Camrose Public Library

Audio File Episode 7: Embrace the Fantasy

April 23, 2022 Camrose Public Library Season 4 Episode 7
Camrose Public Library
Audio File Episode 7: Embrace the Fantasy
Show Notes Transcript

Hello and welcome to Audio File, a Camrose Public Library Podcast series. On this podcast, we recommend audiobooks that are truly music to the ears and available right here at CPL. Today’s episode will be focusing on audiobooks that are part of the fantasy genre. This means anything from enchanted circuses to ancient, magical societies is fair game. All the chosen audiobooks are categorized as adult fantasy. Thanks for listening!

Narrator 00:03
Hello everyone and welcome to Audio File, a Camrose Public Library Podcast series. On this podcast, we recommend audiobooks that are truly music to the ears and available right here at CPL. Today’s episode will be focusing on audiobooks that are part of the fantasy genre. This means anything from enchanted circuses to ancient, magical societies is fair game. All the chosen audiobooks are categorized as adult fantasy. Let’s get to it!

Our first pick is The City of Brass by S. A. Chakraborty. Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of eighteenth-century Cairo, she's a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trades she uses to get by are all tricks, both the means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles and a reliable way to survive.

But when Nahri accidentally summons Dara, an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior, to her side during one of her cons, she's forced to reconsider her beliefs. For Dara tells Nahri an extraordinary tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire and rivers where the mythical marid sleep, past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises and mountains where the circling birds of prey are more than what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass—a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

All too soon, Nahri learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences. After all, there is a reason they say to be careful what you wish for . . .

The City of Brass was named one of the best books of the year by Library Journal, Vulture, The Verge, and SYFYWire. This is all the more impressive when you know that this is Chakraborty’s debut novel.  To quote the Kirkus review of the City of Brass, “Chakraborty has constructed a compelling yarn of personal ambition, power politics, racial and religious tensions, strange magics, and terrifying creatures, culminating in a cataclysmic showdown that few readers will anticipate.” The story isn’t perfect: there are some character inconsistencies and some plot elements peter out, but the pros outweigh the cons by a wide margin.

The 2017 Harper Audio production of The City of Brass is read by Soneela Nankani. Nankani is a classically trained Brooklyn-based actress. She has performed at many prestigious theaters and is an ensemble member of the award-winning Sojourn Theatre. In addition, Nankani has worked in film and television and has narrated over 60 audiobooks. She also holds an MFA in Acting from Columbia University. 

To quote the Audio File review of The City of Brass, “Nahri's utter confusion at the strange new world she finds herself in, as well as her determination to survive, is perfectly portrayed by Nankani. Delight and hope occur less frequently, but Nankani makes them shine when they do. In a parallel storyline, Nankani gives voice to the poisonous world of palace intrigue and political machinations swirling around idealistic Prince Alizayd. When the two finally meet, Nankani ratchets up the tension, pulling the listener along to the inevitable bloody, heartrending conclusion.”

If you’re looking for an epic fantasy inspired by Middle Eastern mythology, try The City of Brass. 

Our next pick is Under the Whispering Door by T. J. Klune. Welcome to Charon's Crossing. The tea is hot, the scones are fresh, and the dead are just passing through. When a reaper comes to collect Wallace from his own funeral, Wallace begins to suspect he might be dead. And when Hugo, the owner of a peculiar tea shop, promises to help him cross over, Wallace decides he's definitely dead.

But even in death he's not ready to abandon the life he barely lived, so when Wallace is given one week to cross over, he sets about living a lifetime in seven days. Hilarious, haunting, and kind, Under the Whispering Door is an uplifting story about a life spent at the office and a death spent building a home.

Under the Whispering Door is a New York Times, USA today, and indie bestseller as well as an Indie Next Pick. It’s also a 2021 LibraryReads Favorite, one of Book Riot’s “20 Must-Read Feel-Good Fantasies”, a 2021 Alex Award winner, and one of Publishers Weekly’s “Most Anticipated Books of Spring 2020”. To liken it to other stories, it’s marketed as “A Man Called Ove” meets “The Good Place” with a delightful queer love story. The Washington Post finds it to be “a witty, wholesome fantasy that’s likely to cause heart-swelling”. Though if your heart does begin to change shape while listening to this audiobook, please consult a doctor right away. 

The 2021 Macmillan Audio production of Under the Whispering Door is ready by Kirt Graves. Kirt Graves spent 15 years teaching young people how to interpret drama, poetry, and literature. He has voiced over 100 audiobooks spanning contemporary romance, sci-fi, urban fantasy, young adult, and non-fiction. His passion is for telling queer stories, the types of stories he wishes he had while growing up. A tenor by training, Graves easily moves between characters of any age, genre, and gender. In addition to his work as an audiobook narrator, Graves is a graphic artist, a podcast host, and an award-winning speech coach.
To quote the Audio File review of Under the Whispering Door, "Narrator Kirt Graves strikes just the right notes in this thoughtful exploration of grief, life, and the afterlife . . . Graves matches his narrative pace to the measured unwinding of the story's layers, focused but unhurried, in the same way that Hugo brews his therapeutic cups of tea." 
If you’re looking for a fantastical love story from beyond the grave, try Under the Whispering Door. 

Our third pick is The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them, this is a game in which only one can be left standing, and the circus is but the stage for a remarkable battle of imagination and will. Despite themselves, however, Celia and Marco tumble headfirst into love—a deep, magical love that makes the lights flicker and the room grow warm whenever they so much as brush hands.

True love or not, the game must play out, and the fates of everyone involved, from the cast of extraordinary circus performers to the patrons, hang in the balance, suspended as precariously as the daring acrobats overhead.
The Night Circus is a winner of the Alex Award and the Listen Up Award. It was also a candidate for the 2011 Guardian First Book Award and spent seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list, reaching number two on the hardcover fiction list. The cast is colorful and intriguing and the setting is a huge highlight with Morgenstern’s writing really bringing all the intricate details to life. 

The 2011 Penguin Random House Audio production of The Night Circus is read by Jim Dale. Dale is an English actor, composer, director, narrator, singer and songwriter. Dale has also received multiple awards for his audiobook narration. During Queen Elizabeth II's 2003 Royal Birthday Honours, Jim Dale was named an MBE (Member of the Order of the British Empire) for narrating the (then) five Harry Potter audiobooks and "promoting English children's literature." 

On a more plebian plane, he's also the Guinness World Record holder for Most Character Voices in an Audiobook—for the 134 different beings he portrayed in HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX . Furthermore, the audiobooks Dale has been involved with have been nominated for Grammy Awards— HARRY POTTER AND THE GOBLET OF FIRE won in 2000 for Best Spoken Word Album for Children—and Audie Awards—in 2004 ORDER OF THE PHOENIX won the Audie for Children's Title for Ages 8+ as well as Audiobook of the Year. Later on, the Harry Potter series was the first recipient of the Audio Publishers Association Hall of Fame Award. AudioFile magazine has honored the series with numerous Earphone Awards, lauding his performances as bewitching, astonishing, brilliant, peerless. 
In short, the man is a pretty big deal and his performance in the Night Circus is another example of his incredible skill. I mean, the Audio File review of his performance says it all: “Jim Dale is his own one-man wonder. Dale makes palpable the sights and smells of the mysterious night circus, guiding us with his familiar voice and ensuring we never miss a fantastical detail. He's especially adept at creating distinct accents for the illusionists, fortune-tellers, contortionists, réveurs, and other circus denizens who make up the extensive cast of characters; twins Poppet and Widget are special favorites. The book's chapters jump back and forth in time and switch point of view, which can be confusing for even attentive listeners, but for those wanting to immerse themselves in the world of Le Cirque des Réves, the audio journey is magical, indeed.”

If you’re looking for a sumptuous, fantasy experience brimming with ambiance, try The Night Circus.

Our next pick is The Fifth Season by N. K. Jemisin. At the end of the world, a woman must hide her secret power and find her kidnapped daughter in this "intricate and extraordinary” novel of power, oppression, and revolution.

This is the way the world ends. . . for the last time. It starts with the great red rift across the heart of the world's sole continent, spewing ash that blots out the sun. It starts with death, with a murdered son and a missing daughter. It starts with betrayal, and long dormant wounds rising up to fester.

This is the Stillness, a land long familiar with catastrophe, where the power of the earth is wielded as a weapon. And where there is no mercy.
The Fifth Season won the Hugo award in 2016 and both of its sequels also won the Hugo awards in the years they were published. NPR wrote that "Jemisin brilliantly illustrates the belief that, yes, imaginative world-building is a vital element of fantasy—but also that every character is a world unto herself." TriStar Pictures won the rights to the trilogy in a seven-figure deal in 2021 so an adaptation to film is on the horizon. 

The 2015 Hachette Audio production of The Fifth Season is read by Robin Miles. Miles is an American actor, casting director, audiobook narrator and audiobook director. Miles has acted in Broadway shows and on TV shows including Law & Order and Murder by Numbers. She is best known for her over 300 audiobook narrations and narration director work for which she has won numerous awards including Audie Awards, AudioFile Golden Voice, and Earphone Awards.

To quote the Audio File review: “Robin Miles has an affinity for the three female narrators, who have varying points of view and distinct personalities and challenges. Her relaxed style helps to move along the world-building explication at a good pace and contrasts with the more intense segments in which she draws out the suspense and drama. Her sparing use of accents emphasizes the outsider status of some of the characters.” 
If you’re looking for a brutal but compelling adventure, try The Fifth Season. 

Our fifth pick is The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson. Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter.

It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them.
One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable.
Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled by over-powering visions of ancient times and the Knights Radiant, he has begun to doubt his own sanity.

Across the ocean, an untried young woman named Shallan seeks to train under an eminent scholar and notorious heretic, Dalinar's niece, Jasnah. Though she genuinely loves learning, Shallan's motives are less than pure. As she plans a daring theft, her research for Jasnah hints at secrets of the Knights Radiant and the true cause of the war. Together, their perspectives make up the Way of Kings. 

The Way of Kings is a dense and massive New York Times Bestseller that is the first in a planned 10-part series. The series is known as the Stormlight Archive. There isn’t much of a conclusion to this volume, but the world-building and action should be enough to keep fantasy fans invested in seeing what more is to come. 

The 2010 Macmillan Audio production of The Way of Kings is read by Michael Kramer and Kate Reading. Audiobook veteran Michael Kramer has recorded more than 100 audio titles for trade publishers, and many more for the Library of Congress Talking Books program. Kramer is skilled at doing different accents as well as characterizing speakers in distinct ways so that you can always tell who’s talking, even without the text confirming it. Kate Reading is an Audie Award–winning narrator who has recorded hundreds of titles in many genres. She has received numerous Earphone Awards from AudioFile magazine, in addition to being named Narrator of the Year and Best Voice in Science Fiction and Fantasy. She has been recognized as Reader of the Year by Publishers Weekly and has appeared on Booklist's 2019 Top of the List for the American Library Association. A fun fact is that this duo is actual a married couple. They record at their home studio in Maryland, known as Madison Productions.

These two are known for doing some of the biggest book series in Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Apart from the Stormlight Archive, they also narrate the Wheel of Time series and Kramer is the narrator for Sanderson’s Mistborn series. They are, in short, the real deal, and their performances for the Way of Kings are skillful and having two voices helps make the large cast of characters easier to identify. 

If you’re looking for a very long, very epic fantasy, try The Way of Kings.  

Our last pick is The Atlas Six by Olivie Blake. The Alexandrian Society, caretakers of lost knowledge from the greatest civilizations of antiquity, are the foremost secret society of magical academicians in the world. Those who earn a place among the Alexandrians will secure a life of wealth, power, and prestige beyond their wildest dreams, and each decade, only the six most uniquely talented magicians are selected to be considered for initiation.
Enter the latest round of six: Libby Rhodes and Nico de Varona, unwilling halves of an unfathomable whole, who exert uncanny control over every element of physicality. Reina Mori, a naturalist, who can intuit the language of life itself. Parisa Kamali, a telepath who can traverse the depths of the subconscious, navigating worlds inside the human mind. Callum Nova, an empath easily mistaken for a manipulative illusionist, who can influence the intimate workings of a person's inner self. Finally, there is Tristan Caine, who can see through illusions to a new structure of reality—an ability so rare that neither he nor his peers can fully grasp its implications.

When the candidates are recruited by the mysterious Atlas Blakely, they are told they will have one year to qualify for initiation, during which time they will be permitted preliminary access to the Society's archives and judged based on their contributions to various subjects of impossibility: time and space, luck and thought, life and death. Five, they are told, will be initiated. One will be eliminated. The six potential initiates will fight to survive the next year of their lives, and if they can prove themselves to be the best among their rivals, most of them will. Most of them.

The Atlas Six was originally self-published in 2020 and was then picked up by Tor is 2021. This edition of the book has been revised and edited from its original publication. The print version is also illustrated and 2022 is the first time it’s been available in audio format. This book has been something of a sensation on the internet, specifically on BookTok. BookTok is the book-related corner of the short-form, video-sharing app TikTok. In fact, the tag #theatlassix has millions of views on TikTok. While it might sound odd to those not familiar with TikTok, the app has been responsible for causing huge spikes in popularity for books both new and old and can’t be overlooked as a marketing tool, especially for independent authors. This is the first in a planned trilogy and it will be interesting to see if the sequel is as explosive as this first book has been.    

The 2022 Macmillan Audio production of the Atlas Six is read by Andy Ingalls, Caitlin Kelly, Damian Lynch, David Monteith, James Patrick Cronin, Munirih Grace, Siho Ellsmore, and Steve West. That’s right, we have an entire cast to bring these magicians to life. The audio history behind the cast varies, but there are some standouts. Caitlin Kelly, for example. As an audiobook narrator, Kelly has won Earphone Awards from Audiofile Magazine and a 2018 Audie Award nomination for her work on New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson. Kelly has worked with Hachette Audio, Audible Studios, MacMillan Audio, Brilliance Audio, Harper Audio, and many other production studios. She has accent proficiency in Standard American, American (Southern, NY), British RP, British (London, Bristol), Irish, French, and Russian. 
James Patrick Cronin is another standout. Cronin has narrated hundreds of audiobooks, been an Audie Award finalist multiple times, a Voice Arts Award nominee, and Earphones Award Winner in 2016. He flows between non-fiction and fiction, YA and adult content with ease. The whole cast comes together to create a fantastic audio experience. 

If you’re looking for dark academia tinged with magic, try The Atlas Six. 

That’s it for this episode of Audio File. All the audiobooks discussed are available at Camrose Public Library in audio CD or downloadable audio format at the time of this recording. Thanks very much for listening and remember to stay curious.