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)
Let's face it, these authors aren't paying me, so there's no need to lie!!
McCammon never disappoints. This story stays localized in the Carolinas, at a time when people still believed in witches. ---Yes, there was a time in this country when we believed in witches. The attention to detail is extraordinary. McCammon takes you to this dirty little backwoods town and leaves you there with no map...and you will LOVE it! The story itself is a mystery...of sorts.... but it feels like more of a journey novel. This is due to the fact that the characters are so incredibly unique and well fleshed-out, that you forget you're reading a mystery.
Warning--This book is VERY adult. Without getting too "spoiler-ry" about it, I'll just say that there are a few depraved acts that take place that I wouldn't want my child reading (listening) about.
The narrator is GREAT.
If you're itching for a good period piece, with a sprinkle of "who dunnit", then this is the book for you.
McCammon knows how to tell a story; and in a genre where it is difficult to successfully intersect historical facts with horror and fiction (without "jumping the shark"), he conjours up a plagued Carolina colony inhabited by one of the most ruthless entourages imaginable, to tell us a macabre and convincing tale of witches, demons, and pirate's gold.
Whether or not widow Rachel is a witch--and McCammon keeps us wondering as young Matthew becomes obsessed with the woman and her innocence--she would hardly be the most diabolical resident in Fount Royal. The colorful characters: the gluttonous Mayor Bidwell, rat-catcher Linch, preacher Exodus Jerusalem, Hazelton the town bugger/blacksmith, a one-eyed killer bear, savage natives, and murderous innkeepers keep the story suspenseful and constantly expanding. As Magistrate Woodward sinks deeper into a grave illness, apprentice Matthew is forced to take over the investigation of Rachel and her witchery. Less a traditionalist than the Magistrate, the mystery deepens as a curious Matthew looks beyond the *evidence* into the shady underbelly of the town, revealing bizarre secrets and a possibly less-than-noble motive for witch burning. With a knack for keen observation, (and his pining for Rachel) Matthew seems transformed into a Sherlock Holmes-esque sleuth, with hormones.
You could rightly say it is a long read, at times it seemed too long, and I wished for an abridged edition, but it is packed with atmosphere, great writing, and historical details (a few anachronisms if you're being a stickler) that held my interest. Edoardo Ballerini's voice is nothing less than a fine instrument, and his nuanced performance of the characters was worthy of double **. This choice was a tough one for me; one I was sure I wouldn't like, because I was one of the few that loathed the much loved Swan Song. But, I was so curious. I wound up liking this entertaining piece of skullduggery, and I recommend as a good historical fiction book for your consideration (with noted caveats)--unless your in a hurry, or a stickler. The fact that I'd written off McCammon, and am now ready to continue with the next volume in this Matthew Corbett series (I like his style) is my endorsement.
Sci Fi Reader
This is just a wonderful story. If you are a fan of the Outlander series or Charles Dickens or many classic authors you will love this book. Every word drips with precision and power. Such a masterpiece. Not what you would expect from Mccammon a horror master. This book brings you to 1699 and the character of Matthew Corbett. So many twists and turns, great characterizations. Edoardo Ballerini gives a perfect peformance. Cannot say enough.
I never write reviews... Too lazy! But this book is so extraordinary that it deserves to be pushed into the hands (ears) of every serious reader. The plot is complex; the mystery is engrossing; the characters are perfectly drawn; the period detail is flawless; and the philosophical conclusions the reader enjoys are rich. Go for this one....
Loyal member since 1998
This is one of the few audio books that makes me wish Audible had a 10 star rating system. Speaks the Nightbird deserves 10 stars. Life in Colonial America must have been brutal beyond anything we can imagine. Yet Robert McCammon does imagine it and he does so brilliantly. We learn about the superstitions, illnesses, lack of medicine and constant danger of starvation. The story starts in 1699, when Isaac Woodward, magistrate, and his clerk, Matthew Corbett, travel to Fount Royal to investigate Rachel Howarth. Rachel has been accused of murder and of being a witch. Woodward believes Rachel Howarth's accuser's, but Matthew is not so sure, but he has only a few days to prove her innocence. And the story of Matthew's investigation gives us a tale that will leave listener's racing to get the next book in this series. I listened to this audio book in just 4 days. Few books can keep me that mesmerized for 30 hours, but Speaks the Nightbird does so easily. I have such high regard for this first entry that I struggled to express it. I leave you with-it is wonderfully fantastic.
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.
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)
This book has taken its place in the pantheon of my favorite books, alongside Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte), The Pickwick Papers (Charles Dickens), Outlander (Diana Gabaldon), and The Quincunx (Charles Palliser). The story is complex and compelling, the characters are unique and complicated, and Edoardo Ballerini has turned in one of the most accomplished performances I have ever heard. Serious readers owe it to themselves to listen.
I really enjoyed this book. Historical fiction is my favorite genre. This series reminds me of the Outlander books without the time travel. Very well written and entertaining from start to finish. I just started the last book and I know it's going to be a while before I find another book I enjoy as much as this series.
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.
"A beautifully read, chilling tale."
I have always liked stories about the 17th Century, but good ones are few and far between. This is one of the good ones.
I often find that novels which are so long struggle to remain gripping throughout, so I approached this one with some trepidation. I don't like to waste my monthly credit! I should not have worried.
Ballerini's narration is superb and he has a great way of changing his voice for every single character so you know just who they are. This, coupled with McGammon's detailed and, sometimes, startling revelations which are revealed steadily throughout the novel make for an fascinating audiobook which thrills and entertains in equal measure. The thirty-odd hours have all but skipped by and, with only another four to go, I can't wait to find out what happens. I'm about to download the next novel in the series - I'm assuming this is the first in the 'Matthew Corbett' novels (Come on, Audible, make your labelling more helpful! This is not the only series poorly labelled. How about some more specific, advanced genre labels?) - because I'm looking forward to seeing in 1800 with Matthew in the colonies.
A top quality read, highly recommended.
"speaks the nightbird"
This was a very long book and took most of a month to listen to it! but was well worth it in the end. It took it's time in drawing you in and you felt you knew the characters personally. Robert McCammon has a unique insight into the way people lived and their intolerance of anything or anyone different while they were building their America. Also how religion and superstition held sway over their lives .Edouardo Ballerini., as narrator was excellent his voice leading you on and very charismatic. An excellent book. I would recommend it to anyone who has the time to listen and enjoy.
After the first couple of hours of listening I decided I was not enjoying this book, but as soon as I stopped listening to it, I needed to know what happened. I then found it compelling listening, with no hitting the fast forward button.
This is a very descriptive book, with characters I could admire, empathise with and detest, a good storyline.
"A good listen and value for money...but very long!"
I would say that this is an enjoyable listen and I didn't guess the ending at all so it did keep you guessing throughout, however I feel it was slightly too long and drawn out for me. I found myself forcing myself to listen to it during the end of the the 2nd and the 3rd sections as the pace had really slowed. Having said that the narration was fantastic and I'm glad that I stuck with it. A good story....but not necessarily a great one!
I downloaded this after reading other reviews and was not disappointed. The story is a little slow to get going, but it soon sweeps you up and has many twists and turns to keep you guessing. I shall look out for others by this author.
"Great stuff from south of Salem."
An interesting take on the idea of the Crucible moulded into a detective novel. It's a great listen with one or two minor irritations( why the hell does our hero never tell anyone of what he has found out until the end?) However it's a well crafted novel and well appreciated.
From the very first chapter McCammon's detailed and skilled narrative transports the listener into the mud, humidity and brutal reality of life in 17th century Carolina. With witch trial hysteria, intrigue and deception thrown into the mix this is a superb novel which twists and turns it's way through to a satisfying conclusion. I can't wait to listen to the next in the series.
"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'.
"Speaks the Nightbird"
I really enjoyed this book. It set the stage from the beginning and kept me enthralled throughout. I felt I was right there the whole time.
"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!
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