G.A. Henty books have long been a staple in our homeschool "diet." My husband and 10-year-old son especially enjoy these exciting and highly accurate historical volumes, and The Dragon and the Raven is at the top of their list. So when I was given the opportunity to review an MP3 audio recording of this great book narrated by Jim Hodges, I was thrilled. Many times my son will listen to a book-on-tape during quiet time, so he was also happy to have one of his favorite books on audio.
For clarity, I will review this product in two parts--first the book itself, then the MP3. And I will use the terms "Dane" and "Viking" interchangeably.
The Dragon and the Raven, written by G.A. Henty and originally published in 1885, is a riveting recounting of the Vikings' invasion of England and France (849-899) during the days of King Alfred. This was a period of great unrest and upheaval in England's long history--and one of many fierce battles between the Saxons (the defenders) and the Danes (the invaders) in the eighth and ninth centuries.
The main character is Edmund, a young man of noble birth who shows great courage, intelligence, and loyalty throughout the story. At the beginning of the saga, he is a boy of fourteen who loses his father in a bloody battle against the Danes in East Anglia. But despite great danger, he and his kinsman Egbert make their way to Wessex, where Edmund becomes a thane to Alfred.
Through the ensuing years, Edmund displays great valor and wisdom as he helps King Alfred fight the barbaric Vikings in his homeland. Eventually, he also builds a ship called "The Dragon" and frequently bests the Danes in sea battles. As a Christian, he also shows compassion to his enemies and victims, and he does not take "vengeance on a defenceless [sic] foe." In fact, during one of his sea victories, he earns the respect and friendship of the wounded Viking leader, Jarl Seigbert, and his daughter Freda when he does not kill them just because he has the opportunity. The remainder of the book covers several action-packed years in which Edmund continues to defend his homeland and also vies for the hand of the lovely Freda.
Jim Hodges has done an excellent job of bringing Henty's book to life. He has a clear and pleasant voice, and I really like the way he uses expression and vocal inflections to emphasize each character's dialogue. These inflections are subtle, not distracting or irritating, as some narrations can be. And although there are no background effects or music, none are needed.
The story flows along at a comfortable pace, and the listener is immediately drawn into the story. The recording is professional sounding and of high quality. Mr. Hodges is a first-rate storyteller--not to mention an excellent judge of fine literature that is worthy to be captured on audio. A living book in living sound--well done!
The MP3 recording is unabridged and lasts seven hours, forty minutes. However, the disc will only play on a computer CD drive, a DVD player, or an MP3 compatible CD player. It will not play on a standard CD player. But Mr. Hodges does offer regular CD recordings of his readings as well. The cost of the MP3 (on his website) is $25.00, and I think the product is well worth the money. In fact, I want to get more of Mr. Hodges's recordings to add to our homeschool audio collection, especially since we want to foster good listening skills as part of our children's education. Having the child follow along in the book as he or she listens to the audio is also a valuable idea!
For more information about Mr. Hodges and his available recordings (or more about G.A. Henty), you can visit Jim's website at www.hentybooksontape.com. This MP3 recording of The Dragon and The Raven is definitely a keeper in this homeschool, and I highly recommend this audio resource to other homeschoolers--especially those who have a love of history, fine literature, and great storytelling. You won't be disappointed!