Audie Award Nominee, Fiction, 2013
Judgment of the Witch
The Carolinas, 1699: The citizens of Fount Royal believe a witch has cursed their town with inexplicable tragedies - and they demand that beautiful widow Rachel Howarth be tried and executed for witchcraft. Presiding over the trial is traveling magistrate Issac Woodward, aided by his astute young clerk, Matthew Corbett. Believing in Rachel's innocence, Matthew will soon confront the true evil at work in Fount Royal....
After hearing damning testimony, magistrate Woodward sentences the accused witch to death by burning. Desperate to exonerate the woman he has come to love, Matthew begins his own investigation among the townspeople. Piecing together the truth, he has no choice but to vanquish a force more malevolent than witchcraft in order to save his beloved Rachel - and free Fount Royal from the menace claiming innocent lives.
©2002 Robert McCammon (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
“Edoardo Ballerini performs this story of accusation and fear flawlessly. He effortlessly switches his pitch, accents, and timbre to suit the unfortunate Rachel Howarth, the endless curious Corbett, and the various determined characters, good and evil.” (AudioFile)
"a compelling story that should find a wide readership. Highly recommended for popular fiction collections." (Library Journal)
"An excellent story, full of tension and suspense.” (Stephen King)
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)
Another reviewer said this book was like Outlander. I seriously disagree with that. It was an interesting tale but nothing like Outlander. I found little difference between the depictions of the characters of the towns people, the story dragged on far too long and not always believable. Not bad, i was just expecting better.
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.
Reading was one of the best I have heard. I was wrapped up in the story in no time at all
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.
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.
Addicted to Audible!
This is a book that grabs your attention from beginning to end! A wonderful historical novel that features all kinds of interesting characters, situations and details. It is never slow or boring. It has great,well crafted characters. The details of daily life, medical treatments, food, law, religious beliefs, witchcraft,slavery, piracy, etc were all fascinating. The murder mystery was surprising and built tension throughout the story. It did not have a predictable ending. Edoardo Ballerini is an amazing talent, I have not listened to anything he has read that didnt keep me mesmerized by the sound of his voice. I was sorry when this book ended and hope to find another by this author.
I can find a book to love in any genre -- a beautifully written classic, an interesting mystery or sci-fi, a trashy romance. Bring it!
STORY (historical mystery) - Speaks the Nightbird is a great book. The main plot line follows a witch trial to its conclusion. It's interesting to see how it unfolds -- the investigation, the trial and learning the beliefs/motives of those involved. There are lots of characters and lots of clues, but it's still very easy to keep things straight. Don't try to figure out the ending because you probably won't be able to.
The book has some very dark characters and some very endearing ones. The main character, Matthew, grows from a young adult to a mature one during the span of the story. I really liked the way the author addressed his relationship with the accused witch.
I considered rating the book a 5 but made deductions for three small things: (1) a few scenes make me wonder about the sexual inclinations of the author, (2) some scenes were too dark and/or gross for my taste, and (3) even though it's never, ever boring, it's bit long for my personal taste.
PERFORMANCE - Wow! Wonderful expression, timing, foreign accents, perfect portrayal of an evangelist and a character on his deathbed. I'm going to check for more books read by this talented narrator.
OVERALL - (Actual rating 4.5) I've read some harsh complaints about this book, but I found it thoroughly enjoyable and recommend it highly. There is sex, language and some gore, though, so it might not be for those who are sensitive.
Say something about yourself!
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.
This was a good book, not great. There were periods where the story dragged but they were not so long that the could not be surmounted and the story itself was sufficient to keep me going. It could definitely have been improved by shaving a few hours from its 30-hour length though.
If Mr. McCammon would remove some of the more graphic sexual scenes, both human and non-human, he may have a very good YA novel on his hands. Besides these scenes, and some of fairly graphic violence, the book reads much like YA fiction, which is not necessarily a negative. I enjoyed reading and listening to both the Harry Potter and Hunger Games series and have no qualms about admitting it. However, it almost seems as if Mr. McCammon realized that his work was somewhat on the YA side and added these scenes so as to avoid such categorization. While some of the scenes were helpful in casting light on the particulars of the case being pursued in "Speaks the Nightbird," others seemed, at best, superfluos--particularly the scene between the blacksmith and the object of his affection.
Overall, I would suggest this book to anyone desiring to receive a long book for their credit and something light that requires little strain of the intellectual muscle. It was enjoyable enough and I don't regret the use of a credit on the book but I won't pursue the rest of the series with any urgency either.
Also, if you are easily offended by graphic sex and violence I would suggest looking elsewhere.
"Very, Very Clever"
This story is not generally my kind of subject matter, but both the author and narrator have gripped me with a very, very clever story, that is as factual and historic as it is murder, mystery.
I only really downloaded this because I was absolutely blown away by Swan Song which after 34 hours of listening, I was left wishing there were another 34 hours remaining, I was that enthralled.
I have already downloaded the next 2 instalments in the Matthew Corbett series and I cannot wait. Summed up in 1 sentence ' Robert McCammon doesn't just write, he paints images that immerse you into the very fabric of the story'.
"Wonderful historical, mystery, thriller"
This slowly developing, detailed and descriptive novel brings alive an historical period while weaving a web of mystery. Drawing pen portraits of a collection of frontiers people, all with an unusual history, McCammon introduces the reader to witchcraft and ignorance, murders and an underlying sense of threat. But striding through this grim and frightening landscape is the determined and morally sound Matthew Corbett, judge's clerk. The reader sees the characters and the new town through Matthew's eyes, shadowing his perseverance as he investigates the crimes being blamed on Rachel's witchcraft. Beautifully read too. I will be looking out for the other books in this series!
A very enjoyable story with an unusual setting and interesting characters. Well written and sympathetically narrated.
Loved the description in this novel, the characters were well drawn and the narrator was ideally suited to this book. Difficult to put down and didn.t want to end!
"Really good read"
After reading Robert McCammons book "Swan Song" I went looking for more books by this author. I came upon this book the first in a series of books about a young man called Matthew Corbett. To be honest I wasn't sure for the first few minutes, and then I became lulled by the lovely voice of Edoardo Ballerini.
I became absorbed by characters and enjoyed the way in which the characters developed. I thought the plot was good and this book was a good introduction to Matthew Corbett. I have listened to all of the Matthew Corbett books and eagerly await the next.
I loved this book. It isn't the sort of story I would normally listen to, and initially I wasn't sure it was my cup of tea, but as the story unfolded I became more and more wrapped up in the mystery and intrigue. Matthew Corbett is a novel and intriguing character, and I have enjoyed his development over the series of books. Eduardo Ballerini's narration is fantastic - I could listen to him speak all day. My one complaint is every now and then he would speak a line of dialogue that was then subsequently given an emotion that I didn't feel matched the tone it was spoken in; but this was a minor niggle, and one that has been less apparent in subsequent books in the series. I can't wait for the next book in the series to come out.
"Not usually my cup of tea "but I loved it"
I would not usually listen to this sort of book but thought it was great. I purchased it after listening to swan song which definitely was my sort of read. I enjoyed swan song so much I thought I would give this a go. At first I wondered what the hell I was listening to because of all the thee's and thou's and historical fiction isn't for me. But after the first hour of listening I was hooked, the narration is great and the story line is intriguing. I have now also listened to some of the other Matthew Corbit Novels and enjoyed them just as much. Give this book a go and you won't be disappointed.
"Fantastic from beginning to end"
Robert McCammon's fabulous way of entertaining you with the entransing voice of Edoardo Ballerini. A winning combination
There were too many to pick one!
The scenes....when the Night Bird was caged....
"A wonderful historical whodunit"
This is the first book in the Matthew Corbett series. Set in the days where the United States hadn't rebelled, and is still a collection of colonies for England and the Dutch.
The story centres around the thoughts and actions of our prissy protagonist, a law clerk to Magistrate Woodward, who have been called to deal with a witch trial in a town called Fount Royal. The town is floundering under the influence of the witch and the town officials are desperate for a quick execution; as the evidence is put forth, Matthew becomes less and less convinced of her guilt.
The story is well told, with plenty of twists to prevent the plot becoming stale, and unusually, McCammon has chosen to make Matthew a tiresome character... I often found him to be slightly annoying, and it's obvious that many of the characters within the story feel the same! That said, despite a minor dislike of Matthew, I did find myself caring what happened to him, and how the town would be saved (if at all...)
The writing is first rate, immersing you in the period and conjuring a detailed and believable world.
If you like a good solid mystery in your fiction, try this one for size!
I downloaded this book to listen to on holiday and I was not disappointed. Great storyline, great narrative and plenty of twists and turns, I was hooked from the start. One of the best thing was that it was not predictable like some other books and so vividly told that you could almost believe you were actually there. Matthew is a great character and I am looking forward to listening to his future exploits.
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