Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Jack is back!

There are now six Bloody Jack adventures, but I think you should wait until each one comes out in audio. The first three will have to do for now, but I'm sure that Listen and Live Audio is working to catch up with author L.A. Meyer (according to its website, the fourth book is also available, but that one wasn't sent to us by our deadline). Jacky Faber's first adventure showed up on our list last year, as well as on the Odyssey's Honor list. Curse of the Blue Tattoo is an equally fun ride.

Discovered to be a girl, live-in-the-moment Jacky has been removed from the crew of the HMS Dolphin in Boston and sent to the Lawson-Peabody School for Young Ladies on Beacon Hill. Alas, her straightforward Cockney ways get her immediately in trouble, and -- on an outing to Boston Harbor -- she is caught exposing her knee as she plays her flute and dances. She is soon demoted from young lady to lady's maid, but this doesn't sink her irrepressible spirit. Jacky continues to make friends (and enemies), but her general state of contentment is always tempered by her sadness at not receiving any letters from her beloved fiance, Jaimy Fletcher. Her impetuousness continues to exasperate her friends and keep her in hot water, and in a series of misunderstandings and lost opportunities, at the end of Blue Tattoo Jacky is hopefully setting out for England and Jaimy aboard a Quaker whaling vessel.

That synopsis barely skims the surface of this fun- and action-filled 14-hour story. Listen as Jacky spends the night in jail, meets some ladies of the evening, faces down thugs, climbs up and down various buildings (remember her skill in a ship's rigging), earns a few pennies performing in a tavern, pretends to be a ghost, dives into Boston Harbor, carries on her disguise as a boy, flirts with a few boys, survives a fire, and wins a high-stakes horse race aboard an Arab stallion. Whew! The hours just flew by.

And they flew by for just one reason: Katherine Kellgren. In the tired phrase beloved by audiobook reviewers and fans, she brings Jacky Faber vividly to life. I don't think the books are really as good as Kellgren makes them. Jacky's impetuousness, her temper, her affection for her friends, her appreciation of a handsome man, her fearlessness, her excitability are all as clear as day in Kellgren's interpretation. She uses only her voice to express this character -- which means that volume, pacing, speaking voice are all used to the utmost. Kellgren yells, she sobs, she speaks more quickly or more slowly, she even inhales the snot in her nose back up!

Above all, she sings. Jacky loves music and a significant part of this novel takes place in a tavern where she sings and plays her flute for money. When the story calls for it, a song comes out. Some are folk songs where you might know the tune (I enjoyed The Parting Glass). All are beautifully sung. It makes for such diversity in the story itself -- you aren't just listening to hours and hours of someone read to you; she's singing to you too!

Finally, Kellgren can put on the accent. Cockney, naturally, for Jacky. But there are a raft of Americans, an Irish cook, a Scottish drunk, a Southern [rhymes with witch], and the whole gamut of English -- from other Cockneys to received pronouncers. Conversations between these characters is fluid and effortless. If the Americans all tend to sound alike (there are no cahhrs being pahhrked for example), it is a small quibble.

The next Jacky adventure, Under the Jolly Roger, is also on our nomination list. I need to take a brief break for something else, but stayed tuned.

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