After receiving funding from The National Lottery, the audio drama was released on October 6th 2016.
For just £6.99, you are provided with a link to download The Fairy Tree five times so you can listen on a variety of devices. There is a time limit though, and you have to download within the space of a month.
The audio drama download comes with 20 chapters including credits, a document on how to use the narrative, and a story navigation link. Aimed at ages eight and up, the navigation link makes the story easy to move through with the next chapter choices appearing below the chapter you are listening to. Although the narrative is complex and winding, the narration and navigation link make it simple to use for all ages.
You enter the narrative as a champion who is tasked to save a dying Queen Alessia and a country plagued by blight. Each chapter helps you to venture further into the magical kingdom on a quest to find the fairy tree, which will hopefully restore the kingdom to its former glory. The length of the audio drama depends on your choices and which character you choose to help you through the fantasy. At the end of each chapter, you make a decision and this determines which chapter you select next; because of these different paths, the story can be listened to multiple times with different endings.
In The Bookseller, producer of The Owl Tree, Michel Lafrance, said, “I’m hoping this project’s success could pave the way for a wider focus on audio-only immersive content as this is particularly important in engaging young people living with sight loss in both entertainment and educative applications.”
Without a doubt, The Fairy Tree has opened up audio narratives to a wider audience. The content is so immersive that it rivals the attraction of a film. With the realistic sound effects, it is a way for children and adults alike with sight loss to immerse themselves in a narrative. The Owl Field recommend headphones to give you the 3D sound experience. Sounds come in and out of each separate headphone and almost feels like virtual reality. Chapter three uses this technology particularly well. As the narrative takes you through a mountain pass, the sound of the wind makes you feel as if you are trekking the mountain yourself on the hunt for dragons and trolls. Even without headphones, the sound experience is great, but you do lose the 3D effect somewhat, which gives the story its magic. The final chapters are musically some of the best, with the endings giving the same crescendo of a film’s last few minutes.
It is hard not to find yourself wrapped up in the journey and with a trip to a fairy market initiating the idea of smells within the story it becomes even more realistic. When the magician, Magisterius, asks the listener to take a sniff of peppermint, it is almost impossible not to actually start twitching your nose in anticipation. You start to believe that you too can smell the delights of the magical marketplace.
The Fairy Tree has a full cast, with well-rounded characters so you feel as if you are really on a journey with them. The characters’ different accents really help to distinguish them without a visual cue, which if you leave the story and return to it at a later date, stops you getting lost.
If you’re looking for a story on a different platform for a change, then this is really unlike the standard audio book. You are sucked into the world of The Fairy Tree and left wanting to download it time and time again!
Emma Rowland is currently studying for a BA (Hons) English degree at Bournemouth University and loves creative writing, children’s books and the power of storytelling. She is looking to go into the publishing industry.