Saturday, March 31, 2012

Armchair Audies: Susan Duerden Narrates Franny Billingsly's Chime

It's time for another of my Armchair Audies titles! This one is from the Teens category, and although I have a lot to explore before I can render my verdict, I'm pleased to have encountered such a strong contender. So much for my theory that Libba Bray's Beauty Queens would just run away with the title for both of the categories I'm taking on (Teens and Narration by the Author or Authors.) (This tendency to just assume the one title you've listened to will be the winner is part of the impetus behind the Armchair Audies, as I understand it. I'm extremely prone to that myself, so participating in this project is a fun challenge for me.)

Susan Duerden voices Franny Billingsly's Chime with 10 hours and 12 minutes of excellent narration. Here's the story: Briony Larkin has sequestered herself in her hometown on the edge of the swamp, a self-imposed atonement for the crimes she thinks she's committed against her family. Seventeen and curious about the world, she nevertheless sticks with her dead stepmother's strictures about not going into the swamp, not seeking the education she craves, always taking charge of her unusual twin, Rose. Stepmother has told her, in strictest confidence, that Briony is a witch. Only witches, after all, can see the Old Ones who live in the swamp, and Briony has played games with the spirits since childhood. Along comes handsome rebel boy Eldric, who sees Briony in ways that are beguile her, though her fear of being exposed as a witch (and her subsequent death by hanging) keep her from giving into his charms. Meanwhile, the spirits are sending a deadly swamp fever to the town's children in protest of the imminent arrival of a marsh-draining railway, and a local woman is being tried for witchcraft. It's a potent mixture of myth, romance, industrial espionage, and wicked stepmothering, plus a healthy dash of eel stew. So, basically, lots of fun elements I love.

Duerden has a lilting English accent and an aptitude for character voices. She manages sibilant spirits, a possibly-evil beautiful stranger, the dullard local swain, and a petulant sisters with aplomb. Everyone is distinct and so appropriate to their character. She totally avoids my biggest pet peeve of going too nasal or whiny to differentiate the voices, so everyone is easy on my ears. She did a great job with Briony's emotions - her trepidation, excitement, worry, love, sadness, and fear are all translated smoothly.

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