As I recounted in PR#1, I started listening to fiction podcasts with a story by Tee Morris. This led me to see if he had anything else available. He did. Morevi: Remastered. One of the principal talents in this podcast was Philippa J. Ballantine. I went on to discover she was also an author and podcaster, and she had a very good story of her own available. Namely Chasing the Bard. (Later, I found out that Weaver’s Web, her very first podcast novel is also available.)
At the end of 2008, I had recently finished listening to both of the above named podcasts and was eager to find something to fill in the holes. This “filling in of holes” actually seems to happen to me quite often as one or another of the podcasts I am listening to always seem to be ending. (I’m still hoping for that one really good book and/or podcast that never ends.) I am always hopeful that I’ll stumble upon something that will be at least as good as whatever I was listening to previously.
In this case, I didn’t think that was very likely as the two mentioned podcasts are two of my favorite stories to date, and I really was sad to see them end. Luckily, as timing would have it, in February of 2009, Ms. Ballantine began releasing Weather Child as a serialized podcast.
Before beginning the review, I will admit that I had been anxiously awaiting Weather Child from the first time I heard Ms. Ballantine describe it. I am enamored with lands and environments that I am unfamiliar with, and Weather Child takes place in New Zealand, a place that I’ve never been, but am anxious to visit. Interestingly, the setting of the story has affected the story in the “real world”. Ms. Ballantine had shopped it around to the major publishers and was told that U.S. readers wouldn’t be interested in a novel taking place in New Zealand. Truthfully, when I heard this, I was aghast. Ms. Ballantine fits in the very rarified category of “interested in anything she does” for me. So how much are we as readers missing out on by some blind New York publishers?
So, on to the review.
Synopsis (Stolen from Podibooks.com): Step back in time and sideways into an alternate world, where magicians and seraphim are found only on the shores of the Long White Cloud. Between two world wars, Jack and Faith find themselves unravelling a conspiracy to turn the Awakened children of Aoteroa to dark purposes.
Production: Phillipa J. Ballantine has been podcasting for a while now and is actually used as voice talent on a number of podcasts. Weather Child was her third podcast novel and her production skills have risen with each one. The production of Weather Child is simply beautiful with music and sound effects that add to important scenes and are never extraneous. Ms. Ballantine has a wonderful flair for the dramatic (and yes, I do mean that as a positive) that is shown through the production. Each element is painstakingly and precisely placed to good effect.
AND… Weather Child was the FIRST podcast novel I had listened to that COMPLETELY did away with The Story So Far (extra points awarded) and proved to me that TSSF is indeed unnecessary.
Cast: According to the Weather Child cast page, there are five voice talents in Weather Child. Each one is used effectively, but for the most part, Weather Child is a narrative and is beautifully shared by the author. The principal male talent is Tee Morris. Ms. Ballantine and Mr. Morris are old friends, and whenever they podcast together, it is always worth a listen. (As I know Chris Lester, P.G. Holyfield, and Dan Sawyer (others?) have all ready discovered.)
Story: Weather Child is a beautiful and deeply personal story. Ms. Ballantine has drawn from her own family history to flesh out some of the characters, and it is an investment that is palpable. I love a well done historical fantasy, and Weather Child is very well done indeed. This is a story that exudes pain and sorrow, but never loses faith in the possibility of redemption. It is a dark tail, and not one I would suggest for young children. However, it also one of my very favorite stories of any time, in any genre. And I am woefully despondent because I can’t purchase a dead tree version. (yet? Still hopeful.)
Verdict: Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Weather Child sucks. Yep, it has sucked the pleasure of any lesser story dry. Honestly though, Weather Child is a MUST LISTEN, my highest rating.
My wife, who does not listen to podcasts (she has a 2 minute commute and we have a toddler) grew tired of my incessant raving about Weather Child and decided to give it a listen a couple of months back. It was great fun to see her immersed in the story that I so loved. She asked hopefully upon finishing, “Is there going to be a sequel?”
I have also coerced several other non-podcast loving acquaintances to give it a listen as well. To date, I have received 100% positive feedback.
Philippa Jane Ballantine, known and loved as Pip, was the second person I followed on Twitter (@philippajane). She is a wonderful and warm person with an amazing capacity to care across miles (or kilometers) of ocean. She is one of my best friends. However, I received nothing in return for this review, and if anything had been offered, I would have refused.
As an aside, Ms. Ballantine has been awarded a contract for two novels with ACE Publishing and is finishing her second novel for them now. As part of her book deal with ACE, they have right of first refusal on all of her catalog, so it is possible (and for me very hopeful) that Weather Child might still see a big house, U.S. publishing.
Next: Nathan Lowell’s Quarter Share