A Trio of Fantasy Audio Books!

Three more Books on CD to recommend for car trips!

* * *

Tunnels, by Roderick Gordon
Narrated by Steven Crossley
12 CDs; 13.5 Hours

Will Burrows is a rather odd kid. He spends much of his free time with his father, digging. Digging what? Tunnels. They’ve currently uncovered an old Victorian train station, and are excavating it for treasures…old bottles, posters, even clothing from the turn of the century. Because of his strange hobby and the time he spends with his father, Will doesn’t have many friends…in fact there’s only one: Chester Rawls, who is as much of an outcast at school as Will himself is.

When Dr. Burrows disappears, and the tunnel he was working on is filled in, Will is determined to discover what is going on. His mother and sister Rebecca are worried, but all they can think to do is call the police. Will is determined to do something himself. With Chester at his side, Will starts digging. He has no idea of what he will find.  He never expects it to be a whole underground world though, full of strange people.

Thrown in prison by the nasty Styx, it looks like Will and Chester are doomed. But then, Will is told that he is a missing child from the underground world. Is it true?  Will Will join his new family, and forget both his father and Chester? Or will he endanger himself to dig a way out?

This is a very long story (and it currently has four sequels, each just as long!) Even though it seems to be never-ending, it is well worth listening to. The narrator has a very interesting voice, and does a great job making the characters sound different. I also enjoyed listening to the British accent. The end does leave you hanging though, so you better be willing to invest some serious time in finding out how Will’s adventures go!

Tunnels is a good book on CD to give to a boy who enjoyed Harry Potter and is looking for something a little older. It is a bit more violent than I expected, but it is part of the culture of The Colony. Because of the violence, I’d be careful giving it to anyone younger than fifth grade.

* * *

The Magic Thief, by Sara Prineas
Narrated by Greg Steinbruner
7 CDs, 7.75 Hours

Conn is on his own in the worst part of the city; a street urchin with no real home. When he picks the pocket of a seemingly wealthy man, he’s launched into a world he never knew existed. The man, Nevery Flinglas, is a wizard, and Conn has just stolen a dangerous magic talisman.

Nevery catches Conn before he can actually escape. At first, Nevery is simply curious. How could a simple street thief survive the powerful magic that should have killed him with one touch? Conn agrees to come live in Nevery’s musty old mansion–he’ll teach the wizard how to pick locks, if Nevery will teach him magic.  Soon, Conn is working as a spy as well as an apprentice, and discovers that  Nevery has some very dangerous enemies, as well as a duty to discover who is stealing all the magic in the land.

Can a fledgling wizard and an elderly wizard work together to uncover the secret of where all the magic is going? Even though he doesn’t always see eye-to-eye with the wizard, Conn is determined to try!

I really enjoyed this CD. The story is very atmospheric, and the descriptions are wonderful. Conn is an appealing character–and he has a secret. Nevery is a crotchety old wizard, who is also holding something back. Though their partnership is fraught with misunderstandings, with hard work and a little luck, they may muddle through.

The Magic Thief is the first in a trilogy about Conn, but stands alone. The sequels, however, tell Conn’s whole story. The books are accessible to a good third grade reader, but are aimed at the 4th to 6th grade readers. The CDs might work for fans of the first two Harry Potter books who aren’t quite ready to face the Dementors and an older Harry’s troubles.

* * *

The Princess Academy, by Shannon Hale
Read by Laura Credidio and The Full Cast Family
8 CDs, 7 Hours, 21 Minutes

Miri lives on Mount Eskel, where there’s nothing to do by mine linder stone. It’s a hard life, but the villagers know almost nothing else. Miri wishes she could join them all in the quarries, but her father will not allow it. Miri is ashamed that her father thinks that, even at fourteen, she is too small, too weak to help.

When the King’s messenger arrives to tell the villagers of Mount Eskel that it has been foretold that the new bride of Prince Stephan will be one of the girls living on the mountain, everyone is thrown into confusion.  The messenger goes on to say that all the eligible girls will be taken away to live in an academy where they will learn reading, manners,  etiquette, commerce and more.

Although the villagers are concerned (who will help with all the work? Will they mine enough linder to survive without the twenty girls sent to the Princess Academy?) they finally consent. The girls walk the three hour journey through the mountains to their new home.

Life at the Princess Academy is difficult. Tutor Olana is a harsh teacher, and believes in strict discipline and punishment for even the most minor faults. In defending her classmates, Miri finds herself constantly at odds with both Olana and the other girls. When the snows come, the girls are stuck at the Academy for the winter.

Miri discovers new courage over the winter, and is surprised at how strong she really is. Will she manage to overcome all the obstacles in her way to become the Academy Princess? Or will the danger lurking in the mountains overcome everything the girls have learned?

I loved this CD! Full Cast Audio CDs have different actors and actresses speaking the parts of the characters, with one narrator telling the story. It’s a much easier way to listen to a book on CD, as there is rarely confusion about who is saying what. It’s also nice to have a range of voices to listen to.

Miri’s story is exciting and dangerous, but there’s friendship and a little romance thrown in too. As well as trying to work hard to be the best, Miri is also trying to find her place in the world.  The Princess Academy is a great story for kids in fourth through eighth grade. Although it will most likely appeal most to girls, if you can get boys to listen despite the title, they should enjoy it just as much!

::Kelly::

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