I regularly complain about having to come into a series in the middle, but when I look back on my listening this year, I really haven't had to do it very often. Maybe I'm mellowing, but when Book 5 of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole reached me, I just opened it and began listening without a murmur (or a search of the web to bring me up to speed). The Shattering by Kathryn Lasky tells the story of the young barn owl Eglantine, resident of the Great Ga'Hoole Tree -- which means (I think) that she is in training to be part of a special order of owls who will do good in a world of evil. Eglantine's big brother is Soren, who is (again, I think) the overall hero of this series -- now up to its 15th installment.
Eglantine's mind is being messed with by the evil owls, called The Pure Ones. Through their agent, Ginger, Eglantine has waking dreams of finding her long-lost mother. This owl is -- of course -- not her mother, but she wants some documentation from the library in Ga'Hoole that will help The Pure Ones defeat the owls of the Tree using biological weapons. Fortunately, Eglantine has a good friend, Primrose, who realizes what's going on and -- while the owls led by Soren conduct some sort of warlike action, Primrose and Eglantine escape from The Pure Ones. (I'm pretty sure I don't have that quite right ... but it really doesn't matter, does it?)
After listening to this and recalling my antipathy to the Warriors and Redwall series (having read the first books of each), I wonder at the appeal of these animal stories for older readers. Does they always have to be about war?
The reader of the Ga'Hoole books is Pamela Garelick. She reads the book's narrative passages with a pleasant English accent, and her familiarity with the series means that she reads the character and place names with confidence. However, almost every single one of her character voices are earshatteringly strident and screechy. Perhaps she is attempting to imitate owls, but it was just unbearably painful for adult ears to listen to.
I also find her character voices fairly inconsistent. In one section, Primrose is voiced with about three different registers (medium-high, high, stratospheric). Soren seems to speak in several vocal ranges as well.
The information that is on the cover the audiobook says that Garelick records her books in a lovely little studio in Greece. That sounds much better than some windowless box doesn't it?