It's time for another extraordinary audio adventure from Heirloom Audio Productions! We've been eagerly anticipating the release of their newest audio drama, and were delighted to have the chance to review The Dragon and the Raven.
Heirloom Audio Productions is passionate about engaging the imagination of listeners by immersing them in great stories - stories about real historical events. That means some detective work to get beyond much of the "sanitized" versions of history common today. They've chosen to tell the true stories of Christian heroes in history, based on the novels written during the late 1800s by master story-teller G.A. Henty. Henty's stories of "virtue and valor, daring and determination, character and courage" told of historical events and people as seen through the eyes of a fictional young person that he placed on the spot. In The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty series, Heirloom Audio brings these fast-moving and exciting tales to life with excellent voice acting, realistic sound effects, and powerful musical soundtracks.
We received the 2-CD set of the audio drama The Dragon and the Raven, and a set of downloadable bonuses. The CDs come in a beautiful full color case, which features a favorite Scripture of King Alfred's in the center panel.
The set of downloadable bonuses includes: a 49-page Study Guide, the official soundtrack (MP3), the eBook of the original G.A. Henty story (pdf), and printable copies of the cast poster and the poster of the Scripture that was known as King Alfred's Hope. I'll share more about the Study Guide and eBook in a moment, but first let me tell you a bit about the audio drama itself.
Just as in the previous audio dramas in this series, the story opens with two boys and the character "Mr. George" interesting them in a story he'd like to tell. This one sets young Edmund (and his friend Harold) in England in the late 800s. The Danes have been sweeping over the country and it seems their invasions are unstoppable. Edmund joins with the young King Alfred of Wessex and learns about true courage and trusting in God, about the power of literacy and law, and what it means to love one's enemies. And of course, they learn sound military strategy as well! As we listened, we were swept along with the exciting and dramatic scenes of battle, strategic planning, and the testing of character and relationships. The accomplished actors that voiced the characters along with the realistic sound effects bring the story to life in such a way that we felt we were right there in the midst of it. As I've said about the other Heirloom Audio stories, you feel like you're 'watching' the audio-only of a live-action movie filmed on location. We were on the edge of our seats during moments of suspense, were near tears ourselves when characters experienced heartbreak, laughed at the lighter moments, and wanted to cheer when victories were won!
The story of King Alfred is a powerful one, but not one that most people today are familiar with. This story tells the historical facts of the time, and highlights the character of the only British monarch to earn the designation of "the Great". The Danes were in control of much of England, but followed a pagan religion. Against overwhelming odds, King Alfred was able to defend against the Danes and push them back, handing them a sound military defeat; but he also began the evangelism that won many Danes to Christian faith. This was the first time Kennady had heard much about King Alfred, and after we'd listened to the CDs, Landon told me that he had read about Alfred in his World History study last year. I have read about this period of England's history several times, but it's because I'm a bit of a history nerd! I was so happy to hear this audio drama present the history in such an engaging way, and especially that it highlighted the role of faith and prayer in King Alfred's reign and accomplishments. This story emphasized that courage, heroism, honor, and wisdom are evidence of a deep personal faith in God and knowledge of him and his Word.
I desire to leave to the men that come after me a remembrance of me in good works. ~King Alfred the Great
Our faith in God is the fire in this dragon… Faith is knowing him, obeying him, trusting him when all looks impossible. A dragon without it’s fire is like a nation without it’s faith. Our faith is the very source of our strength, our identity as a nation. ~King Alfred The Great
Now if you want to go deeper into The Dragon and the Raven, the accompanying eBook and Study Guide are the perfect tools! The eBook is the original G.A. Henty story in pdf, each page of text is framed by the background illustration of the CD cover, and with beautiful chapter title pages like this one.
The eStudy Guide, likewise is beautifully presented in full color. It's visually appealing and goes into some depth, providing background information on author G.A. Henty, King Alfred, and a brief overview of England's history up until this time period. There are "Listening Well" questions to help ensure that kids have understood what they've heard; "Thinking Further" questions to provide ideas for further research or to delve into what may have motivated characters or what they may have been thinking or feeling; and a short list of words that students may want to look up to understand the definitions. There is a set of questions like this for each chapter of the story. There are a couple of little extras along the way, such as a recipe to make your own "Alfred Cakes". At the end of the guide, there are also three related Bible studies.
- outstanding quality production from the cast to the soundtrack
- an dramatic and compelling story that kept us engaged
- high quality, informative, and visually appealing Study Guide and eBook
- a great story of valor, perseverance, and victory against the odds, but one that makes clear the powerful role of faith and prayer in the life of a courageous and heroic king.
- this story is set in a period of England's history in which there was brutal warfare. There are many such scenes in the story with the appropriate intensity in character's voices and sound effects. I believe it's very well balanced in being realistic but not gory, however it may be too much for very young or very sensitive listeners.
- it's based on the G.A. Henty book of the same name, but is a dramatic adaptation so don't plan to follow along in your copy of the book.
- because the Study Guide is in full color, I opted to print only a couple of pages as it would use up a great deal of ink to print the whole thing!
Our bottom line: Heirloom Audio Productions never disappoints! For the third time in our experience, we were inspired, challenged, and entertained by the wonderful story-telling and "you are there" quality of an exciting well-told story. We give The Dragon and the Raven our highest recommendation to all families. If you're looking for thrilling family entertainment for a road trip, this would be perfect, as would any of the other Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty! (Be sure to also check out our full review of In Freedom's Cause: An Extraordinary Adventure in Scottish History and our full review of With Lee In Virginia: An Extraordinary Adventure With Lee In Virginia.)
Would your family like to be part of these extraordinary adventures? Here's what you need to know:
Visit the website: www.TheDragonAndTheRaven.com/
Pricing: See the Heirloom Audio website for purchasing options and full pricing information.
You can follow Heirloom Audio Productions on Facebook, on Twitter, on Google+, and on Instagram. There is also Facebook pages specifically for The Dragon and the Raven and for The Extraordinary Adventures of G.A. Henty.
Visit the Schoolhouse Review Crew blog for more information and to read other reviews.
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