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Author Topic: PC204: The Rowan Gentleman  (Read 2498 times)
Talia
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« on: April 11, 2012, 09:12:24 PM »

PodCastle 204: The Rowan Gentleman

by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

Read by Kara Grace.

Originally appeared in Welcome to Bordertown edited by Holly Black and Ellen Kushner. You can find out more about Bordertown here.

Ashley watches Renata take a last deep drag and then stub out her comfrey cigarette on her dressing table. It’s already covered in spilled glitter, matches, paint, and the burned craters from other cigarettes. Ashley can hardly remember the fine wooden vanity Renata found on the street and dragged back to the Magic Lantern. It’s suffered a lot since then.
“Open the box already,” Renata says, pulling a lip liner from one of the drawers.
On the wall, a cracked mosaic of mirror fragments reveals Ashley’s face, filled with trepidation.
The Magic Lantern was one of the first places Ashley came to when she arrived in Bordertown. She’d sit in the back and watch whatever was playing or doze because she was sure she’d be safe. Once Alain Bach Glaimhin took over from O’Malley and started casting for simultaneous live shows, Ashley knew that she wanted to be on that stage more than any- thing.
Ashley loves working at the Magic Lantern. Her hands hesitate over the ribbon on the large package, the one woven with sprigs of rosemary and ragwort. She knows the more gifts Alain gives her, the closer she is to being asked to leave.

Rated R for violence.

Listen to this week’s PodCastle!
« Last Edit: May 08, 2012, 01:22:48 PM by Talia » Logged
ToooooMuchCoffeeMan
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« Reply #1 on: April 12, 2012, 01:22:03 AM »

I'm not finished listening to this, but in the intro you said that Kara Grace is looking to do more podcast and audiobook reading. You might suggest that she get some better equipment to show herself to best advantage. The sound quality of this podcast was well below average. The sound overly attenuated, very hissy, and at one point I heard pages rustling.

I'm a huge fan of Bordertown and expect to have some substantive comments later on...
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AliceNred
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« Reply #2 on: April 12, 2012, 09:02:37 AM »

I agree. There is almost a faint whistle to the recording, and she has such a soft, speaking voice; the combo doesn't make for a good offering. I can understand what she is saying, but a weak recording doesn't help a story shine.

The story was very girly. I like strong chick stories, and this seems to not really be there, almost. The world was interesting. I did like how it ended and the description were nice.

This will not be one of my favs.
« Last Edit: April 12, 2012, 09:47:30 AM by AliceNred » Logged

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childoftyranny
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« Reply #3 on: April 12, 2012, 09:29:57 AM »

Generally I try and give some sort of  relevant thought on a story whether I liked it or, but I cannot for the life of me think of anything to say about this story it was simply a story, nothing to particularly like or dislike about.

The production quality was a bit iffy on this, ah well, upward, onward, and um borderward, yes, that's it.

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Old Marshmallow
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« Reply #4 on: April 12, 2012, 04:05:42 PM »

I couldn't make it past two or three minutes.  Whether due to the technically poor recording or the narrator's vocal quality, it just grated on me from the first word. Sad
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #5 on: April 12, 2012, 04:41:57 PM »

Wow. This is a bandwagon I hate to jump on.

I have to admit that the narration didn't thrill me, either, though I don't blame the narrator's equipment - I blame her annunciation. I don't know if Kara Grace has done a lot of podcast narration before, but she did not have a sufficiently clear way of speaking. Lots of muffled words and swallowed consonants. She did the voices well, however, and brought the characters to life, so I'd just recommend more practice.

That said, I loved the story, and this one had a lot of prejudice to overcome. I didn't like the last Bordertown story I heard on the pods. I don't like elves or faeries (that's right, I called you faeries. You got a problem with it, I got an iron bar with your name on it. Child stealing sons of bitches...). I don't actually have a problem with Cassandra Claire or Holly Black, so I'm at a loss for a third thing to add to the list... Ah, I got it! And I don't like Thursdays.

*Ahem*

Pardon me - got a little carried away there.

Anyway, I really enjoyed this story. The emerging faerie (I said it again. Deal with it!) Batman thing was really amusing, and I liked how the authors managed to humanize the faerie (third time's the charm... for beating your pointy-eared ass) characters without having to bend either the human characters or the plot around it. Alain's backstory was really interesting, and I found myself actually caring about what happened to him. I was also amused by the idea of "the Rowan Gentleman" being a crowd of heroes, human and half-fae, male and female, probably with a wide variety of skills and specialties. It's an interesting way to create a super-hero.

Incidentally, did you know that if you google "zombie fairy" you actually get hits? Zombie fairies are an actual thing.

Weird, huh?

So, in the end, I actually give this four and a half Zeppelins out of five: a remarkably good story that managed to overcome my natural dislike of faeries (Bring it, assholes!) and entertain me thoroughly.
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Yaekmon
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« Reply #6 on: April 12, 2012, 06:28:44 PM »

I thought Kara's youthful, feminine voice really suited the protagonist of the story.
Some of the sound quality issues could be fixed with a bit of experience, if not with better hardware.
For instance, keep a set distance between mouth and microphone and try not to stray too far from it.
And make sure papers are all put in order while the recording isn't running: pauses are easier to edit out than background noises.
Other than that, I quite enjoyed her reading.

The story itself was fun and light, which is odd because it was about a group of masked vigilantes taking on a murderous drug manufacturer. "Magic = drugs" is a well-worn trope, but this felt like a refreshing take on the idea.
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lisavilisa
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« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2012, 06:28:28 AM »

Since Braiding of Ghosts and Biba Jibun were so well read I'm inclined to believe it was the equipment, because those have been 2 of my favorites this year.
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Devoted135
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« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2012, 09:43:50 AM »

*steps gingerly around the dead elephant in the middle of the thread*


I really enjoyed this story! Of course, I tend to like stories about girls getting caught up in the adventures of rich, seemingly lazy men who don masks and cloaks in order to do good in the world (see: V for Vendetta, The Scarlet Pimpernel, and sure even Batman) Wink

In particular, I liked how the very traits that made Alain's character initially seem weak were shown to disguise real strength. I also appreciated that Ashley was three-dimensional enough to be truly shaken by her attack in the alley, but also gutsy enough to not be deterred by it. Not to mention that she didn't immediately fall in love with Alain the moment his real character was revealed to her. Smiley
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Wilson Fowlie
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« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2012, 02:16:36 PM »

I was also amused by the idea of "the Rowan Gentleman" being a crowd of heroes, human and half-fae, male and female, probably with a wide variety of skills and specialties. It's an interesting way to create a super-hero.

I liked that idea as well - quite put me in mind of the Scarlet Pimpernel.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2012, 03:16:23 PM »

I was also amused by the idea of "the Rowan Gentleman" being a crowd of heroes, human and half-fae, male and female, probably with a wide variety of skills and specialties. It's an interesting way to create a super-hero.

I liked that idea as well - quite put me in mind of the Scarlet Pimpernel.

That's it! I knew it reminded me of something. Thanks.
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Lionman
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« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2012, 09:16:42 PM »

I'm going to ring that same chime as others are dinging as well:  Audio Quality was poor.  It was hard to get into the story at first as a result, in my case.  However, I'm pleased I hung in there!  I wasn't sure which way this story was going to turn, and it was hard to follow because I was trying to parse words and ideas through the audio issues.  I really liked the sort of turn that the story made with the nature of The Rowan Gentleman.
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danooli
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« Reply #12 on: April 14, 2012, 08:40:34 AM »

I've always been a fan of a fantasy setting murder mystery, and this was no exception.  I had pretty much the same reactions and feelings about the story as Electric Paladin and Devoted135, so I won't rehash, but I found the story to be entertaining and enjoyable.

I've had a sample of Welcome to Bordertown on my nook for a while now, since the spotlight, but I have been remiss in actually opening it.  I think I'll just buy the entire book now.  I loved the Amal El-Mohtar poem/song played during the spotlight and this story added into the mix sealed the deal.  (And I'll read it as soon as I've finished The Hidden Goddess)

The only thing I will say about the narration is that I thought the accent Kara used for...I'm drawing a blank on the name of the big bad guy, but it was him...was cool. 
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bluetube
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« Reply #13 on: April 16, 2012, 03:23:26 PM »

The story was OK... a little too girly for my tastes, but interesting enough (just) to keep me listening.

I'm not a Border Town fan, in the sense that I haven't read any, so I don't know if one is typical. It seemed too close to a normal American town, but perhaps that's because there wasn't time to elaborate on the stranger aspects of the place.

The reading and audio quality were a challenge, though. Such a contrast from the podcast intro / outro. At the outset, it was obvious I'd have to concentrate pretty hard to follow what was being said. The sound quality seemed to improve after a few minutes and perhaps I got used to the reader's accent. There were still some parts that I had trouble understanding and a brief section where the sound seemed to drop away a few times, as if the microphone was being moved.  Seems like this should have been spotted and corrected by the reader before submitting for broadcast.

Sorry to complain   Cry  Kiss
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #14 on: April 16, 2012, 03:57:18 PM »

The story was OK... a little too girly for my tastes, but interesting enough (just) to keep me listening.

I'm going to challenge you on that - what does "too girly" mean?
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bluetube
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« Reply #15 on: April 17, 2012, 06:30:06 AM »

The story was OK... a little too girly for my tastes, but interesting enough (just) to keep me listening.

I'm going to challenge you on that - what does "too girly" mean?

OK, here goes.

First let me make it absolutely clear. When it comes to main characters in stories, I am not anti-girlShocked  There have been some great PodCastle stories with girls / women as main characters, and I wholeheartedly enjoyed Philip Pullman's "His Dark Materials" trilogy.

Maybe it's normal for Bordertown themed stories, but this one feels a little superficial in the way Ashley's mind works and what motivates her. It reminds me of TV cartoon shows for young kids (my son used to watch them). One of these shows, Recess, had a clique of girls called "The Ashleys". I didn't make that connection during the podcast, but there it is. The Ashley character in the podcast seems to fit the young teen stereotype: dreamy and confused, with an unhealthy liking for the colour purple  Wink

The reading by Kara Grace had a lot to do with this. Her narrative voice sounds like a teen and wouldn't have been out of place in "the Ashleys" (so many vocal fries). Could this be why Kara was chosen to read the story?

As sometimes happens with fantasy stories, the language here is very flowery... trying hard to convey the "otherness" of Bordertown? I don't know but I felt I had strayed into the "My Little Pony" zone, esp in the first ten minutes or so. This was emphasised by Kara's reading.

I don't like to criticise people's accents and style of speaking... we're all different... but in this case it does matter. Poor audio quality, the reading style and my having to concentrate on understanding individual words may all have resulted in a distorted sense of Bordertown, at odds with the intention of the authors.

On the plus side, Kara's differentiation between character voices wasn't bad. I particularly liked the villian's voice (English accent).

It would be interesting to hear the same story narrated by a different female reader.
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #16 on: April 17, 2012, 08:15:04 AM »

The story was OK... a little too girly for my tastes, but interesting enough (just) to keep me listening.

I'm going to challenge you on that - what does "too girly" mean?

OK, here goes.

First let me make it absolutely clear. When it comes to main characters in stories, I am not anti-girl...

I'm not going to psycho-analyze you here, but I found a lot to disagree with. I suppose that it's all well and good to say that the story had a certain femininity that you don't generally like... but then, I kind of want to know why you have a problem with the femininity. Then you have to go and write stuff like "dreamy and confused, with an unhealthy liking for the colour purple" and "I felt I had strayed into the 'My Little Pony' zone" and I start to get uncomfortable. You do know that some people like My Little Pony, and there's actually nothing empirically wrong with purple, right? No one's saying you need to like purple and My Little Pony, but they aren't bad things.

That said, I've been known to type things like (and I think I'm basically quoting myself here): "I wasn't in the mood for a girl-power story." However, I think there's a difference. A girl-power story is a specific kind of story, with certain strengths and foibles, and it isn't something I categorically dislike, just something I can be in or out of the mood for.

Anyway, I do find your response a little odd. I didn't find the story feminine at all. It was a bit romantic, in the sense that A) there was a budding romance at the heart of it and B) it was written with a certain underlying optimism and attention to emotional and physical detail that reminded me of, well, the romantics (it was that kind of adventure story). The story is about faerieland, for lizard's sake - what did you expect? Most importantly, I think the author did a good job of capturing the psychology of someone who is female, caught between idealism and pragmatism, and ultimately is given reason to choose idealism. Girly, though? I just don't see it. A story about a young woman, written with that in mind, sure.

Anyway, I can't talk you into liking it and I wouldn't try, but I do find your response interesting.
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bluetube
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« Reply #17 on: April 17, 2012, 10:01:35 AM »


I suppose that it's all well and good to say that the story had a certain femininity that you don't generally like... but then, I kind of want to know why you have a problem with the femininity. Then you have to go and write stuff like "dreamy and confused, with an unhealthy liking for the colour purple" and "I felt I had strayed into the 'My Little Pony' zone" and I start to get uncomfortable. You do know that some people like My Little Pony, and there's actually nothing empirically wrong with purple, right? No one's saying you need to like purple and My Little Pony, but they aren't bad things.
:
:
The story is about faerieland, for lizard's sake - what did you expect? Most importantly, I think the author did a good job of capturing the psychology of someone who is female, caught between idealism and pragmatism, and ultimately is given reason to choose idealism. Girly, though? I just don't see it. A story about a young woman, written with that in mind, sure.

Anyway, I can't talk you into liking it and I wouldn't try, but I do find your response interesting.

Blimey!  Did I really come across as so serious?  I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek (hence the  Wink ) about the colour purple and the My Little Pony zone, although it sort of says what I meant to say. But don't take it so seriously, please  Kiss

I liked the story, sort of. As I said, I think the reading style / voice (and poor audio quality) amplified the girlyness of the piece, perhaps far beyond the intentions of the authors.

It would be wrong to confuse my dislike of very "girly" stories with a dislike of femininity. Far from it. "Girlyness" implies immaturity, which I tried to express less overtly in the My Little Pony reference that sank like a lead balloon.  Sad

As I said, I'm not familiar with the Bordertown stories. Perhaps this one is typical, but I have no problem with the faerieland aspects of the story... unless there's an obligation to use excessive flowery language.

The thing that really swung the listening experience into the girly zone was the reader's voice, in particular her tendency to slur syllables and drop consonants.  And then there was that (subconcious, for me) association with The Ashleys of Recess (http://recess.wikia.com/wiki/The_Ashleys).
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ElectricPaladin
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« Reply #18 on: April 17, 2012, 11:04:56 AM »


I suppose that it's all well and good to say that the story had a certain femininity that you don't generally like... but then, I kind of want to know why you have a problem with the femininity. Then you have to go and write stuff like "dreamy and confused, with an unhealthy liking for the colour purple" and "I felt I had strayed into the 'My Little Pony' zone" and I start to get uncomfortable. You do know that some people like My Little Pony, and there's actually nothing empirically wrong with purple, right? No one's saying you need to like purple and My Little Pony, but they aren't bad things.
:
:
The story is about faerieland, for lizard's sake - what did you expect? Most importantly, I think the author did a good job of capturing the psychology of someone who is female, caught between idealism and pragmatism, and ultimately is given reason to choose idealism. Girly, though? I just don't see it. A story about a young woman, written with that in mind, sure.

Anyway, I can't talk you into liking it and I wouldn't try, but I do find your response interesting.

Blimey!  Did I really come across as so serious?  I was trying to be tongue-in-cheek (hence the  Wink ) about the colour purple and the My Little Pony zone, although it sort of says what I meant to say. But don't take it so seriously, please  Kiss

I liked the story, sort of. As I said, I think the reading style / voice (and poor audio quality) amplified the girlyness of the piece, perhaps far beyond the intentions of the authors.

It would be wrong to confuse my dislike of very "girly" stories with a dislike of femininity. Far from it. "Girlyness" implies immaturity, which I tried to express less overtly in the My Little Pony reference that sank like a lead balloon.  Sad

As I said, I'm not familiar with the Bordertown stories. Perhaps this one is typical, but I have no problem with the faerieland aspects of the story... unless there's an obligation to use excessive flowery language.

The thing that really swung the listening experience into the girly zone was the reader's voice, in particular her tendency to slur syllables and drop consonants.  And then there was that (subconcious, for me) association with The Ashleys of Recess (http://recess.wikia.com/wiki/The_Ashleys).

No sweat. I went to Oberlin - I'm constitutionally incapable of not taking everything seriously. Just ask my wife... oh, wait. She went to Oberlin, too Tongue.
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Kanasta
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« Reply #19 on: April 20, 2012, 02:41:28 AM »

I did find it a bit confusing that Alain was pronounced throughout as Elaine; it took me a while to realise the character was male and I had to keep mentally switching the name to Alain to remind myself!
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