Title: Chasing the Bard
Author: Philippa J. Ballantine
Genre: Alternate History/Fantasy
Released: 3 March 2008 – 11 August 2008
Located: Podiobooks, iTunes,Author’s site
Formats Available: Podcast, iPhone App, Kindle, and dead tree version through Dragon Moon Press (available at Amazon and other fine retailers)
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.) [recanted from Podcast Review #5: Weather Child]
Although I wrote the above introduction more than a month ago, and for a different podcast novel, it remains true and there isn’t much I could have done to improved upon it, so I didn’t try.
The intervening weeks have brought much change, and unfortunately, not all for the good. But more of that later. For now let me state that Chasing the Bard was the first full length story of Ms. Ballantine’s that I had listened to, and from the very beginning I was intrigued. I’ve always enjoyed historic fantasy that takes the world we live in and asks, “What if all those old faerie stories were true?” Chasing the Bard does a fair job of answering that question.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: Born into the human world with a gift; a gift that brings him to the attention of powers both dark and light from the World of the Fey, it is his burden to defend all the world.
Sive, the goddess of battle, hopes that he may be able to change the fate of her people.The Fey are dying, killed by something beyond the boundaries of worlds, and Sive will do anything to save them. So she enlists the help of her trickster cousin Puck to guard the child, and watch him grow into his gift. But a dark power imprisoned by human and Fey, plots to destroy both worlds, and unmake all that they have created.
Can one boy stop the destruction, even if he is William Shakespeare?
Production: I believe this was Ms. Ballantine’s first podcast novel for which she used a cast and a fair amount of production. In my opinion, the greatest compliment you could pay anyone in this situation is by saying, “I never would have known that.” And indeed, I never would have guessed that Chasing the Bard was the first story that she tried to produce at this level. All production values are well done and the story is easy to listen to with all the dramatic elements adding to the story, and none getting in the way. I also will make notice that I believe this is the last podcast for which she included a TSSF. (Silently doing a happy dance.)
Cast: Ms. Ballantine out did herself on this one. The cast page on her site lists fourteen separate voice talents for this piece of podio fiction. Every single one of them nailed their parts. More impressively (especially because I believe this was one of the first two I ever subscribed to and waited for the stories to drop), at least to me, is that not a single episode dropped late. Indeed, many of them were released early. How big of deal is this? Well, to me, not that big, as I really don’t mind waiting for a good story. BUT, I also can’t imagine the herculean task it would be to coordinate this many pieces of audio into a coherent story. Good show! I would be remiss however, if I didn’t point out that Will Shakespeare was voiced by Tee Morris, and truly, he made it his own.
Story: Chasing the Bard is an interesting mixture of history, fantasy, and delving into the historical fantasy that IS William Shakespeare. I quite enjoyed the way the story was laid out and the way it came together. Ms. Ballantine avoided most of the snares I’ve noticed many stories written in this genre stumbling upon. Namely, the overpowering need of the other to justify the actions of the character with the history. Please don’t misunderstand me, the history is very important, but if I were wanting a historical account, I would have paid more attention in class. Well, although that isn’t quite true (I loved history), I would look it up in a book. When I listen to fiction, it is to be entertained, not to be educated. Now if I get an education along the way, that is great, but when an author makes me feel like I’m back in the classroom, I walk away. Ms. Ballantine makes you feel the period and envision it denizens without ever wallowing in the history.
Verdict: Chasing the Bard was one of the first two books I ever purchased because of what the author gave to us for free. Ms. Ballantine continues to deliver content that I would gladly pay for and if you haven’t listened to CTB yet, you need to make time to do so.
Disclaimer: 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.
Aside: I’m stepping WAY out of format here and coming to you with my hat in my hand asking for your help. Ms. Ballantine’s frequent collaborator and I purpose best friend, Tee Morris, suffered a tragedy this week. His wife, Natalie Morris, passed away suddenly. Through the generosity of the podcasting community, many of the bills inherent in this situation have been covered. If you have donated, I thank you. Profusely and from the bottom of my heart.
However, Tee has a young daughter, Sonic Boom, that will now be relying on Tee solely for all her worldly and emotional needs. I know, absolutely and beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Tee is more than up to the task. However, I ask that we don’t make him go this alone. A ChipIn account was created by Ms. Ballantine in order to help her friend and to provide for Sonic Boom in the future. It is doing well, but in this case, too much is impossible. Can you help? You can donate here: http://teeandserena.chipin.com/sonic-booms-trust
Also, there will be an online charity auction to benefit Sonic Boom taking place on 27 February, 2010. If you care to donate an item or service, please do so at email@example.com. If you would rather bid, you can do that also at http://www.theboomeffect.org
Items are showing up regularly, so be sure to subscribe with your RSS catcher to make sure you find the item that catches your fancy. ALL money raised will be going to Sonic Boom’s future. Thanks again, and God bless you.