Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Crow brothers

There are some things you just shouldn't ask the Internet, unless you wish to waste vast amounts of time. What, for example, is the difference between fairies and faeries? There's just an awful lot of people with an opinion, but no one cites a source (except, occasionally, Wikipedia). I hate those Q&A websites where you're allowed to vote on which answer you like the best (whether it's right or wrong ... did I have to say that?), but here is the answer to my question that I liked the best (it was as I suspected -- fairies are just namby-pamby cuties with wings).

Laini Taylor's faeries are definitely of the edgy variety. In the first book in her Faeries of Dreamdark series (now repackaged as just Dreamdark), Blackbringer, we are introduced to the intrepid young faerie, Magpie Windwitch. 'Pie is around 100 years old, which makes her fairly youthful in the faerie world, and she is spending her adolescence roaming out in the wide world -- a world full of humans ("mannies"), demons, imps, djinns and other life forms -- restoring order. With her posse of crazy crows (who have a hilarious list of bad habits including smoking, gambling and ham acting), 'Pie hunts down and recaptures demons that those pesky humans have released from the enchanted bottles (think Aladdin) meant to keep them incarcerated for eternity.

One day, 'Pie comes across the opened bottle of a dreadful demon, one she eventually finds out is called Blackbringer. Blackbringer simply absorbs its enemies into a terrifying nothingness. She rushes back to Dreamdark (faerie land) to convince an old djinn named Magruwen to help her capture Blackbringer. She discovers that all is not well in Dreamdark; Blackbringer has preceded her there and the faeries are fighting a losing battle. 'Pie also learns she is destined for great things -- as predicted by her christening -- and that she is the only one who can battle and defeat Blackbringer and bring about harmony in Dreamdark once more.

I got a slow start on this novel, as it took me a week to get through the first three discs. I bogged down in the world-building and kept forgetting where I was in the story, so I'd listen to it again. I don't think this is Taylor's fault; with the broken ankle I just haven't had the opportunity/desire to do some serious, time-consuming listening. [Sometimes, TV is better (eek! I said it!).] But there's a lot to love about this book: an accomplished, mouthy heroine, a nicely realized setting (the caves, castles and nether reaches of Dreamdark are particularly evocative), some high-octane action, a little romance, some delightfully inventive swearing (including skive and blither) and those crows.

Even though this novel was written right here in Portland, Oregon, the audiobook comes straight from a faerie-filled England as read by the talented Davina Porter. Porter is a skilled and experienced narrator who does a fine job of managing a large cast of characters with cleverness and distinction. 'Pie speaks with a Scots accent that is entirely endearing (I love her pet name for her crows, Feather.) The crows don't caw exactly, but their working class voices are raspy and doting. Magruwen is suitably grumpy and slightly menacing, while an imposter queen (whose hair is turned into worms by 'Pie) is imperious and screechy and her paramour is sycophantic. The romantic hero, Talon -- disabled because of his stubby wings -- is a bit dim, but proves worthy of 'Pie. Even the characters we meet once are pretty memorable: Porter does a lovely little cameo of a smart, but naked chicken -- formerly owned by a magician -- who has sought sanctuary with a brood of "human" chickens.

Porter reads the action scenes with verve and enthusiasm and gives the exposition and world-building a delivery that's just quick enough. She's a very good narrator, and I was surprised to learn that I (think) I've only listened to her once.

(Wait! Let me check Audiobook Jukebox! Nope, just the one. Thank goodness for this website, since I lack the tech savvy/interest in making my blog more searchable.)

I love that so many authors of teen literature live here in Portland! We had a mini roaming-authors (a la YALSA's Coffee Klatch) session at a recent meeting where I met Dale Basye, Susan Fletcher, Heather Frederick, April Henry, Nancy Osa, Rosanne Parry, Emily Whitman, and someone whose books I'd never heard of and so I've forgotten her [I am so sorry!]. Author (and librarian) Sara Ryan organized the meeting. Notable (for me, but I'm sure there are others) in their absence: Laini Taylor and L.K. Madigan.

Blackbringer ([Faeries of] Dreamdark, Book 1) by Laini Taylor
Narrated by Davina Porter
Recorded Books, 2008. 11:30

1 comment:

Beth F said...

First, thanks for the shout out for Audiobook Jukebox.

And second. O.M.G. -- I love fairy / faery stories and I love, love, love Davina Porter. I have listened to hundreds of hours of her narrations over the years (from before blogging up to today) and you've now given me a must-listen-to series.

Thanks!!