, and narration that kept me entertained and tuned in to the entire story.


Keys on Goodreads
Dreamspinner Press
Amazon US
Amazon UK
Amazon CA
All Romance eBooks

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with the audiobook of this title in exchange for my honest opinion.

Farewell Giveaway
I have a number of paperbacks, most of which are signed, to giveaway. Over the between now (11 Mar 2017) and 31 Mar 2017, every comment on the blog (this post and all other new posts), will be entered to win 1 of these paperbacks. There are also some misc swag items, so there will be a few packs of these to give away as well.

Thank you so much for your support over the last 4 years. Prism will be closing its doors on 1 April 2017. All content will remain available, but no new content will appear after 31 Mar 2017. As such all request forms have been turned off. Again Thank you,

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