I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
I eagerly purchased this audiobook of T. H. White???s complete The Once and Future King, because for a long time Audible only had the individual books available. And I loved the first four books, which begin with the halcyon fantasy of The Sword in the Stone, in which the boy Arthur (???Wart???) is educated by an anachronistic Merlyn. The scenes describing the daily life of a medieval castle during different seasons are vivid and beautiful, while those recounting Wart???s fantastic adventures and transformations into various animals are imaginative, suspenseful, and humorous. White loved and respected flora and fauna (even snakes), and this first book is encyclopedic and fantastic, dense and rich, absorbing and moving.
From the second book, The Queen of Air and Darkness, which opens in the cold north as Queen Morgause boils a black cat alive while her four sons are telling the story of their grandmother???s rape by Arthur???s father, begins the increasingly dark movement of the novel, centered on the tragedy caused by Arthur???s family history and the romantic triangle between himself, Guenevere, and Lancelot (The Ill-Made Knight). In the 2nd through 4th books White most closely follows Malory, though he also moves the era forward from the 11th to the 15th century and empathically imagines how medieval men and women felt and thought with modern psychological insight. At the same time, he writes plenty of joie de vivre, questing and combating knights, and fascinating details about medieval life (food, fashion, feudalism, etc.).
The novel really concludes with the 4th book (The Candle in the Wind) as the last battle between Arthur and Mordred is about to begin, but this audiobook then adds The Book of Merlyn, which may be good for completists, but which I found disappointing, as on the eve of the last battle Merlyn takes his former pupil off for a night of anachronistic political and philosophical debate with Badger and company about why humans wage war and what might be done to prevent it. Apart from Arthur changing into an ant and a goose to experience two different social systems, there is little ???story??? in this last book: too little Arthurian Matter and too much Whiteian Musing.
Jason Neville does a marvelous job reading the long work, effortlessly giving different characters distinctive voices and personalities without over doing it (so that, for example, his female characters sound like human beings rather than like a man imitating ???women???). And his King Pellinore reminds me of John Gielgud.
I recommend this audiobook for anyone interested in the Matter of Britain or philosophical and well-written fantasy.
Magyk (2005) by Angie Sage has many typical children's magical fantasy genre elements: the lost seventh son of a seventh son possessed of extraordinary magic power, a princesses in hiding, an evil necromancer, good wizards, witches, and ghosts, supernatural creatures (like boggarts, brownies, and dragons), legendary magical artifacts (even a lost ring found underground in the dark!), and spells and magical rules for every occasion her page-turning plot requires.
Sage's novel adds to the genre a usurping dystopian governing body (the Custodians) with a penchant for rationalizing people, excluding women, and banning magic. Sage's good characters, a balanced mix of adults and kids, are very appealing and great fun to spend time with: Marcia Overstrand (the purple pointy python-skin shoe wearing ExtraOrdinary Wizard), Arthel Melle (the avuncular ghost of the former ExtraOrdinary Wizard), Silas (the unambitious and good-natured Ordinary Wizard who is a seventh son), Nicko (one of his sons who likes boats), Jenna (the princess on the run), Boy 412 (a member of the Young Army, "the Pride of today, the Warriors of Tomorrow"), and even Stanley the message rat (Sage does for message rats what J K Rowling never does for message owls: gives them their own point of view). And best of all Sage writes with enjoyable and engaging wit and style. I often laughed out loud at the lines her characters speak and the situations in which they find themselves. Magyk feels lighter and wittier than the Harry Potter books. Her slimy and poisonous Magog creatures are nightmarish, but also prone to greedy foibles, and her Dark Lord DomDaniel (back from the Badlands with a vengeance) snores and drools while he sleeps.
The fertility of imagination and richness of style in Magyk don't approach that in, say, Catherynne Valente's The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, but Angie Sage does write more magical magic than J. K. Rowling. Although Sage, like Rowling, does a fair amount of mundaning of the fantastic (as in having Marcia cast clothes cleaning spells), she is also capable of writing scenes that make the world come alive with a fresh perspective, as when the last Shield Bug goes into earnest and confused action, when the Dragon Boat appears in an underground temple, when the ghost of Arthel hugs Jenna and makes her "feel as though a warm summer breeze had wafted through her," when Boy 412 stares awe-struck at the "haze of [purple] Magyk energy" on Marcia as she casts a spell and sees her "brilliant green eyes glitter[ing] as she gaze[s] into infinity, observing a silent film that only she could see," and when Jenna goes outside Aunt Zelda's cottage to watch the marsh wake up in cold dawn beauty and thinks about her identity and family and childhood dreams and sees "a fishing boat crewed by chickens."
One thing lost in the audiobook version is Sage's portentous capitalizations and faux-archaic spellings of words like Magyk and Darke and use of bold font for the names of spells, because when the reader Allan Corduner says them they of course sound as if they were spelled and printed normally. But you gain so much by listening to the audiobook, because Corduner relishes reading the novel and keeps just the right 75-25 balance between tongue in cheek and heart in mouth, making everything more funny and magical and moving than it would be if one were only reading the physical book.
Will I go on to read/listen to the following six novels about Septimus Heap? Hmmm. If I find them on sale and myself with plenty of time I might, but I am in no hurry right now, because this first novel is a little longer than necessary and ends with satisfying closure.
This was an enjoyable novel, a pleasure to listen to. As a Pratchett novel, it is very funny, with just the right amount of thoughtful and disturbing bits, as it plays with genre clich??s and expectations and wittily blurs the differences between "story" and "reality."
Maurice is an amazing cat: self-centered, cocky, scheming, sarcastic, possessed of a good conscience???and sentient. The various rats in "the Clan" are neat, too, Dangerous Beans (the physically weak seer and spiritual leader), Peaches (the irritatingly ethical conscience), Darktan (the experienced and brave trap removal squad leader), Sardines (the entertainer), and so on. The rats' coming to terms with becoming sentient is vividly, humorously, and often poignantly depicted. The animals' stupid looking boy, Keith, has some surprises inside him. The far too imaginative, budding grim fairy tale authoress the Mayor's daughter, Malicia, is an appealing character. And the "evil" villain has a convincing and sad origin. The violent, scheming, arrogant, callous, and cruel side of human nature is tellingly exposed, too. And there are countless guffaw, chuckle, or smile points sprinkled throughout the story.
And Stephen Briggs does a marvelous job reading all the voices of the various characters, giving each one its own accent or pitch or personality and injecting plenty of wit into the already witty novel.
Candace's Book Blog
This is the third Zoe & Zak book I've listened to on audio and I have to say, they just keep getting better and better. There are so many things I love about this series so I hope that I can express my love well enough that you know that this is a series you MUST get!
Zoe and Zak are perfect compliments to each other. Zoe is more serious and Zak is all about the fun. In the past they've had to deal with some serious life or death situations, but things step up another notch in this one and things are so serious that Zak could die if they don't figure things out. It's clear that Zoe is freaking out and it's not really helping much. Zak on the other hand is handling things well and gives us some comedic relief. Not that the book feels so 'scary' or whatever, but knowing that things really ARE serious makes it a bit more intense.
In this book there's a new bad, but who would have guessed it to be the new student who seems to get his way with everything and everyone? He has it out for Zak and will go to any lengths to make Zak look bad, or to get him in trouble.
One thing I really, really love about these books is the culture. I think it's important to teach our kids about other cultures and so them being at a boarding school in India is perfect. It's an international school and Zoe and Zak are American, so we can follow things easily. But they are experiencing Indian culture everyday. And Zoe does a good job of explaining the foods and the different words used, etc. So we don't get too much and can feel like we are really there. I appreciated that the words they use in India were used and explained. For example, the word 'walla' (I listened to the audio so the spelling might be wrong) is someone who sells something. So when they say the 'bike walla' we know what they are talking about, it's the person selling the bikes.
I have watched some shows about the scary roads in the Himalaya's so it was easy for me to really picture things as they were barreling down (or up) the mountain and Zoe feeling like they would fall off the cliff at any minute. There were so many times in this book that I found myself just staring off into the distance listening intently. I listen while doing things usually (cooking, cleaning, etc) so this was impressive that it pulled me out of doing stuff to where I concentrated completely on the story.
The narration is pure BRILLIANCE. I have listened to quite a few audiobooks and there's not many narrators that can pull off a variety of voices. Sonja Field does it all perfectly. We get Zoe and Zak and their two distinctive voices that are easy to tell apart. We also get the various Indian accents, somehow still distinctive from each other. We also get some British accents and a few other voices but on top of that we get the various things like the talking elephant Alta, the creature called Mon Sta and various other animals that all had their own incredible voices. Oh and the parrot that we get in this one, also done perfectly. This is definitely the best narration I have heard in an audiobook yet.
If you have a reluctant reader this is a series I recommend. This is perfect for middle grade readers up to adults. It's a series the whole family can enjoy together. It's a perfect pace of adventure with fabulous characters, a wonderful setting, and an intense plot that keeps you wrapped up and anxious for more . I couldn't recommend this any more highly. It's perfection.