Let me start by saying that I did finish this book and I will probably check out the sequel. That is not necessarily a sign of a well written book though, as I did slog through all those popular vampire stories too.
This book could have been very good, not great but a fun imaginitive adventure if it had been proofread prior to publication. The premise is fun but the writing feels unfinished with unnecessary conversations that drag inteminably plus a huge inconsistency in the hero's intelligence from page to page. Nobody who has the conversations and uses the vocabulary that Bran does could be believed to be that dense. The supporting characters are a bit better but several of the more important ones lack development and fail to be likable. The bumbling stupidity shown by most of the adults in the story fails to be funny and silly as it should be and is, actually, a bit insulting. It feels as though someone who writes quite well for adults has tried to create a children's book by taking very young books and adult novels and running them through a blender. Kids are not all stupid and want as much an anybody to read intelligently. I still have high hopes for the author as the story is quite fun and the monsters and suspense are well done.
The narration also leaves a bit to be desired. Mr. Thompson does a lovely job with most of the characters and even manages to make some of the dialogue believable but he could use a bit of work on the women's voices. Most of the female voices are shrill and vapid and although the women are written to be more intelligent then the male characters, they come across as a bit too saccharine.
In spite of my criticism, I did actually enjoy the story and I hope Mr. Nation takes a few more creative writing classes and tries again. Maybe if the author had a higher opinion of his readers' intelligence he would stop dumbing down his characters and write a really fun adventure story that everyone could enjoy.
This had never been my favorite Allingham but I am thrilled to have more of my favorite series available on Audible. I have always admired the lightheartedness of Margery Allingham's books. They are silly and they know it but they are good fun to read.
The story is well read by Francis Matthews, who is my favorite narrator for the Campion series (I have them all on cassette). I just hope I am not the only one who loves these books and that Audible releases the full collection unabridged. I would love to see the Gyrth Chalice, Beckoning Lady, Traitor's Purse and The China Shepherdess available here.
I am usually a huge Garth Nix fan (don't know anything much about Sean Williams) but this was a huge disappointment. None of the kids could get through even the first half and I only plodded on to the end because I had paid for it. The story is too slow and the characters are dull and vapid. Nobody in my family could believe in a 12 year old boy who says "ooh, you gave me a fright" even in a fantasy story. Maybe a better narrator would have helped some (her voices for the cats were almost intolerably shrill) but all in all, I wish we had skipped this one.
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