Thursday, March 18, 2010


I downloaded something from Library2Go! Seemingly without angst or error! Something others may have had a problem with? (I confess, I had a techie friend download the "console" for me ... but until I worked it, I wasn't entirely convinced it was possible.) It was Michelle Paver's fourth installment in her terrific Chronicles of Ancient Darkness, Outcast, read by the great Ian McKellen. I had listened to the third book a shockingly long time ago, so it was a pleasure to delve back into these tales of young Torak of the Wolf Clan, his beloved Wolf, and his foster family, the Ravens.

Torak has been marked as a Soul Eater by the evil, semi-supernatural beings of this universe, but he tries to hide it from the Raven Clan. Unfortunately, his deception is revealed and he is cast out of the clan. He performs the ritual that will excise the mark, but he is still haunted by one of the Soul Eaters, a Viper-Mage who wants something that he has (but doesn't know he has). This haunting, or soul sickness, causes him to shun the friends who try to help him. It may well be up to Wolf, along with two impudent ravens, to bring Torak back to himself.

I just love that Sir Ian McKellen narrates these. I mean, he's probably the greatest British actor of these few moments in time and he's reading a frigging kids' book! How cool is that? How cool does that make kids' books? Well, probably only cool for those of us who think that Sir Ian is cool (which probably eliminates most kids). So, never mind.

What I think is truly awesome is that an actor of Sir Ian's caliber brings to this role (narrator of the Chronicles of Ancient Darkness) the same commitment he brings to Gandalf, Shakespeare, or Homer's Odyssey. He brings an emotional life to the story of Torak, and his dedication, his belief in the honesty and reality of those emotions is evident in his narrative. McKellen doesn't go for the flash (and I believe there is a time and place for narrative flashiness); he simply reads with a profound feeling for both the characters and the adventure. Both Torak and Wolf experience despair and hopelessness -- as well as elation -- in this story, and I hear and feel those emotions in McKellen's narration. I hear the tension in his voice as Torak's reason vanishes, and feel its relaxation when order and rightness resume (hope that wasn't a spoiler). All that, plus just listening to his magnificent resonant voice!

It looks like the remaining two books in this series are available (in audio too!) in England, so bring 'em on over!! Now! (I think I like the English covers better, too.)

As for downloading, this was a successful experiment. I like to have CDs at home since I listen to them both in the shower and after turning the light out and I don't have a docking station for my lowly mp3 player. But for when I'm out of town (without the option of playing CDs), I will amass a short list of audiobooks only available through Library2Go. In other words, those where I can't check out the CDs. Here's the beginnings of that list (heavily influenced at this point by Fuse No. 8's 100 best chapter books countdown): The Wind in the Willows (read by Alan Bennett!), A Little Princess, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. Hmmm ... needs some adult influences.

The downloading itself was successful, as I said. The recording quality occasionally sounded a bit tinny (which, since I can't compare it to the CDs, may have nothing to do with it being digits rather than whatever is on a CD), and there was one place where the recording ended abruptly (it sounded like the end, but I wasn't quite sure). My main complaint (and this may only be a problem to someone who listens in the dark before falling asleep) is that each "disc" of the download was a single track. So if I fall asleep at the 20-minute mark of the track, it just plays through to the end and I have no way to easily re-find my place except fastforwarding to where I think I stopped. Still, I feel like I've taken a step into the 21st century. Yay me!


CLM said...

I really enjoyed Paver's adult historicals and had been bemoaning the fact that she was now concentrating on this juvenile series. Maybe you will inspire me to try them.

leecat said...

Thanks for your comment CLM ... my library (www dot multcolib dot org) has only Paver's Chronicles. Which of her adult titles should I try and get via Interlibrary Loan?