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Publisher's Summary

Trading with the elves used to be so simple. Every year Master Cheeser Jonathan Bing would send his very best cheeses downriver to traders who would eventually return with Elfin wonders for the people of Twombly Town. But no more.
First the trading post at Willowood Station was mysteriously destroyed. Then a magical elfin airship began making forays overhead; Jonathan knew something was definitely amiss. So he set off downriver to deliver the cheeses himself, accompanied by the amazing Professor Wurzle, the irrepressible Dooly, and his faithful dog Ahab.
It would have been a pleasant trip, if not for the weeping skeleton, mad goblins, magic coins, an evil dwarf, a cloak of invisibility - and a watch that stopped time. However, the return trip would not be so simple.
This, the first volume in a trilogy, tells the story of Master Cheeser Jonathan Bing who sends his best cheeses downriver each year to the elves, in exchange for elfin treasures for the people of Twombly Town. When things go wrong, Jonathan has to set out to deliver the cheeses himself.
©1982 James P. Blaylock (P)2014 Audible Studios
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Critic Reviews

"A magical world, magically presented...having journeyed there, you will not wish to leave, nor ever to forget." (Philip K. Dick)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Katherine on 07-02-14

Enjoyable and Satisfying

Would you consider the audio edition of The Elfin Ship to be better than the print version?

I have not read the text. I have listened only and it was a satisfying experience.

Who was your favorite character and why?

Johnathan...I found him a good guide through this world.

What about Malk Williams’s performance did you like?

voice and characterization

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?


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4 out of 5 stars
By Katherine on 06-09-14

Charming, light-hearted, funny fantasy

Orignally posted at Fantasy Literature.

Audible has recently put several of James P. Blaylock’s novels in audio format, so I’m giving a few of them a try. The Elfin Ship, first published in 1982, is the first book in Blaylock’s BALUMNIA trilogy about a whimsical fantasy world filled with elves, goblins, dwarves, wizards, and (because it’s Blaylock), a few steampunk elements such as submarines and airships.

In The Elfin Ship we meet Jonathan Bing, a cheesemaker who lives in a quaint little village with his dog Ahab. It’s just before Christmas, a time when Bing should be selling his famous cheeses to neighboring towns. However, something is afoot in the outside world and trade is drying up. Not only is Bing’s business in danger, but all of the villagers will have a dreary holiday if they are unable to buy their traditional toys and treats. Somebody must be sent to investigate what’s happening outside the village and it’s obvious that Master Cheeser Bing is just the right person to go. Bing is reluctant — he’s just an ordinary stay-at-home kind of guy — but he’s single and his lifestyle depends on successful trade relations. So, accompanied by his dog Ahab, Professor Wurzle, and a simple boy named Dooly, Bing sets out on a quest that he hopes will uncover the mystery and save his village’s Christmas. Along the way they meet strange folks, have frightening adventures, encounter magical items, and discover secrets.

The Elfin Ship has an appealing setting. Twombly Town, Bing’s comfy village, feels like the shire — it’s a warm friendly place where everyone knows each other and life is sweet. When Bing and his friends leave for their quest, I was eager and ready for an adventure, but by the time the characters have been hazarding the wilds for a while, I found myself understanding why they were anxious to return to their friends and the comforts of Twombly Town. I liked this homey feel.

The characters are also likable. The Master Cheeser and the Professor are good people who are clever and witty. Dooly is sweet and there’s more to him than meets the eye. And, of course, there’s Ahab — who doesn’t love a loyal and friendly dog? There are no women in the story, unfortunately.

Many readers, including children and teens, will absolutely adore The Elfin Ship. There are a few dark moments, but mostly the novel is charming, light-hearted and funny, and there are bits of wisdom and important life lessons included. Its wholesome hominess feels a little like The Hobbit or The Wind in the Willows. The Elfin Ship stands alone, but there are two more BALUMNIA novels set in the same world with overlapping characters: The Disappearing Dwarf and The Stone Giant.

Malk Williams did a great job with the narration of Audible’s version (sample). He has a British accent and his warm voice fit perfectly with the cozy feel. I could imagine him sitting in a quaint inn, drinking a beer, smoking a pipe, and telling us this story.

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3 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By Charlie Paull on 06-09-14

Wallace and Gromit meet Swallows and Amazons

Would you consider the audio edition of The Elfin Ship to be better than the print version?

The audiobook is best for me because I like to listen whilst knitting and therefore do not have my hands free to turn the pages. In this case I also think the narrator's voice added a depth to the characters and the environment and enhanced the link to Wallace and Gromit (a favourite of mine). His voice is warm and friendly (as I think the book should be) and feels like a well-loved uncle reading the story.

What other book might you compare The Elfin Ship to, and why?

Wallace and Gromit - a Northern cheesemaker and his dog go on an adventure.
Swallows and Amazons - It is a rafting and boating adventure
Enid Blyton - Told in a slightly (mock?) old-fashioned children's bed time story style.
Lord of the Rings - Travelling adventure with a (mostly) safe elven town as part-way refuge. Spooky woods, Elves and dwarfs and other fantasy creatures including rather silly goblins.
Scooby Doo - The intrepid team have to investigate the goings on in the spooky woods

What about Malk Williams’s performance did you like?

The softly spoken Northern tones and accents Malk Williams uses in reading it are just perfect for the Wallace and Gromit-like atmosphere and add a lot to the character of the book and its inhabitants. I loved it.

Did you have an emotional reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

It is light hearted and humerous even when the bad things happen and has wonderfully imagined and evoked characters.

Any additional comments?

It is characterful and intrepid in all the best ways.

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6 of 7 people found this review helpful

2 out of 5 stars
By Garethman on 05-30-15

Just not interesting enough

The narrator uses a mock Northern accent, which could sound ok in the right circumstance, but undermines the idea by describing cotton wood trees on the river banks and Lima beans. These things are not really known in Yorkshire. The characters are shallow and the storyline weak. Maybe kids up to 7 years of age would like it, but I suspect anyone older would find it irritating.

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