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 dearly loved "A Boy's Life,” although I have read but not listened to it – I may do that soon. So the chance to revisit Robert McCammon was very appealing and the description of the book made it more so as I love historical fiction. While the book almost lost me at first for the same reason that I don't give it 5 stars, it didn't disappoint.
The beginning is, IMHO, off-putting as it starts off very slowly due - again IMO - to too much detail. The author needs to grab you and get a strong grip on your attention before he bombards you with detail. There were a number of other places in this otherwise gripping and interesting narrative, where I simply longed for some judicious editing. McCammon put me a bit in mind of Diana Gabaldon (the "Outlander" series, a brilliant author of historical fiction who does amazing research and sometimes just can't help sharing every excruuuuciating deeeetail.
Having said that, I stuck with "Speaks the Nightbird" through the first difficult hour and don't regret it. In fact, I'd love a sequel to find out what happens to Matthew, the protagonist.
The setting is very well done if you're a lover of historical fiction. In spite of previous criticism of too much detail, I really felt like McCammon's research and skill let me enter the town of Fount Royal - swampy, miserable, haunted, evil place that it was - and walk around and see it and smell it and sense the claustrophobic walls of the inhabitant's lives. He adds detail that, as they accumulate, help the reader understand what it must have been like to live with the amount of ignorance and fear and the almost complete lack of control these people had over their existence. You come to understand what desperation can do to humans and cause them to do to one another. The book is about the many levels of evil that result when superstition and desperation and greed combine in an uncontrollable world.
I loved the character of Matthew almost from the beginning (or, rather, once the difficult first part was over.) The other characters are all fairly well drawn, although Rachel the witch (a central character) lacked depth until near the end of the book. Some of the characters border on stereotypes, but by the time their stories come together and draw to their conclusions they begin to fit much better and actually make more sense.
The performance was OK. Not spectacular, but not bad. It didn't annoy me. He has a fairly good range of voices.
I have avoided rehashing the story, as others have done that quite well, and I have also avoided any spoilers, as this is also a mystery story, but I won't avoid telling you that I liked it a great deal.
The book and the narration held me spellbound to the end. I listen in my car and one day forgot where I was--totally entranced.
The author writes with a combination of the talents of Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Melville, Washington Irving and Stephen King. You relate to their characters, descriptives, and studies in human nature.
He could be so many characters. You thought more than one person was performing. He drew you in and made you be a part of the book. Very seductive.
Be seduced by curiosity!
I right away downloaded "Queen of Bedlam"--finished it--and am now reading "Mr. Slaughter". I hope McCammon keeps the series going. I'm in love with Matthew Corbett.
"Speaks the Nightbird" takes place in 1699 in an isolated settlement near "the Florida country." The depiction of early colonial living is highly evocative and seems well-researched. (I was particularly intrigued by the habit of some settlers of allowing wasps to build nests in their homes to eliminate mosquitoes.) The sights, smells, and inconveniences of life in a frontier settlement are so vividly described that I felt as though I had experienced it for myself. Even the style of the writing, while modern, carried a flavor of the way people talked (or at least wrote) in this period.
The characters are well-rounded and all-too-human. Even the villains of the piece emerge as fully-realized people with understandable (if deplorable) motivations. Most of the characters are neither bad nor good, but a mixture of the two, and even our heroes have their flaws.
Taken on its own without the fleshing-out of the environment and the characters, the story is fairly lurid, and I doubt if any little colonial settlement could have gathered in one place so many strange people and bizarre motivations. But in the context of this well-crafted tale, I was carried along quite willingly to the conclusion. I believed in the characters and I believed in the story. I was moved many times, and cared about the outcome. And while the heart of the story is a mystery, it was so well handled that I never divined the entire solution. (Guessing the solution, or trying to, is one of the reasons I read mysteries.)
The narrator does an excellent job, playing the different character's voices with precision and subtlety so that I was never really conscious of him, if that makes sense. Sometimes narrators irritate with quirks of phrasing or bad accents, but Edoardo Ballerini (new to me as a moderator) was perfect.
I highly recommend "Speaks the Nightbird" to anyone who craves an intelligent, engaging read as well as a mystery. The fact that it is also 30+ hours makes for an entirely satisfying experience.
Really enjoyable listening and Mr Ballerini is a wonderful actor. Each character had it's own voice. Highly recommend.
This is my first listen to Mr. Ballerini and I'm putting him on my list of favorites. I can't imagine that this listen would have been as enjoyable with any other narrator. Bravo!
The interwoven story of fascinating characters that kept me listening for more.
Yes, it has - as nurse healer I am interested in the subject as in days past any healers and good women were burned at the stake as witches.
He intertwines characters with the history and geology always painting a vivid imagery of the times and places and actions.
Looking forward to more by this author
First time listening to a story by Robert McCammon & narrated by Edoardo Ballerini...really enjoyed this!
Will look for more by this narrator!!
Like mysteries, not much in to SciFi, hate vampire books. Like most all years of history.
I like mysteries and this didn't disappoint. The protagonist is smart and observant much like Sherlock Holmes but from a more humble background. Edoardo Ballerini was the perfect choice for narrator and was so good I immediately began a search for more of his recordings. I am now listening to the third book by this pair and it is ever bit as enjoyable.
When I first started listening, I thought that this was one I probably wouldn't get very far into. Before I knew it I had listened to the the first part and couldn't quit listening. Great story and great performace.
I really loved this book. The combination of suspenseful mystery and historical detail kept me listening well after I should have turned it off and done something productive.
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