THE STORY. I am reviewing the audiobook version of Border Princes, an abridged version of the novel, which is also available in print form. Presumably it was abridged to reduce its length. Even so, it is still long, occupying three CDs, more than three hours listening length, the time it takes to watch four TV episodes. The events that take place would never fill four episodes, but we do have more detail and insight. The story logically fits somewhere in the first season, as Gwen is co-habitating with Rhys, but they are not married, indeed have not yet worked out their differences.
Compared to the first audiobook (Another Life), I thought the story held together much better. Mysteries and characters were introduced that seem to have no relationship with each other, but eventually we learn how they intersect. I thought the story was rather good, and at first wondered why it was not considered for use in the TV series, but eventually I realized that two plot elements were in fact used in TW episodes, perhaps as ideas from this story. We don't learn a lot that's new about the characters, but we do get some unexpected insight into the nature of "the rift" that I haven't seen elsewhere.
THE CHARACTERS. Compared to Another Life, the characters have more equal weight in the story: the light isn't always on Jack. Like many TW episodes, there is a spotlight on team members, and here the spotlight is on Gwen and, erm, James, right from the beginning, though Owen, Tosh, Ianto, and of course Jack have their place too.
It's funny that the cover features Jack rather than Gwen, especially since it is Gwen's story and read by Eva Myles, but I guess he is the TW trademark.
THE READING. Reading a novel requires the skill of dynamic reading applied to the plot. I complained a bit in my review of Another Life that John Barrowman gave a one-speed (always flashy) reading of the story. In Border Princes, Eve Myles dazzled me with an amazing reading, full of dynamic energy, from quiet to loud, from romantic to fearsome, from slow to fast, fully capturing my attention and holding it throughout. She is not simply a great actress: she can also read a novel really well. Her enunciation and diction is most excellent, though with a Welsh-English accent - which I love, but could take some getting used to for some. There are subtle variations on pronunciation, for example putting the accent on the first syllable of "debris" (it normally goes on the second syllable in American English). Overall, it added the allure of her reading, for me.
BOTTOM LINE. Four stars means I Like It in Amazon reviews. I reserve Five stars for classics. The story is good, though it does not hold up to that standard. The reading could bring it up another half star. Thank you, Ms. Myles!