Saturday, August 30, 2008

Butterflies are free

I think this is the first time this year I've had to pre-read some series installments to prepare to listen to an audiobook ('cause I hate starting in the middle). I slogged through the first two episodes in the Faerie Wars Chronicles by Herbie Brennan to get to Ruler of the Realm. The Faerie Wars tell the story of young Henry Atherton, who discovers a faery (fairy?) named Pyrgus in his backyard and follows him to the faery realm, where he meets Pyrgus' sister Holly Blue and various other denizens. Things are a bit unsettled in the Faery World (Henry lives in the Analogue World) as the fairies (I'm just going to spell it that way!) of the Light and those of the Night have some conflicts. Every book culminates in some kind of battle, in which the Lighters always seem to triumph. In the Ruler of the Realm the two groups of fairies discover a common enemy, the demons of Hael, led by Beleth.

These books are incredibly talky -- strategies are described, re-described, revised and re-revised ad nauseum. And, in all three of the novels, disaster is averted at the end by some event or person that comes out of nowhere. They're kind of a cheat. And they get very dull far before the end.

The author has a very nice conceit: All the named fairies are species of British butterfly. That seems delightfully plausible to me -- in the third book, Henry briefly believes that he has imagined his visits to fairyland and named all the characters he's encountered after butterflies. There's another riff on alien abduction and sexual experimentation (and the offspring of that experimentation) that's mildly amusing. But, these two ideas are not enough to sustain interest for pages and/or hours (100+ chapters per book).

The reader of this tome is James Daniel Wilson and he tries very hard (Although he doesn't pronounced Pyrgus the way the UK Butterflies website say its pronounced -- and the way I was pronouncing it in my head while reading: He says Pyre-gus, the butterfly-ists say it's Peer-gus.) to keep the ponderous plot moving. He can keep a conversation going among distinctive characters and those characters are consistent throughout the story. He's got a pleasant English accent, so listening wasn't particularly onerous. (This was a book I listened to on cassette so I took longer than I would with one on CD -- yikes 20 days!.) However, I don't think he (or any reader) could overcome the lengthy story where there's an awful long build-up to the payoff. And the payoff was never really satisfying. It kind of creeps up on you and then it's quickly over.

We just received the fourth (and final?) installment in the series for our review. I'm crossing my fingers that the committee's listener doesn't nominate it. While it is the same reader, there are 12+ hours I think I could be spending on something better.

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