Review: The Wizard and The Frog

The Wizard and The Frog audiobook cover. The silhouette of a warrior, a wizard, and a frog, on a background that depicts a castle. The foreground is dark pink and the title text is in a golden, fairytale font. The Wizard and The Frog by Richard Fierce.
My rating: 3 of 5 stars ⭐⭐⭐
Duration: 2 hrs 17 mins.

The Wizard and the Frog by Richard Fierce is a short fantasy adventure following a rather hapless hero and an equally inept elf as they pursue their quest to return the heroine to human form. The biggest obstacle to fulfillment of their goal is their own talent for finding trouble wherever they go. If something can go wrong, then it will go wrong for Jack and Dormuris...

Audible Summary: "An incompetent wizard turned my girlfriend into a frog, and that’s just the beginning.

The name’s Jack, and I hunt monsters for a living. I’ve been doing this for a while, but my associate is new. Dormuris is an elf I rescued from a troll, and he's a wizard. Sort of. He’s not the best with magic, and he accidentally turned my girlfriend into a frog.

In order to reverse the spell, we have to seek out a real wizard. The guy who offers to help is an oddball, but so long as he can turn my girlfriend back into a human, I can deal with it. He wants a golden egg and a unicorn. Say what now?

I thought my life as a monster hunter was chaos, but I was about to see just how crazy things could get. Minotaurs, goblins, a singing sword... yeah, you read that right.

If we don’t get the items the wizard needs quickly enough, my girlfriend will end up being a frog permanently. And that wouldn’t be good for anyone, especially me.

©2019 Richard Fierce (P)2019 Richard Fierce."

Whilst not listed on Audible as a YA novella, this audiobook felt like it would be best suited to a slightly older audience than I first anticipated. There are a few moments of graphic violence, but they are balanced with a lot of humour.

I enjoyed the world building and getting to know the characters, but there were a few too many inexplicable-but-convenient twists; 'Why is my sword suddenly singing and announcing our plan to our enemies?', 'how did my lost sword magically appear in my hand?'. Our hero's cluelessness is endearing in some regards but at other moments it feels a little lazy not to bother with an explanation. Suspension of disbelief has to be earned, and it often takes far too long for Jack to ponder these odd occurrences.

This audiobook felt like a prequel-novella before a series, whose raison d'etre is to introduce the characters and the world more than to tell a standalone story, which is a shame because I think the characters deserved a quest with a bit more purpose. They don't really evolve in the manner that is customary to a hero's journey, and the plot of their next adventure is dangled like a carrot throughout, which only left me wondering why the author didn't write that book instead.

Overall this audiobook was entertaining and I hope the author pursues the series, but that the characters' next outing has a tighter edit and a more satisfactory conclusion.

There were a few issues with the recording quality, too, most notably the very long silences between some chapters while others have barely a pause. At one point the gap was so long that I picked up my phone to check the audiobook hadn't erroneously timed out or paused itself. A little bit of standardisation in the production would have helped it feel more professional.

Jarret Lemaster's performance as the narrator is energetic and enthusiastic. His delivery was sometimes a tad stilted and he would benefit from slowing his overall pace a touch, but Audible's app allows for incremental adjustments to speed and a little tweaking (to 0.95x) made all the difference. He was still fun to listen to and handled the characters' voices well - in speech and song!

This was my first audiobook narrated by Lemaster, and a quick listen to his other work on Audible suggests that he's American. The English accent used for this book is very natural and though it occasionally drifts towards Australian, I liked the choice of a slight regional dialect with northern pronunciations over the standard 'BBC RP' accent, which is the most common interpretation of British speech. Very occasionally his accent reminded me a little of Richard Armitage's East-Midlands dialect, but his voice lacked the softness and depth of Armitage's incomparable baritone. If Lemaster was performing in a non-native tongue in this book, then it was very nicely done. He may not be able to hold his head up quite as high in Scotland, however, but then a frog's vocal chords aren't really designed to accommodate human language, so some distortion is to be expected.

I would recommend this audiobook to anyone looking for a quick, fun, fantasy adventure, providing they don't mind that it ends on something of a cliffhanger.

*I received this audiobook free of charge in exchange for an honest, unbiased review.

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