Tuesday, October 16, 2018

An Extraordinary Adventure on St. Bartholomew's Eve (A Homeschool Coffee Break Review)

Anyone who has followed my reviews for the Homeschool Review Crew probably already knows that we especially like reviewing audio dramas from Heirloom Audio. We knew we'd be in for a treat when we received the newest, St. Bartholomew's Eve.

Heirloom Audio has been bringing exciting audio dramas to families for several years now. The stories written by G.A. Henty in the 19th century come to life as talented actors voice the characters and a rich, realistic soundtrack makes you feel like you are there in the middle of the action. Henty was a master storyteller, placing his fictional characters into real historical events and highlighting courage, loyalty, and faith of the young heroes.

Each audio adventure is a two CD set in a beautiful case featuring striking artwork that usually highlights a quote from the story that's one of the main themes. The stories are all available as MP3 downloads as well. We received the physical CDs (total length of the recording is about 2 1/2 hours).

In St. Bartholomew's Eve, 16-year-old Philip Fletcher of England has come to stay with his cousin Francois in France, and assist in the Huguenots' fight for freedom to worship as they choose. The Huguenots were Protestants and were persecuted by ruling Catholics in France. Philip and Francois, though fairly young, play major roles in Henty's story, showing great courage and leadership during the French Wars of Religion. 

Philip's willingness to put his own life on the line in support of fellow Christians is highlighted often in the story. The two young men train physically and study battle strategies and history, and loyally serve the Huguenot cause. The story begins a few years before the title event, as the hostilities between the Catholic ruling class and the Protestant Huguenots were simmering. The Huguenot practice of worship was outlawed and in many places they were being persecuted. The Huguenots were organizing under the leadership of Admiral Coligny, Prince Conde, and Henry of Navarre. 

There are several battle scenes in the story as the Philip and his friends suffer losses and see towns attacked; and as they also win some important victories. They come up with strategies that help the Huguenot forces take control of some key cities and hold out against attacks, and they participate in rescues of common people from imprisonment, torture, or death. One young boy they save, Argento, accompanies them and tries to emulate his new heroes in everything, despite losing his leg to an injury. Argento's sister Claire figures prominently in the story as well. (As the eventual love interest! Kennady points out that almost all of Henty's stories involve the young hero finding a brave young lady to marry by the end of the tale!)  Although the sharp disagreement over style of worship is highighted as a key reason the Catholics are persecuting Huguenots, the Catholics are not all portrayed in a negative light. In fact, there are several occasions in the story where Catholics step forward at risk to their own safety to assist Huguenots, and demonstrate selfless compassion and courage.

The over-arching theme is that everyone should have the freedom to worship God in the way the God has put it in their heart to do, and that kings and rulers should not be allowed to dictate against that, as illustrated in this quote:
"Whom shall we obey? The king of France or the King of Kings?"

What we liked best:
  • another edge-of-your-seat adventure story, made even more exciting by the excellent acting and soundtrack
  • the soundtrack gives the sense of movement and puts you right in the middle of the action. It's very much like being in a movie theater but not having a screen to view. It makes it easy to use your imagination!
  • true heroism in the form of courage, loyalty, perseverance, and strong faith are portrayed.
  • an entertaining and exciting way to learn some history, and to spark interest in history
What I need to mention:
  • the subject matter in this story involves battle scenes and the pain and death that goes with it. It's quite intense, and heartbreaking at times, and younger or very sensitive listeners may be bothered by the fairly realistic sounds. I'd recommend that parents listen first and make sure their children will be able to handle it.
  • this version of the story focuses on the religious persecution and the fight for freedom to worship during this time period in France. The historical events are portrayed accurately (the battles and the assassination of Coligny, for example), but it's worth noting that political factors and struggles for power were major contributors to these civil wars as well as religious factors. Something to keep in mind if you are using this as part of a study of history, because there was more to the French Wars of Religion than simply religious views. 

Our bottom line: As with all the previous audio dramas, we've listened to, this one had us captivated from the start. It did take a bit of concentration to keep the characters sorted out at the beginning, but the fierce courage and steadfast friendship of Philip and Francois stood out and endeared them to us as we listened. The story is exciting and very real, and though there isn't a fairy tale happy ending, it is satisfying and challenges listeners to continue to cherish the right to freedom of religious expression and to fight for that right wherever it is suppressed. And what an interesting way to learn about history and learn from it!

Over the past few years, we've reviewed all but one of Heirloom Audio's Adventure series, and I recommend every one of them!  You are invited to check out our full review of In Freedom's CauseAn Extraordinary Adventure in Scottish Historyour full review of With Lee In VirginiaAn Extraordinary Adventure With Lee In Virginiaour full review of The Dragon and the RavenAn Extraordinary Adventure With Alfred the Greatour full review of Beric the BritonBeric the Briton - Another Extraordinary Adventure from Heirloom Audio Productions; our full review of The Cat of BubastesAn Extraordinary Adventure in Ancient Egyptour full review of In the Reign of TerrorAn Extraordinary Adventure During the French Revolution; our full review of Captain Bayley's HeirCaptain Bayley's Heir - A New Audio Adventure; and our full review of Wulf the Saxon: Wulf the Saxon - An Extraordinary Adventure with Heirloom Audio.

Would you like to listen in on this extraordinary adventure? Here's what you need to know:

Visit the website:  www.HeirloomAudio.com/
Find out more about the audio drama St. Bartholomew's Eve here: www.StBartholomewsEve.com/

Pricing: The two CD set is available for $29.97. You can find all the pricing options HERE.

Age recommendations:  Ages 6 and up. (But see my note above for young or sensitive listeners)

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