Friday, August 21, 2009

Don't let them pass!

I think I can track my reading history straight from Nancy to Laura Ingalls Wilder. (Or those are the only ones I can remember.) I still read and enjoy both mysteries and historical fiction. I came to fantasy as an adult (and still mostly read only those written for children and teens). But the lines aren't so distinct these days: Prophecy of the Sisters has elements of all three genres. (I do love that creepy cover.) Author Michelle Zink treats us to an atmospheric, romantic tale of twin sisters and their destiny. Lia and Alice Milthorpe have just buried their father, leaving them and their younger brother Henry orphans. Since her father's death, a strange mark is emerging on Lia's wrist, it's a tattoo with texture. Unlike most twins, the sisters aren't particularly close, so she keeps this disturbing development to herself.

Then, handsome antiquarian book seller and her father's librarian, James (well, he's actually the son of the book seller) shows Lia something he's found in her father's library. It's a prophecy that ordains that two sisters must fulfill the roles of generations of sisters before them: One is the Guardian and one is the Gate. The Guardian must prevent the fallen angel Samael from crossing with his evil souls into the living world and the Gate must do everything possible to make it happen. If you are the Gate, Lia learns, and you don't fulfill your role, life becomes impossible for you -- her mother and her aunt Virginia were to fulfill these roles, and she discovers that her mother's death was suicide. As the eldest, Lia is the Gate. However, Lia also learns something else about herself (it's getting a little fuzzy for me here) -- she is the Angel who can act to cease the whole Guardian/Gate thing altogether, if she can only find the four keys. Unfortunately, her father died before identifying all four. And, if she needed one more thing: Alice doesn't really want her job as Guardian. She'd rather bring Samael in herself. Lia's got a lot to do.

Prophecy of the Sisters takes place in a chilly mansion and nearby town and countryside in northern New York. It's 1899, and the language of this story is appropriately ornate. Listening to it read aloud contributes nciely to the Victorian atmosphere. The young actress Eliza Dushku (a fan site) is the narrator. (I haven't seen her television program, Dollhouse, either.) And -- while she suffers from the same inexperience that the previous TV actor I blogged about today does -- I liked her performance more. Dushku's got a very pleasant, husky voice, and sounds comfortable reading the stylized prose of the novel. She seems very invested in the narrator's (Lia) character, as she reads with emotion and paces the story very well.

Ultimately, though, I think the novel would have been better served by a reader with a few more skills than Dushku has. There's a fairly large cast of characters, and she doesn't create any of them with her voice. With the Victorian atmospherics, there is a lot of opportunity to do so, and I think the audiobook suffers from the lack. In particular, the origins of three of the characters is specifically described: Italian, English and French, and Dushku attempts nothing in her narration to indicate any difference. I can only assume that she simply didn't feel capable of it. (Although I suppose that not trying is better than cringe-inducing failure.)

Music is very effectively used in this audiobook, as well. It starts off the novel with an appropriately gothic feel. Then, it pops up unexpectedly in the midst of the narration -- usually when Lia has made an important discovery. I enjoyed its unpredictable appearances.

Finally, I like the frisson of French in the pronunciation of Hachette (a slight leaving off of the "h" if that's clear) that accompanies the introduction (and conclusion) of the audiobook. It sounds like Louise, the chicken is introducing the book.

1 comment:

Kristin said...

I'm finding Dushku's narration very distracting. Although I love the shows she's been on, I don't think she's a very strong actress. I didn't think it was possible to be a bad narrator, but she is. I agree though, that I'd rather she put no effort in, rather than a terrible one.

I'm about halfway through and just now find out that there's a sequel coming out soon. I guess I can look forward to a cliffhanger...