Disclosure: Free product was received for review purposes. All opinions expressed in this post are my own.
Heirloom Audio Productions is Christian company that produces action-packed dramas based upon classic stories by George Alfred Henty. Our family is loving these audio dramas---they have just the right mix of action, heart, and information to keep kids of all ages (and even adults) engaged. For review purposes, we received copies of The Dragon and the Raven, Under Drake’s Flag, In Freedom’s Cause, and With Lee in Virginia. Each story comes as a 2-cd set in a colorful trifold case. Approximate playing time per drama: 2 to 2-1/2 hours.
Right now our family is enjoying The Dragon and the Raven, a perfect addition to our studies of the Middle Ages.
G.A. Henty’s The Dragon and the Raven or The Days of King Alfred follows young Edmund as he loses his father in battle to the Danes (viking raiders). His family gone, he eventually comes to befriend and ally himself to the cultured and learned Alfred, king of the Saxons.
Popping the first cd into the player seemed to cast a spell upon all four of my kids, ages 7 to 16. The boundless bundle of energy stopped bopping up and down, the chatty one stopped talking, and the hard to impress teen said, “This is really good!”
They sat down for almost an hour in rapt attention and were loathe to turn it off until next time.
What do we like about them?
#1 The production values are exceptional. Good sound quality. The music is well done without being overblown. Good foley work and appropriately placed (you know what I’m talking about if you’ve heard bad foley). My teen sits quietly and listens, loving every minute, without making any sarcastic comments…if you have a sarcastic teen in your life, you know how much that means.
#2 The voice work is done by some of the best. I’m going to admit something here---when I was first approached by Heirloom Audio to review these, I was on the fence. But as soon as I checked out the website and found out that Brian Blessed voices the narrator, G.A. Henty, in all four dramas, both my teen and I were geeking out. Because Brian Blessed. My son and I had just recently seen Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V, in which Blessed plays Duke Thomas Beaufort of Exeter (my son’s favorite character in the film).
Blessed is, of course, well known for his Shakespearean work and a tremendous presence on the screen, but he is also a great actor with a great voice. It is a treat to listen to him narrate these stories.
Dragon also features the voices of John Ryhs-Davies (Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings) and…Sylvester McCoy (perhaps better known now for The Hobbit, but I remember him best as the 7th Doctor Who). All of the actors and actresses have done an exceptional job---voice work is a very different art from acting in front of a camera and these folks are all artists in their craft.
A few of the other voices you may recognize in the other audio dramas (it’s fun to wait for that wave of recognition): Sean Astin, Kirk Cameron, Billy Boyd, Jim Weiss…
#3 The writers, directors, producers have done an excellent job converting these stories into radio plays. They have taken the original materials and have transformed them. I had not read the original book The Dragon and the Raven. I downloaded it off of Amazon to give it a quick read through so I could compare it to the audio drama. Just in the 1st chapter I could see the amount of thought that had gone into creating a sensory experience from the original source material. This is not simply having the actors read the words off the page. They really have transformed the original book into something fresh and new.
#4 These audio dramas are perfect over lunch or for a drive to Grandma’s house. Running time is about 2-1/2 hours, so you can listen a bit at a time or all at once. It used to be that we just listened to audiobooks in the car, but I’ve recently become enamored of audio dramas. They are better at drawing in different age groups. Certainly they don’t replace audiobooks or reading aloud, but the dramas seem particularly suited when you doing something like eating or traveling and need to keep a wide range of ages engaged.
There’s only one thing I would suggest to Heirloom to consider for future productions:
I would love to have a transcript of the play. It’s easy to get caught up in the action (and there is plenty of action) and to lose track of who did what. Especially if you come back to the story a few days later. Unlike a book, where you can flip back and see what’s what to refresh your memory, it’s a little harder to do that with audio drama without replaying significant portions. Our family is a little weird, too---we like to put on captioning when we watch things. It helps us to catch words that are easy to miss. Having a transcript to skim through while listening or afterwards would be a great help.
I’ve got a special deal for you.
Heirloom Audio Productions normally sells each of these cd sets for $29.99, but right now they are offering a very special deal to Homeschooling Hearts & Minds readers! You can receive 2 copies of a complete set of 4 dramas (oh, that’s a mouthful!)---that is, receive 2 copies EACH of:
The Dragon and the Raven, Under Drake’s Flag, In Freedom’s Cause, and With Lee in Virginia
Plus EXTRAS! Including study guides, mp3 versions, and more!
All at one low price that makes each set about $10. Perfect to share the cost with another family. Or give them as gifts (start your Christmas shopping now). Or even start a listening library at your homeschool co-op. The discount code should be automatically added when you click, but just in case here it is: HHAM1