Thursday, February 18, 2010

Marking time

OK, one month into the grand experiment (choosing an audiobook to listen to rather than listening to one assigned to me), and I'm flailing a bit. True, one limitation is the dratted 15-item limit on my personal card's holds list (grrr ... I think you should get credit for good behavior, i.e., picking up your holds) -- my holds list is largely DVDs where I wanted to jump in the queue and work myself to the top. I can still get lots of children's books, though, but where to begin? Why not with YRCA titles, I ask? That's a good beginning. Herewith, Shannon Hale's Book of a Thousand Days.

Hale's website is so informative, as she shares -- among many other tidbits -- the Grimm's fairy tale upon which this story is based. It's not Rapunzel, which is what I was thinking, rather it's one I'd never heard of: Maid Maleen. In Hale's iteration, Lady Saren is imprisoned in a bricked-up tower with her loyal, yet relatively new, maid Dashti, having angered her father by refusing to marry the man of his choice. Lady Saren retreats into a semi-catatonic shell, while the capable Dashti revels in the available food and the relative freedom of imprisonment. She begins to keep a diary. Lady Saren's preferred lover, Khan Tegus, appears at the tower and flirts briefly with Dashti, thinking she is Saren. The evil Lord Khasar -- preferred by dad -- puts in an appearance as well. Then, suddenly, there are no more visits, and eventually the men guarding the tower disappear as well. After nearly three years, the food begins to run out and Dashti realizes that the girls must make their escape.

They discover a devastated landscape and city, scarred by war, and they make their way to Khan Tegus' kingdom, where Dashti hopes that Saren will marry. But, once they arrive in Song for Evela (one of the imaginatively named Eight Realms, inspired by Mongolia -- see, I said Hale's website was full of cool stuff), Saren refuses to reveal herself to the Khan and it again falls to Dashti to make things right. Like most of Shannon Hale's heroines, Dashti is independent and strong without having to kick ass. She's one of the smart girls.

This is my first Full Cast Audio in awhile. Most recently, I listened to this, but there was only one narrator! I like this little company and I want them to be outrageously successful. And one of the reasons why is that they keep trying to make their product better. I have listened to some clunkers from Full Cast, but they learn from their mistakes: In my experience, the readers aren't sounding so stiff and unnatural, the main narrators are reading with the ease and skill of their counterparts at the "big boys," and the stories -- always selected with such care -- are enhanced by the full cast experience.

Book of a Thousand Days is dominated by Dashti, whose narrative comprises probably 75% of the story. Dashti is portrayed by Chelsea Mixon and she is very good here. (Here is a video of her [and others] recording another FCA title: Graceling.) She's got a youthful naturalness to her voice and a varied emotional reading that is entirely pleasant to listen to. She clearly portrays Dashti's growth from insecure lady's maid (and former mucker) to confident saver of the realm. She also sings the story's "healing songs," which loyal followers of this blog know is very important to me. Mixon's got good support from the rest of the cast, most notably in the properly romantic hero, Khan Tegus, read by Conor Nolan. (I don't know who Conor Nolan is, but I love the way the FCA website provides the cast of each of its audiobooks. Look! You can link to other parts he's played! I've heard him read a character that I don't remember in Skybreaker!)

Chatting about full cast recordings reminds me of my plan to revisit His Dark Materials in audio very soon. Hey! I do have plenty to listen to (if only I could remember my many, many plans!).


Anonymous said...

Lee, if you like Book of a Thousand Days and Chelsea Mixon, you should check out the Full Cast Audio recording of Graceling. And I agree with you about His Dark Materials--my go-to audiobook when I need an audio pick-me-up.

Conor said...

Hey, thanks a lot for the compliments! This was a lot of fun to put together. By the way, I had a very very small part in Skybreaker - only about two lines (in an indian accent). Also did some work in Tamora Pierce's Emperor Mage. Googled my name out of boredom and found your review.

-Conor Nolan