This is one of those times when I am going to struggle to do the review justice. My words just can’t adequately express just how amazing all of the audio dramas from Heirloom Audio Productions are. In the Reign of Terror lives up to all of our high expectations we’ve built up after a couple of years of listening to all of the other audio dramas from this fantastic company. This is their 7th production, and we own them all!
What is an audio adventure? I’m glad you ask. In the case of Heirloom Audio Productions, all of the characters in the story are performed by an all star Hollywood cast of professional actors.
These actors PERFORM. They aren’t simply reading a book here. You are listening to gifted performers who are accompanied by an amazing and professionally played music score that would rival any Hollywood blockbuster movie. In fact, while listening, if you just your eyes you feel like you are sitting in a theater watching a big budget film.
In the Reign of Terror is the story of the French Revolution in the sort of rich detail that I’m not sure anyone I know studied in school. As the story begins we transported to Arlington National Cemetary and we hear the voice of a young man named Harry who is visiting the grave of a relative. As he does so, he contemplates the French Revolution and compares it to the American Revolution. That theme carries throughout much of the story. Another gentleman, Mr. George, corrects him offers to tell him a story to demonstrate just how different they were. And with that, the listener is whisked away to a land a time a few hundred years ago.
From there we meet a young British boy by the name of Harry who is headed to France to live under the care of an aristocratic family who is looking for a friend and tutor for their son. In time young Harry gains the trust and respect of this family until he is accepted as if he were one of their own, as the French Revolution takes hold the aristocracy of France is put under intense persecution. Money and belongings are seized. People are sentenced to death and all for no substantial reason. It is a frenzy. Harry vows to protect the children of the family who has “adopted” him with his own life and he does just that.
Some of this was very painful to listen to personally. None of my children, ages 7-11 were bothered, they were enthralled and excited! I, on the other hand, kept thinking of other groups of people who were or are treated just as simply for who are. I paused the recording often so we could discuss that very issue.
What is fascinating about this story is that it takes a different perspective than most. Instead of focusing on the events from the peasant’s view point as most stories about the French Revolution do, here instead we focus on how things happened from the aristocracies point of view.
Heirloom Audio has introduced something new called Live the Adventure Club, and I had the chance to explore it! This is a complete online community with a lot of great resources. It is from within this website that you can download a study guide of materials to help you and your family get the most out of any of the audio adventures including In the Reign of Terror. These study guides are a gold mine! There are great lists of questions to help you discuss each chapter of the audio adventure with your children. Some of these questions are called “listening well” questions to help you gauge how much of the fast action your family is following and remembering. The other questions are “Thinking Further” questions and these dive into historical events and encouraging the family to apply common themes from the story to one’s own life. For us, they tend to be discussion starters. We get to just a couple before we have gone off on some rabbit trail and everyone is passionately talking about some thing, memory, or something or other related to the story. It is fantastic!
I’ve got to say, I’ve seen all of the study guides Heirloom Audio has created, and this is the best by far. It takes what could be just a few comprehension questions and adds so much richness that you can use it for a full blown unit study on the French Revolution. You need it!