Tamora Pierce’s Melting Stones is a novel that has been released first as a full-cast audiobook; it won’t be out in hardcover until October. It takes place at the same time as The Will of the Empress: Briar has accompanied Sandry and his other foster-sisters to Namorn, leaving his student Evvy with his former teachers Lark and Rosethorn. But Evvy’s gotten in some minor trouble at the temple, so Rosethorn takes her along when she goes to the Battle Islands to investigate the widespread death of plants and animals.
Melting Stones is told by Evvy, which initially made me reluctant to listen to it because I’d found the actress’s voice difficult to listen to in a prior audiobook: Evvy did a lot of whining in that book, and the actress was really good at it. Fortunately Evvy does much less whining here and I generally found her a listenable narrator, though on occasion I found the emotion in her voice a little overstated. (Your mileage will almost certainly vary.) On a similar note, the recording uses sound effects to convey earthquakes, which I found more obtrusive than I’d have preferred.
I usually find audiobooks more tense than text, but I was surprised how much more tense I found the story when I knew that there was no text and that I was bound to the audiobook’s pace. The audio-only format also hampers my ability to review the story, as before I write up audiobooks, I usually flip through the text versions, reminding myself of different aspects and reassessing the pace. I can say that I liked the resolution, which avoided an obvious misstep; that the arc of the character Mertide was underwritten; and that I really wish Pierce had written the story of Briar, Evvy, and Rosethorn in Yanjing pre-Will before this, because its absence continues to be a great big gaping hole in the series, one whose filling I fear will be made awkward by the additional details about it here.
If you’ve liked prior audiobook versions of Pierce’s books, or if you can’t wait until October, try the audio sample at Audible. (It’s downloadable there, or you can get it on CD from Amazon at a steep discount.)