With multiple listenings of the audio, I have not felt the need to read the print version.
Ripred impressed me with his insights, honesty and devotion. He was Gregor's mentor, a reality check for the Regalian royalty, the hope of the rats even when they did not know it, and the one person who could handle prophecy as it ought to be.
Paul Boehmer gave enough vocal distinction to make most characters seem differentiated and real. I especially liked Boots, Mrs. Cormaci and Ripred. His style and diction made the story easy to listen to, which I did several times.
I was moved to breathe a sigh of relief when Luxa refused to come above ground and the rock was replaced. Luxa, tender and loving at moments, also revealed herself to be a young Solovet. And if the royal-commoner divide does not doom a relationship with Gregor, her warrior predisposition and ability to stand by and watch him die in quicksand certainly are not good omens. Gregor needs Mrs. Cormaci's healing touch much more than he needs Luxa's hand. Fantasy meets reality.
Not many sword and sorcery fantasy books paint a picture of battle as realistic as Collins has here. Gregor spends more time in the hospital than in battle, and ends the book needing much healing. The children in the story, though, seem a wee bit older than their stated ages, and I think the story has a lot to offer readers/listeners a wee bit beyond Gregor's thirteen.
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