I almost returned this book to Audible, for the second time in all my years with them, a few chapters in. Goddard Jones penchant for describing every little detail was driving me up the wall. But then the details started building some very believable characters, so I stuck with it - only to be disappointed, as some reviewers have said before me, by the ending. It struck me that is was the same way I felt after I listened to Tana Rogers' book, In the Woods. A lot of emotional investment in the characters, only to be stunned by a "That's it?" Sort of ending. I obviously like my characters to go through a bit more dynamic change, and a bit more redemption in the resolution. Not here.
I did like Cassandra Campbell's narration.
Now having listened to three Laura Kinsale novels, all narrated by the same narrator, I feel somewhat of an expert on her plots and characters. There are many things I enjoy about her books - she is a very vivid writer, and is good at coming up with plots that aren't as formulaic as some in this genre. Her male protagonists are, for lack of a better word, magnificent. Brooding, handsome, intelligent, sardonic, emotional, seeking a different sort of woman from those who usually throw themselves at him. They go through a pretty big change in the course of the book. Her female protagonists, on the other hand, drive me crazy. I appreciate that they each have their own singular beauty, and are courageous and daring - most of the time. But at other times, they are whiny, stubborn, and willfully blind to the love that these admittedly flawed men are trying to give to them, ascribing to a goal or purpose that makes them repeatedly reject what is offered to them. Toward the end of the book I'm saying, "You are a stupid woman" often to the woman who, yet again, will not take what is offered to her. I'm not sure if I will listen to another Laura Kinsale. I am interested in whether it might be the narrator - who is outstanding when portraying the male character - who is feeding my bias, or if those who have read her books feel the same antipathy toward the female character.
As well-written, original, and amazing as the book is, Eduardo Ballerini is outstanding as a narrator. I thought he was good in Beautiful Ruins,, but this book was a tour de force for him. I don't want to give the plot away, so let's just say when a new character showed up toward the end of the book who was totally unlike any previous characters, the first time he read in that character's voice, I said "Wow" very softly to myself. If I had seen his performance in a theater, I would have given him a standing ovation.
Not the first part of the book. It did not get truly riveting for me until he arrived in Fount Royal. After that, the time flew by. The relationship between Matthew and Rachel - well, actually Matthew's relationship with anyone - was so vivid and palpable. I was also riveted by the action because I had no idea how it was going to end up. I figured out one of the mysteries fairly early on, but could not envision the whole ending. And finally, I enjoyed that the characters' sensibilities about such subjects such as witchcraft were totally congruent with the time period. Even the most thoughtful of characters could not rule it out entirely, while others have an unthinking, knee-jjerk reaction that to a modern reader is maddening and disgusting, but still totally congruent.
The way he was able to do so many voices. His upper class characters speak with English accents, as would a well-educated character from that time, and his lower class ones speak in a more Americanized version. But even more amazing, he put enough nuance in a character of the same class that i was able to differentiate them easily in my head. also able to do the voices so well that I could easily tell the difference between characters in my head.
Once the action moved to Fount Royal, I did.
I was taking a risk when I downloaded a book of this length, but I took a chance because of the subject and Ballerini's narration. As moved into the book, I didn't want it to end, and was delighted to find out it was one of a series! I have already begun the second in the series.
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