LibriVox: At The Back Of The North Wind by George MacDonald

SFFaudio Online Audio

LibriVoxIt’s kind of a shame that this LibriVox edition of At The Back Of The North Wind is not wholly narrated by Meredith Hughes. She only reads the first three chapters. They are wonderfully narrated.

I happened across this audiobook whilst researching a stack of old hardcovers that I inherited from my grandmother. I must have read it at some point as the story is entirely familiar. But now, looking at it with adult eyes, the ideological argument it makes seems more quaint than persuasive. See, At The Back Of The North Wind is a theodicean Fantasy. It uses the personification of the “North Wind” to explain why evil exists in the world. As such it belongs on the bookshelf between two of C.S. Lewis’ books, The Problem Of Pain and The Lion,The Witch And The Wardrobe.

If you’re looking to get into some late 19th allegorical Fantasy, you probably couldn’t do much better than this wholesome story of what is essentially a gray witch and the good little boy she takes on a series of adventures.

Here’s the color plate from my paperbook edition (it depicts the Diamond, the little boy protagonist, and the North Wind (in the guise of a little girl):

From the 1956 Junior Deluxe Editions - At The Back Of The North Wind by George MacDonald - Illustrated by Colleen Browning

LIBRIVOX - A The Back Of The North Wind by George MacDonaldAt The Back Of The North Wind
By George MacDonald; Read by various
38 Zipped MP3 Files – Approx. 8 Hours 57 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Published: March 24, 2007
Diamond the little boy sleeps in the hayloft above the stall of Diamond the horse. The loft is snug but drafty, and after plugging a hole in the wall one night, Diamond is scolded by the beautiful Lady North Wind for closing her “window” into his room. Thus begins their friendship. Spirited away by the North Wind, Diamond embarks on a series of adventures both near to and far from his home. His pure heart and his simple, loving spirit guide him as he journeys to the back of the North Wind and home again. Originally serialized in 1868, beginning with the first issue of “Good Words For The Young” magazine.

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Posted by Jesse Willis

Review of The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale

SFFaudio Review

Fantasy Audiobook - The Goose Girl by Shannon HaleThe Goose Girl
By Shannon Hale; Performed by a Full Cast
10 CDs – 10 hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1932076727
Themes : / Fantasy / Magic / Horses / Animals /

When I finished listening to Shannon Hale’s The Goose Girl, I wanted to start the story again. I had read the fantasy novel in print form about two years before hearing it and Full Cast Audio brings the characters to life in spot-on performances which won’t disappoint fans of the novel.

The story of Ani, the Princess Anidora Kiladra, (Erica Lustig) is as intimate as if you were hearing the troubles of your best friend, while at the same time covering a sweeping political plot. Princess Ani is sent to a neighboring kingdom to marry a prince she has never met. On the way there, her handmaid conspires to have her killed and take over her identity as Princess. Ani narrowly escapes with her life and must struggle to regain her identity.

What makes this book really wonderful is that during this political struggle, Ani goes through a great deal of very real personal growth. You can see the insecure girl become a confidant young woman through the combined performance of Grace Gates (young Ani), Erica Lustig (Ani) and the compelling narrative. Even if you have already read The Goose Girl, pick up a copy of the audio; it is well-worth the listen.

Posted by Mary Robinette Kowal

Review of Wild Magic (The Immortals, Book 1) by Tamora Pierce

Fantasy Audiobooks - Wild Magic by Tamora PierceWild Magic (The Immortals, Book 1)
by Tamora Pierce, read by Full Cast Audio
8 CDs – 8 Hours [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Full Cast Audio
Published: 2005
ISBN: 1932076832
Themes: / Fantasy / Magic / Wizardry / Youth / Magical Creatures / Horses /

In Wild Magic’s Book One: The Immortals, Tamora Pierce has created a cast of strong women and made a world in which they fit naturally. The whole book takes place from the point of view of Diane (Carmen Viviano-Crafts), a young girl escaping from a dark secret in the highlands. Daine hires on with a horsetrader, Ouna (Raquel Starace) How delightful to meet a female horsetrader in a fantasy novel. Too often, such strong female characters overplay their roles but each of the characters in Wild Magic seems balanced and very real. So it troubles me that I felt like Ms. Pierce was playing games by withholding information that Daine surely knew, especially because she does such a delightful job at inviting me into Daine’s thoughts.

I do not mind the tension she tried to create by keeping Daine’s “dark secret” from me at the beginning, but after a time, it began to wear on me. I spent chapters hearing Daine’s thoughts about how she had to escape her past, without ever knowing what that past was. I finally discovered that she had gone mad and was afraid that it would happen again. Once I knew that, I was able to really worry with Daine. But poor Daine wouldn’t tell her friends what was bothering her. While I can understand her reluctance, as the book continued she was given no reason to continue hiding her secret and plenty of reasons to ask for help. When she finally does reveal her past in all its gory detail, Numair the Mage, basically says, “Oh, well I can fix that.” And does, in two sentences.

So, after all of that build up, Daine’s problem is solved with, almost literally, the wave of a magic wand.

In a similar vein, I listened to paragraphs of buildup as something was attacking the band of travellers over the water without having a clue about what it was. I knew everyone was preparing for an attack. I knew people were frightened, but I had no idea why. It turned out to be a gryphon that Daine was able to befriend.

With that said, the world of Wild Magic is fascinating. I am curious about which of the threads in this volume will carry over to the next books. Many of the scenes were resonant with emotion, I just wish I hadn’t had to guess what was happening in so many of the others.

Full Cast Audio does a fantastic job of bringing Ms. Pierce’s book to audio life. In particular, I need to note Daniel Bostick who played Numair the Mage. His voice built pictures in my head every time his character spoke.

Posted by Mary Robinette Kowal