I am a big fan of Cornelia Funke -- ever since The Magic Thief (even though she took a bit of a tumble in my estimation with Inkdeath), so I was glad to give a listen to Igraine the Brave.
Igraine is the daughter of the great magicians Sir Lamorak and the Fair Melisande. Unlike her older brother Albert, Igraine doesn't want to become a magician. She'd rather be out on the tilt, squiring a noble knight. The rest of the family tolerates Igraine, but they turn to her for help when the evil Osmund the Greedy attempts to storm Castle Pimpernel to steal the books of magic. Unfortunately, Igraine's parents are ... ahem ... somewhat indisposed (I won't spoil it for my younger readers!), so it's courage and the rules of chivalry that may help to save the day.
A young actress with the delicious name of Xanthe Elbrick reads this novel. Evidently, she was in the Broadway version of an English musical called Coram Boy (based on a book of the same name by Jamila Gavin that I liked a whole lot), and was nominated for a Tony Award. She has a lovely speaking voice, slightly husky and entirely pleasant to listen to. She reads Igraine with just the right amount of innocent pluck and tween enthusiasm. There are a number of other enjoyable vocal characters created by Elbrick: a plodding, loyal servant, a friendly giant, the mustache-twirling Osmund and his scarily evil henchman, the Spiky Knight. Older brother and know-it-all Albert is also portrayed with honesty and affection.
Elbrick makes a big change when she voices the story's sort-of hero: The Sorrowful Knight of the Mount of Tears. Unlike everyone else in the story, he speaks with American-accented English. At first I was taken aback, but then I grew to like it. It can be justified (barely): The Knight had sequestered himself away from the world once he lost his honor, could he now sound so very different than all others in the kingdom? I think I enjoyed the sound of Elbrick's voice in that low-register American accent enough to forgive her the mostly inexplicable choice to voice him that way.
Funke's newest book, Reckless, will be published early this fall. Yikes! It's going to be a busy couple of weeks: Mockingjay, Reckless, and Monsters of Men! Who's going to have time to listen to anything?