You may recall that last fall I introduced my son to G.A. Henty with an audio adaption of Under Drake’s Flag. As that review was wrapping up, we learned that its producers, Heirloom Audio Productions, were putting the finishing touches on another Henty work. We couldn’t wait to hear what they did with the story of William Wallace and Robert the Bruce with the In Freedom's Cause Single Package . In addition to the 2 CD set, we able to download an eStudy Guide, MP3 versions of the soundtrack and the audio adventure, and a printable of the Prayer of William Wallace.
You may recall that I am an avid reader. While I make my son read for school, in his free time he prefers audio formats (so he can keep building with his Jenga blocks). The week In Freedom’s Cause arrived it was his turn with the sinus infection we’d been passing around the family. Since I was making him stay in bed, the least I could do was let him battle vicariously for two and a half hours through Ned Forbes. Now if you’ve read the book you’ll know the protagonist is called Archie. It seems the producers are going to start each drama with two English boys (Ned and Gerald) visiting Mr. George who proceeds to tell them a tale about a boy or boys with the same names so I think we’ll always be dealing with Ned and Gerald in upcoming stories.
And since we’re dealing with differences, let’s mention a few other ones from the original book: the book’s Wallace doesn’t carry a Celtic Knot or his Psalter (Bible) and [SPOILER ALERT] Allan Kerr dies much earlier so there is no reconciliation between the brother in-laws. I however, found the changes/additions improvements to the original story.
It’s a good thing I was only asking my son to rest in bed, not fall asleep because I just don’t think that’s possible with an audio adventure. That term was coined by Heirloom as a way to describe their “fast-moving stories designed to keep the listener captivated…Quickly paced and Plot-rich…” It’s hard to fall asleep with the sound of swords clashing and catapulted rocks apparently hitting just on the other side of castle walls. For myself, I’d put the MP3 version on my Sansa Fuze and listened as I jogged during homeschool gym.
When my son was recovered we listened to the story again, this time using some of the downloadable tools (NOTE: apparently Heirloom Audio was being generous with the reviewers, some of these items may only be available if you buy the 4-pack). First you’ll want a copy of the Cast & Character Guide which lists everyone you’ll encounter in the order of appearance. There are at least four “Sir John’s” and I needed a guide to keep track of who was who. Next we had our Study Guide. Be sure to read Some Notes on the History of Scotland first (even though it appears at the back). This will help explain why the throne of Scotland was in question in the first place and why King Edward of England was ruling the land.
The majority of the study guide is filled with questions about each track on the CD (NOTE: the MP3 version is not broken into sections). It is a little awkward to stop listening every six to twelve minutes for question time, especially if the break occurs at a cliff hangar so you may want to listen to the whole thing through at least once. The Listening Well questions are the auditory equivalent of reading comprehension—each short answer can be heard: What is the date of the Battle of Falkirk? What news does Kierley bring from Robert the Bruce? The Thinking Further questions often require you to suppose why characters said things or acted as they did. This is a much hard task for my Aspie son but we did try to tackle a few or I’d just give him my reasoning because he needs to learn to understand how we NT’s think.
Once again the production quality was top notch from a full symphonic score to the voice actors to the sound effects. The actors include the likes of Billy Boyd (Lord of the Rings), Joanne Froggatt (Downtown Abbey), and Skandar Keynes (Chronicles of Narnia). If you’re stuck indoors because of the weather or taking a long car trip these CD’s are a great way to pass the time. You may have some concern about whether the story is appropriate for little ears, especially if you’re familiar with how William Wallace meets his end. The narrator mentions that he was hung but cut down while still alive, no other details are given. His death takes place “off camera” as it were although you can hear him crying in Latin in the distance with Ned translating in the crowd. There is a scene where Ned has been captured and brought before King Edward who orders his death in the same manner but it isn’t as drawn out or foreboding as the scene with the Spanish Inquisitor from Under Drake’s flag. King Edward dies moments later and Ned escapes in the confusion. My gentle son didn’t find anything too frightening.
If you’re interested, you can click on the title to see my review of Under Drake’s Flag. Heirloom Audio’s next project will be With Lee in Virginia.