Reading aloud: The Scholomance

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Speaking of books, I have been reading Naomi Novik’s Scholomance series to my household over the last weeks, and I have been enjoying doing that a lot. So I thought I’d write about it. With spoilers. At least mild ones.

First of all, I’ve been enjoying re-reading the books. This is my… fourth time reading the first book? I re-read it before reading the second one, and I re-read the first two before reading the third. Anyway, I’m pretty familiar with it as a story, and I am pretty familiar with the characters.

OK, here we go: the protagonist, El Higgins, grew up in rural Wales with her Welsh mother, and I am using a terrible, terrible Welsh accent for her, and I have no regrets about that at all. I am having so much fun with her dialogue. Also fun—voicing Orion as a California surfer dude. I know he’s from New York, and it’s certainly hinted that his parents are both old-money New Yorkers, and it is never hinted in any way that he talks like a surfer dude, but also: he’s a big dumb sweet-hearted inarticulate lummox of a guy (through most of the series) and the surfer dude thing works really well. It’s possible that my listeners have focused overly on what an idiot he is, but also they have properly focused on what an idiot he is.

Less good: I started out doing Aadhya with a generic (terrible) South Asian accent, because her family is clearly from South Asia. But (a) my South Asian accent really is terrible and not reliable, and (2) it is based almost entirely on British/Pakistani voices besides, and while I can never remember where Aadhya’s family is from (it is mentioned only once, I think) it is not that part of the subcontinent, and (iii) Aadhya herself grew up in New Jersey in an aggressively assimilationist household and would absolutely speak with the accent of an overeducated mid-Atlantic kid. On the plus side, she doesn’t sound like anyone else in the story, but on the minus side, she sounds terrible, and the rhythms of Novik’s dialogue don’t match how I’m speaking. Also, for some reason, I started reading Chloe with a New York/North Jersey accent, when she really ought to have an upper-crust Roosevelt sort of accent, and now I’m stuck with that, too. I can use the Roosevelt for Magnus, at least. Although I should probably have saved Roosevelt for Orion’s parents, now that I think about it. Hm.

Liu, well… I did not attempt a Chinese accept for Liu, whose first language is Mandarin but who is entirely fluent in English. I do Liu’s voice with my tongue very far forward, such that her consonants are very mushy, which gives her a kind of shyness or diffidence that I like for her. I also, more or less without intending to, gave her a higher-pitched voice line than the others.

That’s almost all the characters who have extended dialogue in the first two books—Liesel appears and is my standard German war-movie accent—not my cultured Austrian accent, which isn’t any more accurate than the war-movie won but I do distinguish them. Ibrahim is from North Africa, of course, and Yaakov from Israel, and I do my best, but fortunately neither have much dialogue. Even Nkoyo (my attempt at East African) has surprisingly few lines. Khamis has a few more lines—I don’t have any idea what a Zanzibar accent Yancy will be my very best Miriam Margolyes, of course, when we get to her. I haven’t made decisions about some of the other Book Three characters—other than having a vague feeling that Li Shan Feng should have a very deep voice.

Speaking of pitch—I have got away from voicing the female-presenting characters with higher pitches than the male-presenting ones. Partially that’s because the bulk of the characters in this book are between sixteen and eighteen years old, and partially because I don’t feel really comfortable doing (or listening to myself do) high-pitched “girl” voices. I don’t think it’s a problem, although of course as the person reading, I wouldn’t necessarily know if it’s confusing to my listeners.

I’m curious what y’all think—have any of you read any of them aloud, or listened to them?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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