Guest blogger Colleen Seisser destructs in detail this dual narrator read fantasy.
In the dark and dour fantasy, Give the Dark My Love, alchemy is the ruling science. Nedra Brysstain, a poor young woman, wants to study medical alchemy, hoping to find a cure for a plague called the Wasting Death that is specifically targeting the poor, working class. When she is awarded a scholarship to the prestigious Yugen Academy–the only way she could study medical alchemy– she leaves her close-knit family for the city and becomes solely focused on her studies.
Nedra connects with fellow student Gregorri, as they are both mentored by the revered Master Ostrum (Gregorri’s star pupil before Nedra). Though Gregorri could have been jealous of Nedra’s accomplishments, much like all her other classmates, he is fascinated by her. Their budding relationship and Nedra’s studies are disrupted as the Wasting Death soon begins to spread rampantly to the rich ruling class. As Nedra races to find a cure, she watches everyone around her die and puts her ownself in harm’s way. But when she solves the biggest mystery as to the origin of the disease, she learns she must make an unthinkable sacrifice to end the unstoppable plague.
One of the things I appreciate most when listening to dual narrators is when each have similar accents or affects for their characters. Whether by great production cues or their own collaboration, this always elevates a listening experience by maintaining a good flow and not taking you out of the narration every time the narrators shift. Both Morrison and Mann use the same accents for the main characters: more of a rolling, rural accent for Nedra and a sharp, elite accent for Greggori. Additionally, the tones are similar too, where Greggori is more animated and haughty and Nedra is thoughtful and passionate.
While listening, I found myself specifically impressed by Mhairi Morrison’s interpretation of the text and expression of emotions. A good example is when Nedra and Greggori first meet. At first, Morrison is experimenting with Gregorri’s name, and as a listener you are unsure for a bit as to why the pronunciation sounds strange and different each time. A little later on in the text, Gregorri explains that Nedra says his name like Gray-Gor-Ri, elaborating …”she said my name slowly like tasting the syllables…” The narration and the text match up perfectly in this short scene. It’s a gem!
Truly it is Morrison’s emotional expressions that stand out in this production. Gregorri says this about Nedra: “…when she felt, she felt with all her heart…” and this is something I could hear through Morrison’s narration. Morrison’s range of emotions is admirable and spot-on when called for. She holds nothing back: screaming, crying out, soft sorrow, anger, and courageous exclamations especially impact listening in the more heart-wrenching scenes in the book’s latter half.
The main drawback to this listening experience, however, is that the plot begins to stall at the end of the story and, despite the narrators’ best efforts, it does not match pace from the beginning of the novel. Additionally, this mystery does a good job at dropping hints and revealing the villain, but other supporting characters could have either been fleshed out or pulled back, as some supporting characters do not seem to make much sense by the end of the novel. The original premise and stellar narration make this audiobook worth a listen, although the inconsistencies in storytelling may be a drawback for some.
Give the Dark My Love, by Beth Revis, read by Mhairi Morrison and Bruce Mann. 12 hours, 19 minutes. Listening Library, 2018.
Colleen Seisser is the Collection Services Manager at the Aurora Public Library in Aurora, IL. She is a current Board Member at Large on the YALSA Board of Directors and she also reviews audiobooks for Booklist Magazine. Colleen attributes ramping up her obsession with audiobooks from serving in various roles on YALSA’s Amazing Audiobooks for Young Adults Committee from 2012-15. She has been listening non-stop since then! When not listening, Colleen is either crafting, gardening, or jammin’ on her planner! Find her on Twitter @colleenTS81