Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Audiobook Review: Fifty Shades Freed by EL James

Title: Fifty Shades Freed (Fifty Shades #3)
Author: E.L. James
Narrator: Becca Battoe
Publisher: Random House Audio
ISBN: 0385360185

I'd had the paperback version of this and I admit fully that I'd bought books two and three shortly after I started reading book one. FSoG isn't exactly Shakespeare, but it has a really fun campy quality to it that I truly enjoyed. Then came book two, which had some fun parts but was sort of overly long and more than a little dull at points. Now I've finished book three and I can safely say that books two and three should've been condensed and mixed into one book. This was really the weakest one of the bunch. It's not helped by the fact that Random House chose the worst narrator possible for this.

When unworldly student Anastasia Steele first encountered the driven and dazzling young entrepreneur Christian Grey it sparked a sensual affair that changed both of their lives irrevocably. Shocked, intrigued, and, ultimately, repelled by Christian’s singular erotic tastes, Ana demands a deeper commitment. Determined to keep her, Christian agrees.

Now, Ana and Christian have it all—love, passion, intimacy, wealth, and a world of possibilities for their future. But Ana knows that loving her Fifty Shades will not be easy, and that being together will pose challenges that neither of them would anticipate. Ana must somehow learn to share Christian’s opulent lifestyle without sacrificing her own identity. And Christian must overcome his compulsion to control as he wrestles with the demons of a tormented past. 

Just when it seems that their strength together will eclipse any obstacle, misfortune, malice, and fate conspire to make Ana’s deepest fears turn to reality.

Where to start with what went wrong with this book? There's a lot of repetition in this book. I know that James might've been writing this in installments and as such, wasn't as aware of how many times she used the same phrases in this book. The constant "Oh my" and "Mr/s Grey" was pretty annoying to the point where I literally had to switch off the audio book because I was ready to toss my iPod onto the ground in frustration. The many slow and plodding parts of the book are further enhanced by it being spoken because it makes it that much more noticeable. There's some decent enough ideas here, I guess, but I don't think that we needed over 500 pages to tell them. It's overkill. There's only so many times we need to go through the whole "Yaargh, I want to bang Christian so badly and he wants to bang me, oh now he's all freaky control freak" thing.

Then there's Christian. I know that this is all new for him and that he might go into protective overdrive as a husband, but he turned into a snarling neanderthal in this book. I lost a lot of respect for Ana, that she kept putting up with him and making excuses for his attitude. No matter how bad his childhood was, that's not an excuse for his actions and I got frustrated that it took so long for Ana to finally start saying "get over it and move on". Even then she kept doing this "oh gee, I guess that all of this is because you were abused/neglected as a kid so it's all OK". She caved too many times and in situations where she shouldn't have. The repetition of these scenes made all of this that much more annoying.

This all might have been easily overlooked if not for the very, VERY poor choice of Becca Battoe as the narrator. Bluntly put, Battoe narrates everything in the same tone of voice with little to no alteration in her vocal patterns. She might have a pleasant and even voice, but you shouldn't use the same tone to narrate a sex scene and a bracelet purchasing scene. It makes everything boring. The narrator also makes Ana seem like a moronic bimbo. I never thought that Ana was Mommy's Little Mensa Maid, but I never really thought that she was as vapid as Battoe makes her sound. Add on the incredibly poor accents and Battoe pretty much strikes out on everything. Especially the sex scenes. I could forgive the other failings, but if you're going to read a sex scene then at least try to make it hot. I blame part of this on Random House because from what I can see, Battoe has never narrated anything with this sort of content in it. If I hadn't googled her, I'd have sworn that this was her first audiobook, but no- she frequently narrates children and YA books. I really felt that Battoe's narration was what put the final nail in this coffin and I can't help but feel that if Random House had gone with a narrator that is specifically experienced in narrating sex (Tavia Gilbert is amazing), the book would have been dramatically improved. I honestly for the life of me can't figure out why they chose Battoe. I think I'd rather have listened to Gilbert Godfried narrate this. Harsh, but I've listen to enough top notch narrations to know that this was a particularly poor job.

If you want to read this, skip the audiobook and go for the paper version. You'll still run into the problems of a lagging plot and overly repetitious scenes but you'll be spared Battoe's narration. I'm really glad that I got this through my local library rather than purchased it because this really was awful. If you must get this, get it through the library. I'd give this two stars except that Battoe really spoiled the narration for me.

1 out of 5 stars


  1. I wonder how much of the choice for Battoe to narrate has to do with a growing disconnect in publishing about what is YA. After all, if the words aren't very challenging to say correctly on the first take, isn't that YA? It goes a bit into the box of "What's up with Hunger Games doing in a middle school library?" Well if the language is YA, then it must be a YA book right?

    I'm not saying that they wanted to make the audio book of 50 shades (of anything) to be a YA, but I wonder if that was a factor in the casting for narration....

  2. That's actually a pretty good point that I haven't thought about. Battoe has done a lot of young adult audiobooks so they might have chosen her with the idea of having YA readers look at her and be more likely to pick up the book, especially since this was originally a fanfiction based upon Twilight.

    The only problem is that in the rush to get these narrated and to try to dip into the YA market they forgot that Battoe isn't very experienced in this end of the audiobook market and that narrated sex has to well, be sexy. I didn't expect Battoe to sound like a porn star but I'd have liked a little something more than a female Ben Stein version of Fifty Shades. (shakes head) I'm still pretty irritated with the narration quality, as you can tell.

  3. Great review. Everybody is talking about this series so maybe I have to buy too.

  4. I'm SO late to this party...but I'm currently trying to finish Fifty Shades Freed. I couldn't bear to READ the book after about Chapter 14, so I started listening to the audiobook. What.A.Mistake. I hate to be rude, but I CANNOT STAND BATTOE'S VOICE!!!!!!!! Robotic. Unnatural. One last thing, I hate whenever she says words with a "SH" in them (Christian, shoulder, etc...) it WHISTLES loudly. UUUGHHHHH!! Thank you for allowing me to vent!