Title: The Guild of the Cowry Catchers, Book 1: Embers
Author: Abigail Hilton
Released: 5 December 2009 – 18 February 2010
Located: Podibooks, iTunes, Author’s Site
Formats Available: Podcast only at this point
Rating: R for violence and sexual situations
Sometimes fate conspires for you. During the middle of my NanoWriMo series on Nathan Lowell, I decided to try a new podcast. One I had only remotely heard of. I didn’t even know who the author was. Just a title. That title was The Guild of the Cowry Catchers. I downloaded the available eps and away I went.
So, on to the review.
Synopsis: Among the querulous island kingdoms of Wefrivain, the only unifying power is religion – a wyvern cult ruled by an eccentric High Priestess. The system is under attack by a gang of pirates called the Guild of the Cowry Catchers who prey on Temple treasure ships. The Temple Police charged with eradicating this menace keep disappearing.
Enter Gerard, a young prince, exiled from his small kingdom for rashly marrying the court minstrel. He has been chosen by the High Priestess as the new captain of Police. Gerard is smart, honorable, and a little naive. To break the pirate ring, he must cooperate with a wily, amoral colleague, who has already tried to kill him twice. As Gerard struggles to protect his talented wife, obey his seductive employer, and forge a complicated friendship with his dangerous co-worker, he becomes increasingly aware that the pirates have a legitimate quarrel with the wyverns. Dark secrets lurk in the Temple dungeons, and solving them will cost Gerard far more than his honor.
The Guild of the Cowry Catchers is a fullcast audio experience featuring the voices of Nathan Lowell, Norm Sherman, Kim the Comic Book Goddess, Chris Lester, Kimi Alexander, and many more. Cowry Catchers is also an illustrated podcast, with high quality watercolor illustrations available on the website. You may remember Abigail Hilton’s first series, the Prophet of Panamindorah. Cowry Catchers is a darker, grittier story set in the same world. It is not for children. Subscribe, and experience a Panamindorah you’ve never heard before. (Stolen from Podiobooks.com)
Production: Whenever I begin a podcast I’ve never heard of, I try to go in with an open mind and no preconceptions. However, if I’m guilty of any one stereotype, it is my expectation of subpar production by an author I haven’t heard of. How arrogant can I get? Ms. Hilton might have been unknown to me, but she produces a podcast most masterfully. I will try to keep this in mind when I listen to the next unknown (to me) author. This is also Ms. Hilton’s second series of stories from what I gather, the first, by her metaconversation admission was a young adult series set in the same universe. I should, and will, listen to that first set to establish growth.
Cast: Full Cast. And what a cast. Rather than try to list them all, i’ve provided a cast link to the author’s website. However, the lead voice talent is Nathan Lowell. This was not intentional. I had no idea. Really. But seriously, if you have a podcast novel that you’re producing and you can get Mr. Lowell. You’d be silly not to. Chris Lester and Dan Sawyer also do a terrific job. However, the best performance from a talent unknown to me (read that caveat closely) is Norm Sherman. I’ll be watching for him in the future.
Story: This is a fantasy pure and simple. It takes place on a different world, and although the characters are humanoid, there is not a human in the entire story. Whenever I read/hear a story that contains no human species, I am reminded how easy it is to point out flaws in the human character when using nonhumans without stepping on anyone’s toes and without becoming preachy. Ms. Hilton does a good job of inserting thought provoking commentary on the human condition without interrupting a very good story. This is a story of gods that may or may not be normal and their meddling with their mortal instruments. Blind devotion becomes wary introspection.
Verdict: I have only one complaint about The Guild of the Cowry Catchers. But before I share, let me state, this is an adult story. Ms. Hilton does state this repetitively. It doesn’t start out as such, but you don’t want immature listeners getting hooked only to yank it away or to expose them to something you would prefer not to. That being said, my issue is that the Guild seems to be comprised of 5 books. Only books one and two are currently produced. Each one is more the length of a novella than of a full blown novel, and they don’t end nicely. If you listen, and I do encourage you to, I would also encourage you to keep them on your harddrive because I believe you will probably have to relisten to a couple of eps minimum before the next “book” begins.
Disclosure: I’ve never met Ms. Hilton, virtually or otherwise. I do not follow her on Twitter and to the best of my knowledge, she doesn’t follow me. Although I am quite a fan of many of the voice talent, not a single one shared their involvement (shame on you, lol).