Written by Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, Tara Duncan, is an animated Byook tale featuring a magical experience between a young witch and a charming vampyr. Built to play on an iPhone or iPad, the Byook app allows readers to not only read fictional tales, but also experience the tale as a bystander in the story’s multiple scenarios.
“Third time’s a charm.” At least that was what author leads readers to believe when a charming vampyr, T’ovil Gre Datukal, kisses the young witch, Tara Duncan, for the third time. Amongst the funny plot of a magic town, ogres, and flying beds, the Byook short story found a couple of other ways to charm its readers—of which was through its use of background music and sound effects.
Although Tara Duncan reminded me a lot about Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, the short fairytale of the young witch and the knight-in-a-not-so-shining-armor vampyr created a truly different immersive experience. With ear pods plugged in and staring intently on my small iPhone screen, I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth the background music transitions were as I flipped through the pages of the book. Occasionally, the sudden sound effects on certain pages caught me off-guard; these sound effects included a bite from a vampyr, the clicking of heels on marble floors inside a humongous palace, as well as clear water flowing from a fountain—all of which succeeded in building up suspense and tension while reading.
Apart from simple animations such as changing background colors which was in sync with shifting music genres, the app also managed to tie in animated leaping frogs across the screen, glowing human hands that shot out magic light, and even manga looking characters giving a wink and a cheeky smile.
Merging the animation effects and sounds together, the Byook experience with Tara Duncan was indeed impressive. As a writer, I have always believed a good storyline is what attracts readers, which is why novels are still being sold in bookstores. But while the entire plot of Tara Duncan was not perfect, its flaws were minimalized by the music, sound effects, and humorous animation. It was also interesting how I reacted to the effects. While reading Tara Duncan, I was reminded of my other life experiences as I heard the sounds through my ear pods. For example, the manga images on a couple of the Byook footnotes were cleverly animated with the familiar sound from “ancient” video games, which brought back fond memories of Disney’s “Wreck-It Ralph.”
Despite the Tara Duncan tale being a simplistic take on vampyrs and witches, the combination of all these elements on Byook tingled my senses in a whole different way than it would have normally been if I read this as a traditional novel. A decade ago, I had my imagination and passion for writing triggered by Roald Dahl’s amazing stories accompanied by the signature illustrations of Quentin Blake. Today with the Byook, children across the world can begin imagining, simply with the help of digital technology.
However, if there were one thing to be changed about my Byook experience, it would be to connect the app to a large home theatre system, with a huge plasma television and booming sound system. Storytelling to your children at home before bedtime, would never be the same again.