For the first 10 hours I enjoyed this book, then it started to drag. And the drag was compound by the main character becoming a tiresome bore. Entire chunks of the manuscript could have been deleted and the story would not have suffered. The story begins to bog down midway. I kept forgetting that everything took place in a matter of days, not weeks. It felt like months. By the time I wanted to stop listening, I had invested so much time into the story I felt I had to see it through
-The narrator, Eduardo Ballerini, does a superb job. I would definitely listen to another of his books.
-Robert McCammon is a wonderful writer. His language is evocative and sucks the reader into the story. There is just too much of it.
-Great character studies of the residents of Fount Royal, even the bad guys. And that contributes to the negatives because some characters feel like they were there because the author wanted to write about them, not because they were critical to the story.
-The 30 hours which should have been 20 - at most
-Matthew Corbett's repetitive and sanctimonious whining. I don't blame some of the other characters for not taking him seriously.
-Characters that appear and then disappear once they have served their purpose. What, for instance, happened to the blacksmith after his tryst with his equine companion?
-My unwillingness to believe that a young man as educated and smart as Matthew would throw away his entire live on a woman he met briefly.
-The book takes place over less than two weeks yet feels like it is at least two months.
-Others have pointed out the details that are off for the period.
-Too many characters that serve little purpose other than to help Matthew uncover someone's secret. The troupe of actors come to town, months ahead of schedule. with a new stage manager who just happens to have been acquainted with one of the bad guys decades ago in England. The troupe appears one day and then departs the next.
-The absence of positive females, or many female characters at all, except the witch and the housekeeper. The only other females were an entreprenurial shrew and her seemingly possessed daughter. None of the main male characters had a wife living in Fount Royal. The wives were all dead or crazy or addicted but living elsewhere.
The "I almost stopped listening":
-The penis obsessed language used by almost every male character in the story. They all seemed to be obsessed with penises big and small. It didn't feel right. Just like it felt very wrong that the magistrate would tell the slimy innkeeper Matthew was a virgin. Matthew was 20 years old in 1699. I wonder if this would have been acceptable dinner conversation.
-(Spoiler Alert on this one) Instead of finding the scene where poor Lucy the horse is mounted by her owner (in the biblical sense} to be grotesque or repellent, I found it laughable. The image of the man suspended in mid-air in a homemade sex sling to enjoy connubial bliss with his pony made me think of a circus for perverts.
-Matthew is so set on proving Rachael is innocent, yet he willing lets the guilty go free. Most of the main characters have a secret to hide or have been committing crimes. But Matthew keeps the secrets to meet his own ends.
-Matthew can't see past his quest to save Rachael. He was even willing to abandon the magistrate, the man who educated and protected him, for the sake of a woman he barely knew.
Reader, Listener, Optimist
The author freely mixes bits of modern parlance with his overuse of contrived Dickensian language. He wallows in the vernacular of the time, trying to convey a sense of life in 1699 America, but ultimately, the overuse is a distraction. Why say something plainly when you can force layers of awkward similes to make it sound "authentic". Edoardo Ballerini delivers this babble well, but he is unable to salvage the author's exuberance for flowery gibberish.
McCammon's attempts at eroticism come off as unfortunate and gratuitous sexual exploitation of his readers/listeners that would likely drive even Ken Follett to rethink what he believes the average reader secretly desires. McCammon is willing, even eager, to put a tawdry spin on nearly everything his poor characters do. After so much grungy titillation threatens the morality of his characters, his credibility takes a serious hit.
And when considering his trustworthiness as an author of historical fiction, his cavalier use of artistic license has to be challenged. His fact checking becomes secondary to inadvertently painting an inaccurate, but convenient portrait of life in the colonies. As a small example, the place where a blacksmith works is a smithy and he is referred to as a smith, not the other way round. The inaccuracies are troubling and they become such a distraction, that they undermine the strengths that an otherwise good story might have capitalized on.
Avid reader, loves suspense, classics, and any books that are well written no matter the genre.
I enjoyed this book. It started with a bang! Moving right along I could picture the characters and the setting vividly and slowly slowly it started to move slower and slower....
It drives me crazy when an author repeats how someone feels or what they are thinking over and over. There were so many great characters and the story was good - it just could have been shortened to keep you more engaged.
I will try the next in the series but not right away.
I hear voices. But maybe that's because there's always an Audible book in my ear.
This was a most unexpected surprise. I selected the book because of the narrator - Edoardo Ballerini - and the amazing job he did with "Beautiful Ruins." He does an equally superb job with this book ... a dark, historical thriller.
If you want to pick it apart, you can. Historically speaking, it's flawed. For mystery readers in general, there's no surprise in the end. But none of that matters. This book has a distinct pace and storyline - one that moves along and takes you for quite a ride. It is perhaps one of the best one-credit values on Audible.
I was reminded of a couple other books while I was listening. The comparison to Gabaldon's "Outlander" series is inevitable. There are similar characteristics. If you combined that with "Fingersmith" and "Mistress of the Art of Death," you have some idea of what it's like. Dark, grisly and utterly compelling.
I am able to listen to audio books at work, which is the only reason I got as far in this book as I did. I currently have 3 hours left and am just so over it that I doubt I will finish it. I don't even care what happens. The book mildly held my attention for 2/3 and the last 1/3...is just disappointing. Nothing is really getting wrapped up and I'm bored (everyone else seems to love it, so I'm assuming that the "wrapping up" takes place in the upcoming 3 hours).
It takes a LONG time for the story to pick up. Hours and hours in, you are still wondering when the plot will "really" develop. And when the plot DOES go somewhere...it splices in so many different directions that it feels like 10 different, bordering-on-snooze-fest stories. Plus, it's super weird. For instance, there is a fairly graphic scene of bestiality that takes place near the beginning of the book...and the author does nothing with it. The kid runs out of the barn and that's all you hear of the blacksmith and his horses...for the rest of the book. (Granted, I do still have 3 hours left...maybe the story goes back to it? Doubtful) My point is, it seems like it's just grossness for the sake of being gross. And there are numerous descriptions of demon sex, etc...which, in my opinion don't add to the story. It just leaves the entire book feeling scattered and dripping with a grimy darkness that you don't know what to do with.
Not my favorite. I definitely don't recommend. I tried it because it got such rave reviews, so I'm trying to balance everything out :)
As a side note, the narrator was excellent. I only gave him 4 stars because I can't for the life of me figure out why he's reading this book. I see him narrating The Count of Monte Cristo or something...which is what I'm going to listen to next. (Doing a bit of course correcting on my audio books)
Gen-Xer, software engineer, and lifelong avid reader. Soft spots for sci-fi, fantasy, and history, but I'll read anything good.
I got through to the end of this one more out of dogged commitment to finishing a book than from thinking it was very good. While the story is entertaining enough in a "fun mystery to read at the beach" sense, it's filled with pretty much every predictable trope you can think of for a novel set in the American Colonies in 1699. There's an _Accused Witch Who Isn't Really a Witch_. There's a _Pompous, Self-Interested Town Father_. There's a _Firebrand Preacher_. There are some _Pitchfork-Waving Villagers_. There's a _Too-Smart-For-His-Britches Young Man_ who suspects that _Something Fishy Is Going On_ and applies _Logic and Reason_ to the situation. There's a _By-the-Book Judge_. There are _Helpful, Earthy Indians_ and negro slaves. There are several characters who are _Not What They Seem_. There are _Convenient Coincidences_.
While I expect novelists to take creative liberties with historical accuracy, there are so many flagrant anachronisms here, it gets a bit ridiculous. For example, not only does one character say to another, "put that in your pipe and smoke it", but there's actually a scene where two characters light up some joints. I wouldn't have been surprised, at that point, if they'd wheeled out a steampunk microwave and cooked some burritos. Where McCammon does get in some plausible detail, there's rarely a sense that his research went much deeper than the level needed for a theme park.
I wouldn't go so far as to call this novel TERRIBLE; the characters, despite their cliche, are well-drawn. The first half of the book is reasonably entertaining. The author seems to mean well. But, I'm bumping what might have been a three star rating down to a two because the resolution to the mystery was so phoned in. If all you care about in an audiobook is that it provide diversion during your commute to work, Speaks the Nightbird might be worth your while, but if you're looking for any kind of complexity or depth, it's thoroughly mediocre.
I can't fault audiobook narrator Edoardo Ballerini for his performance, though. He does as capable a job with the material as can be expected.
I don't remember the last time I enjoyed listening to a novel this much. I got drawn in as soon as the magistrate and his clerk got to Fount Royal to investigate and determine the fate of a woman accused of witchcraft. This was 1699, and it didn't take but a few loose accusations to condemn a woman to be burned at the stake. Unfortunately, mob mentality takes over too easily when there are a few people encouraging their fears.
It's not about the witch----this is a story about what happens when evil wins if good men do nothing. In this novel we have a very good man--the clerk Matthew Corbett who assists the magistrate Isaac Woodward. Is the beautiful Rachel a witch, or the target of nasty gossiping women? Or is there another reason she has become the focus for all the evil acts which threaten to bring down this new town? The author masterfully keeps us guessing until the end.
A complex story with suspects galore! Matthew in his quiet, soft spoken manner, goes about investigating on his own when the magistrate falls ill. He is steadfast in his determination, yet never lets anger or frustration interfere with his goal.
A small caution for the squeamish--there are some graphic bloody scenes and some explicit sexual language (including people and animals) -however, these types of acts probably are true to that period and as such - are not inappropriate.
- - - -and what is it about that voice of Edoardo Ballerini that makes it possible to listen for hours without ever tiring of it? Truly one of the best narrators on Audible.
A good editor could have greatly improved this book by removing the various subplots inserted simply to throw the reader off the trail. Also, some of the characters' actions do not comport with normal human nature and motivation.
Overall this is not a bad story, but if you are a historian of 17th century colonial America it may well drive you mad. It appears that everyone has matches (not invented in usable form until the 19th century), wears tricorn hats (exceedingly unlikely for backwoods Carolina and a 19th century word to boot), and are citizens, (a term not in general use until Revolutionary times). I eventually made a small game of find the historical anachronism. But if you don't care about accuracy of detail you may well enjoy this story.
Reading was one of the best I have heard. I was wrapped up in the story in no time at all