Monday, November 14, 2011

Audiobook Review: "Enchanted Glass" by Diana Wynne Jones

Product Description:
Something is rotten in the village of Melstone
Aidan Cain has had the worst week of his life. Creepy, sinister beings want him dead. What's a boy to do? With danger nipping at his heels, Aidan flees to Melstone, a village teeming with magic of its own. There he is taken in by Andrew Hope, the new master of Melstone House, who has some supernatural troubles too. Someone is stealing power from the area—mingling magics—and chaos is swiftly rising. Are Aidan's and Andrew's magical dilemmas connected somehow? And will they be able to unite their powers and unlock the secrets of Melstone before the countryside comes apart at the seams?

FYI: I love audiobooks. Nothing takes the "Oh, I'm so bored I want to slam my head into a wall just for entertainment" out of washing dishes and other household chores/bores like having an audiobook going. If you know of any really good audiobooks, please comment. I'm always up for suggestions.
Also, a good reader can make or break an audiobook, really. For example, Stephen Briggs narrates all of Terry Pratchett's books. They are delightful. When I read a print version, I find myself doing the voices in my head just like Briggs does. (My internal British accent is killer, by the way.) I also love love love Jim Dale who reads the Harry Potter series. *Fun fact: Dale was the Narrator in the late, great, and thoroughly under appreciated TV series "Pushing Daisies*.
Then there are audiobooks I can hardly tolerate because the voice annoys me, like when the reader sounds too young or too old. I listened to "Tyger, Tyger" recently and the reader just sounded entirely too proper for a story about trolls and faeries, and her Irish accent got away from her at times.
Anyway...I fear this review is getting away from me....let me try to haul myself back toward the point:

I picked up this audiobook at the library thinking it might be good for my children to listen to. I thought since the main character was only twelve or so, it might be a good book for kids who aren't old enough for all the romance and shenanigans in most YA books.
What I liked: The story was delightfully narrated. Steven Crossley created a distinct and perfectly fitting voice for each of the many characters. I found myself laughing a lot and my children thought it was funny as well. The plot moved rather quickly and there wasn't anything too scary or terribly upsetting. It was a sweet story of an orphaned boy finding a place to belong, meeting and interacting with magical beings, and helping his new caretaker learn about his own magical powers. I think it helps a bit to have some knowledge of basic faerie lore: Oberon is the king, Mab is a faerie queen, faeries don't use iron, etc., but this background isn't really necessary. You can figure things out as you go along even if you've never read any faery stories.
What I didn't like: The story of Aiden Kane, and the faerie world that keeps sneaking into his everyday life was fun and entertaining. However, there were some minor curse words, so I decided I better finish the book first to see where it was going before I decided if I wanted my kids to read it. I really loved it, up until the end.
Aiden had sought shelter from the dark shadowy Stalkers that were chasing him at the home of the late Jocelyn Brandon, a well-known magician. Brandon's own adult grandson, Andrew, is now in charge of Jocelyn's magical estate and for most of the book it is assumed that Aiden is being chased by dark faery creatures because he is the child of Oberon, the faery king. At the end of the book, it's revealed that he is actually Jocelyn Brandon's child. We knew Aiden's dead mom had many problems, but to find out Jocelyn had fathered Aiden by a young drug addicted alcoholic teenaged girl who was also his COUSIN, and who had been sent to him for help was disturbing to me. Instead of a nice feeling of "Oh, how sweet, Aiden and Andrew are related after all" I found myself feeling kind of sickened. Even though we never meet Jocelyn Brandon in person (although his ghost makes a brief appearance), he is portrayed throughout the book as a respectable, conscientious, and honorable man. To flip that on its head at the last page of the book and have the character who discovers the truth of Aiden's parentage (Andrew) take it with essentially a shrug and then a The End was just more than I could deal with.
This was the second book I've read by Diana Wynne Jones, and I realize saying anything less than wonderful about her work will not win me any goodwill :) She has a devoted following, and I can see why. Her writing is charming, magical, whimsical, enchanting, and transporting. If the entire book had stayed light and breezy without the out of place ending, I would've happily given it five stars. As it is, I don't think it's appropriate for young readers who appear to have been the target audience.
Rating: Was going to be four stars, but then that "WHAT??" ending dropped it down to two.

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