Thursday, September 25, 2008

Highlanders Audio Series by Karen Marie Moning

Karen Marie Moning - Highlanders Series
Audio Books narrated by Phil Gigante

The Dark Highlander The Immortal Highlander Spell of the Highlander

All the Highlander audio books are available as audio CDs/MP3CDs directly from Brilliance Audio (AudioBookStand and AudioBookStandDL), or sources such as Amazon, Borders, B&N, Walmart, etc. They are also now available as downloadable audio from Audible, either directly (with member pricing) or through Amazon.

1- Beyond the Highland Mist - Sidheach James Lyon (Hawk) Douglas, Earl of Dalkeith and Adrienne de Simone, (see previous)
2- To Tame a Highland Warrior - Gavrael McIllioch (Grimm) and Jillian St. Clair, (see previous)
3- The Highlander's Touch - Circenn Brodie and Lisa Stone
4- Kiss of the Highlander - Drustan MacKeltar and Gwen Cassidy (see previous)
5- The Dark Highlander - Dageus MacKeltar and Chloe Zanders, also downloadable from Audible
6- The Immortal Highlander - Adam Black and Gabrielle O'Callaghan, also downloadable from Audible
7- Spell of the Highlander - Cian MacKeltar and Jessi St. James, also downloadable from Audible
8- Into the Dreaming (standalone novella, originally published in the 2002 anthology Tapestry; not available in audio) - Aedan MacKinnon and Jane Sillee

See INDEX for more info.

Series Category: Lava Cake - reads like warm Chocolate Lava Cake... à la Mode... sprinkled with nuts (A,A-)
Flame Height: 6"-7" out of 9"

Because of the length of time that’s passed since I read this series and the fact that the Fae lore and intrigue was secondary to the romance, I'd completely forgotten about all the foreshadowing and clues leading up to Moning's more recent Fever series. But more on that when I do my Faefever commentary; for now, I’m going to concentrate on Phil Gigante and his Highlanders.

For those of you that have never read this classic time travel/fantasy romance series, I would suggest that Highlander books 4 (Kiss), 5 (Dark), 6 (Immortal), and 7 (Spell) be read/listened to in order. While Aoibheal, queen of the Fae, or Tuatha Dé Danaan, and her fool/confidante Amadam (Adam Black) do appear in the earlier books, the Keltar Druids story arc begun in Kiss is not dependent on those previous books, but from that book on, the stories do build on one another.

In my previous Highlander commentaries (see index), I’ve proclaimed that Phil Gigante’s eargasmic performances are the perfect mating of story and storyteller and I can’t imagine merely reading these stories from a printed page ever again. In my review of Kiss, I pointed out that “Often, when a man attempts a woman’s voice, it comes off as mocking. However, while no one will ever mistake Phil’s voice for a woman’s, I quickly was no longer conscious that a man was voicing the female characters. Yes, he uses a higher pitched voice for women, but there’s something else there too… a softness, a vulnerability… something… that does not scream “man mocking woman”.”

However, keep in mind that, as a man, even Phil G’s talent can only produce so many believable 20-something female voices. So in Immortal and Spell he differentiates the wives from previous books by giving them each a very slight accent and changing the cadence of their speech patterns. If you don’t listen to the books back-to-back you probably won’t even notice, but it was an exceptionally sound solution since it allowed Phil to retain the quality of his female voices.

Now the men’s voices? OCH! I’m pretty sure that the scenes where they are all together should carry embedded warnings, “Warning: the following scenes carry serious risk of Death by Eargasm”! Drustan’s voice is my favorite- Gigante uses a deep growling brogue imbued with Drustan’s complete confidence in himself. Dageus’ Scottish brogue by way of Liverpool reflects his mischievous, “Hail fellow, well met” personality- when he isn’t possessed by a baker's dozen of ancient evil Druids, of course. Phil gives Adam both a sidhe and a human voice that never quite loses his seductive sidhe arrogance. Cian’s sexy brogue contains an underlying anger and iciness which, considering he’s been trapped in a mirror for hundreds of years, seems more than appropriate, but gradually one can detect a subtle thawing and underlying warmth.

In addition to bringing the main characters alive, Phil G. puts just as much effort into making the secondary characters seem real to the listener. Whether voicing an old woman, one of the villains, or even a child, Phil plays his voice like the fine instrument it is to make every character distinctive and believable.

Phil takes his performances one step further than just using his gifted voice abilities; he adds special effects that bring the story to life. For instance, if someone is on the other end of a phone conversation, the other side of a door, or in the case of Cian, on the other side of a mirror, Phil uses a special effect that makes it sound like their voice is coming from that source. Wait till you hear the effect he uses to portray the power of the Druid “Voice”—it’ll make the hair on the back of your neck stand up the first time you hear it.

Those entertaining extra touches, what Phil once referred to as that extra “inch”, mean that Phil Gigante’s performances are not to be missed!

So why doesn’t this series end up in my Crème Brûlée category? Phil G.’s performances certainly do, but the stories themselves are Peanut M&Ms. They are highly enjoyable escapist fantasy romance that became auto-buy book crack for me. But KMM’s heroines are just too similar—nearly identical overachieving virgins—and her love scenes are just a bit too over the top dramatic. My inner 12-year-old giggled more than once in embarrassment for poor Phil, and I have to wonder just how often he busted up with laughter. However, I think listening to the books back-to-back like I did just spotlighted those flaws even more. But nonetheless, thanks to Phil Gigante, the Highlander audio book series remains firmly on my list of all-time favorites.

Piquant Opines (audio book): Audiofile (book 1), BNet (book 5)
Piquant Opines (print): The Dark Highlander, The Immortal Highlander, Spell of the Highlander

Have you listened to any of these audio books? Read the print books? Feel free to review or link to a review in the comments. Even if you don't agree!


JenB said...

I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read these. I owned all of the print books at one point, but I've given them all away because I realize I'll never get around to reading them.

I think the e-books are a great idea! I'm listening to Tribute by Nora Roberts right now, and I love it. It's a book I don't think I'd ever pick up in print, but I love being able to listen to it.

Maybe the Highlander books would be the same way for me.

Bev(QB) said...

Oh, Jen, they rake that poor narrator over the coals in the Audible reviews. Even I flinched!

But the story itself seems not up to La Nora standards, according to those same reviews. Have you read a lot of Nora? I'm just wondering if the story seems better if not compared to her previous works.

JenB said...

This is actually my first NR, so I have no basis for comparison. I'm really enjoying it. The narrator isn't my favorite, but this is also only my third e-book so I can't make many comparisons there either.

I'm listening to the abridged version narrated by Jennifer Van Dyck.

Before this one, I listened to Love Overboard by Janet Evanovich, narrated by C. J. Critt. Silly, but cute. And the narrator was surprisingly good! I've ordered three more old Evanovich titles and I also bought a vintage Sandra Brown yesterday at the half price store.

It's so much nicer than listening to the radio on my 20-minute commute. I'm hooked.

Bev(QB) said...

::Points up to this post and points to her label tags for Confectionaries: Brilliance Audio and Confectionaries: Audible::

I gots lotsa recs for ya! But, dude... ABRIDGED?! Nononono! Unless you are in a major hurry to catch up with long running series, you really need to savor every word the author wrote!

MB (Leah) said...

Hey I finally downloaded Kiss of the Highlander

I hope it's good. Can't wait for some eargasms. :D

Also downloaded Dead Until Dark

I saw that Blockbuster has the first of the Tru Blood as a promo and watched it.

Somehow, I wasn't that impressed. It seemed so slow and I kept thinking about all kinds of things I had to do. Not a good sign. But I would still keep watching if I had HBO.

I'm hoping that the audiobook will get me hooked in.

Bev(QB) said...

Well, you've got two of what I consider to be the best pairings of narrator and story. So I hope you enjoy the hell out of 'em. Happy Eargasms!

JenB said...

I didn't realize I'd bought abridged until I got home. I won't buy abridged in the future if I can help it, but in this case I think it's fine. Tribute is a really long book and I have a short attention span. I don't feel like I'm missing anything.

I signed up for Audible Light for $9.95 a year. I've been buying audio books at Half Price Books for $7.50 each, so it doesn't make sense to pay $15 a month for one credit.

Does Audible not have a sale section? Do you have to actually wait for a sale event?

Bev(QB) said...

How long ago did you sign up for Audible? The reason I ask is that when MB signed up, she tried to get the $9.95 per year membership and they told her that it was no longer available except to members like me who were already on that plan. It's definitely the way to go.

As for sales, yeah they have them regularly, at least once a month, but it's not always- hell it's almost never- Romance books. Occasionally, they DO have a percent off ANY book sale and that's the time to buy, buy, buy. They recently had some of the Highlanders on sale for $9.95 each.

Plus, sometimes newer releases, which are usually more expensive, DO get reduced in price.

The trick is to keep an eye on specific books or series you're planning on buying and snatch them up at a lower price even if you're not ready to listen to them yet.

JenB said...

I signed up for the $7.99 intro price last month and then tried to cancel right as the month was running out. They offered me the $9.95/yr program as an incentive to stay.

MB (Leah) said...


You know, so far they haven't charged me a thing. It was the first three months, or points, for $7.95, so I chose books that were really expensive and saved the cheaper ones for later. But now this pisses me off. I'll have to check the contract. Maybe I can cancel too.

Bev(QB) said...

Man, that's just wrong, MB. I mean, Woot for Jen, glad you got the deal, but geez, MB, you flat out asked them for that deal and they wouldn't give it to you. Yeah, I'd say try and cancel and see what they do.

JenB said...

Heh...if you do try to cancel and end up taking that deal, be sure you really want it. The second you click "Accept", your credit card is charged and you're in it for a year. I saw the $9.95 transaction on my online bank statement within five minutes of clicking that button. They didn't waste any time taking my money. LOL

OK...on disc 4 of Tribute and thankful I bought the abridged version. The narrator is annoying and the book is kind of far-fetched. Loooove the two leads though.