I realized last year that my auditory ADD (yes, that’s a real thing) didn’t prevent me from listening to audiobooks entirely, I just needed a really, really good narrator telling a really, really good story.
That’s all. No big.
But I enjoyed the series that taught me this lesson (Chuck Wendig’s AFTERMATH) enough that I was willing to put in the effort of finding similarly good series with good narrators.
I knew it wouldn’t be easy . . . I knew there would be disappointments . . .
I didn’t know that after putting forth all that effort, after finding the rare unicorns that were both awesome stories and awesomely narrated that the (apparently) strange and capricious narrator gods would change narrators mid-series.
*throws head back and shrieks with rage*
I’ve discovered—after much trial and error—that narration is in fact an ART.
It’s more than a non-irritating voice reading any given story keeping up a reasonabley good flow, and when you’re listening to a series of books, changing narrators can be more than a minor disruption.
Take, for instance, A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES (ACOTAR) by Sarah J. Maas.
Book bff (who has Maas issues b/c intractable when it comes to ships) agreed to read ACOTAR #2 and #3 before the next book (which is actually some kind of a bridge between the main trilogy and future spinoffs) is released in May, but refused to read ACOTAR #1 b/c aforementioned broken ship.
This is kind of a Big Deal, b/c she’d previously refused to read them at all, and ACOTAR is currently my favorite fantasy series. The plan was we’d (re)read them together, b/c buddy-reads-are-the-best.
So she started reading ACOTAR #2 before I had a chance to reread ACOTAR #1. <———I don’t jump into rereads mid-series, that’s CRAZY.
Which was a problem, b/c ACOTAR #1 is the weakest book in the series (pre-character growth MC is hella annoying), and I was having a hard time getting into it.
You: But Book Bff was already a book ahead of you!
Me: I KNOW.
You: What did you do?
Me: I . . . wait for it . . . decided to try the audiobook.
Originally, I didn’t plan for my entire reread (re . . . listen? O.o) to be the audiobook version, but IT WAS SO GOOD.
The narrator (Jennifer Ikeda) was amazing. The heroine that had driven me crazy during my first read of ACOTAR (and several previous reread attempts) was suddenly . . . significantly less annoying. And the parts that still annoyed me didn’t have a chance to bog me down, b/c someone else was reading, so I literally could not dwell.
But it was more than that. Ikeda got—truly got—the story, the characters, and her understanding led to an incredibly nuanced narration. I stayed up ALL NIGHT this past Monday listening to a book I’D ALREADY READ.
Her narration of ACOTAR #2 was just as good.
ACOTAR #3 had a new narrator.
I gave New Narrator an honest shot, I truly did, but once I’d adjusted to the new voice, the MC who had previously outgrown her annoyingness (in both print and audio versions) was suddenly annoying again.
B/c New Narrator did not get the story, the characters, was not incredibly nuanced.
It was like the narrator version of paint-by-numbers. New Narrator had memorized a preset list of cues, and those cues were her only guide for inflection. Any dialogue felt like an SNL comedy sketch where every statement, every word, is emphasized, with accompanying OTT gestures and facial expressions . . . Basically a parody of a conversation.
It. Was. Awful.
So I’m back to actually reading halfway through ACOTAR #3, which isn’t a huge deal, but it is disappointing and an aggravation, so I’m left trying to decide how to rate the audiobook.
Help me out audiobook reviewers: what do you do when the story is great but the narrator sucks? Is the Audible rating strictly for narration? HOW DOES THIS WORK!?
It is a hard thing and I’ve had a few books where I loved the story and hated the narration switching strictly to reading. I generally just add a ‘audio note’ to the end of a review. I have just a few lines of what was great about the narration or what was horrible and why I had to move back to reading. So while my love of a story will have me giving it a 4-5 star review, I might rate the narration as a 2. There was one time I hated the story but loved the voice of the narrator and the story got a 2 star but the narration a 5.
*tackle hugs book bff* That’s what I’ve mostly seen, but it bugs me. B/c OCD. I wish there was a strictly audio review and a strictly content review instead of having to cobble something together on your own. I’ll probably end up posting the crap narrator review on audible and the actual book review on Goodreads.
I do NOT like it when a series changes narrator during the series. UGH Also there are some narrators where I love everything they do. There are other narrators who while I really enjoy them are attached in my head to a particular character / book series. When they narrate some other author’s characters, it doesn’t work for me. For example, I love Lorelei King on the Charley Davidson series but I can’t listen to her on Mercy Thmpson. I like Susan Erickson on VI WArshawski books but it doesn’t work for me on JD Robb’s In Death series. And I’m totally with Robin on the not changing my ship issue Anne – Books of My Heart
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I am still new to audio and am listening to my first book. In just this short foray into audio, I can see that the narrator is the most important part of the story, because they must keep my attention. I find myself drifting, feeling like I need to do something while listening, but forgetting to LISTEN. lol I will keep at it, especially with the summer season and the ability to do two things at once. My verdict is still out on audio.
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You can rate the story vs performance separately on Audible.
And, yes, I’m so with you on not changing a narrator mid-series! Ugh, that’s a pet peeve of mine.
My favorite sci-fi series, The Expanse by James S.A. Corey, also changed narrators in the middle of the series. And the reviews on Audible were so harsh, SO pissed off about it, the publisher actually re-produced that one book with the original narrator. Yep. Can you imagine being the first narrator on that book? It probably would’ve killed his career if the publisher hadn’t kept him for the side novellas. He wasn’t a bad narrator; he just wasn’t THE narrator for that series.
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