I have recently begun listening to audiobooks. I have never been one for listening to books rather than scanning them line-by-line with my own eyeballs, but I have found audiobooks to be an enjoyable way to pass the time of a morning commute that can sometimes take up to an hour, if the LA traffic is bad enough. What prompted this change in attitude? Well, I was watching an old episode of Frasier a few weeks back, and the characters at KACL radio were reenacting one of the original radio dramas that the fictional station ran in the 30s or 40s. I did some digging, I and found that many of these old time radio dramas were available on iTunes, but the quality was just dreadful. Still, I listened to a few old Sherlock Holmes dramas, but eventually tired of not being able to hear every fifth word.
But by now, I was hooked to audio storytelling.
So the next thing I did was hop on over to podiobooks.com to check out what fantasy novels were available to fill the void.
Tracy Falbe’s The Rys Chronicles has been on my TBR list for a few months. Sad to say, between doing reviews, writing, and other stuff, I’ve not gotten there yet. When I learnt that her first novel, Union of Renegades was being serialised as a podcast, well, I immediately took the plunge. As I write this short review, only the first eight chapters are available (though the ninth will likely be ready for download when this is published), so I do not currently have much to go on. I’ve been in email contact with Ms. Falbe and she’s promised to send me the rest of the audios as soon as possible so I can do a full review.
Anyhow, on to the review. When Amazon.com allows me to sample the first ten percent of a novel, I often fail as a reader to get a proper sense of things. Sometimes, the first ten percent is fantastic and the rest of the book falls apart. Sometimes, the opening is a bit underwhelming but the story comes good at about the fifteen, twenty, or thirty percent mark, and I realise how close I was to skipping an excellent adventure.
So, as I have listened to the first eight chapters of Union of Renegades, I have been trying to decide how far ahead I can project, and I have come to realise that, at the end of the day, I don’t have a single negative thing to say about the book thus far. The characters are engaging: flawed, troubled, and pathetic (which means I feel a great deal of sympathy and empathy for them–not that they are, well, rubbish). Dreibrand Veta and Miranda the slave are natural enemies flung together by circumstance and bad decision-making, and they agree to travel together for a time. That’s about the extent of the story so far, but it is the characterisation that keeps me coming back every Tuesday to download the next installment. They are just two wonderfully complex human beings, characters I feel I know from my own life. They aren’t cardboard cut-out clichés of the genre, but real people with real issues–and that includes being utterly brainless at times.
The audio quality is also fantastic. The podiobook was produced by DarkFire Productions and read by Chris Snelgrove. Admittedly, it took me a chapter or two to warm to Mr. Snelgrove’s style, but the man is a fine voice actor, slipping between feminine and masculine voices with ease, switching accents on the fly, and accentuating scenes with subtle shifts in tone, speed, and volume. While the characters already seem real to me, Mr. Snelgrove is like a one-man audio drama, and brings everything to life.
Again, this is simply an introductory review, but I wanted to get this out there to help raise a little awareness of Tracy Falbe’s novels. The books are no longer simply in my TBR pile; they have surged to the top of it, and I plan to dedicate my December to the reading of the series. Until then, I will certainly be visiting podiobooks every Tuesday to ensure I grab the next chapter of Union of Renegades.