Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city. But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard? Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she - or the Beast - are swallowed by them.
©2015 Ursula Vernon (P)2015 Tantor
I really liked the plot of this story.
This is a retelling of Beauty and The Beast, with Bryony, a gardener, as the protagonist. Without giving too much away, she wanders into an enchanted manor, and the beast is there too, but all is not as it appears....
A little slow at places, but the dialogue was witty, and the twist was clever. I thought the horror elements were really well done too.
The next part of my review is purely subjective. So this may not be the case for all listeners.
I regret to say that I found the narration nauseatingly terrible. I do not use these words lightly. I get carsick often, and the way Ms Eyre narrated sounded like travel sick groans. It's the glottal fry and the drawl at the end of almost every word, and every single sentence. It gives the impression that the narrator is sickened and wearied by what she is reading. The thing is, when she is saying the speech of the characters, her voice is clearer and not unpleasant. But the first time I listened to this, I started feeling light headed and nauseated too. It took a long time for me to be able to tolerate it. I fully recognise this may be a personal idiosyncrasy but I felt it would be dishonest to omit it, since it affected the entire experience.
Overall, I would definitely recommend the story to people who like fairy tales, gardening, even horror. I will be checking out more of T Kingfisher.
I cautiously recommend this audiobook to those who aren't sensitive to voice styles.
"Not AT ALL the Right Voice for this Wonderful Book"
I read this book long before I heard the audio version, as T. Kingfisher is one of my favorite authors.
This book is also one of my favorite books by this most excellent author: mystery, excitement, love, humor, gardening - what's not to love? The BOOK gets FIVE STARS.
But this is the kind of book that needs to be read with a little TWINKLE in the eye...if you've listened to Gerard Doyle perform the Septimus Heap books, you know what I mean. And among other things about her performance (see below), I'm not sure that narrator Justine Eyre has ever HAD a twinkle in her eye.
The AUDIOBOOK gets a generous THREE - and ONLY because the book itself is so good.
But Justine Eyre has (or fakes quite proficiently) a very nasal, kind of upper-class British accent, and once you hear how, at the end (or at some point in the middle) of about fifty percent of the words in the English language, she makes a kind of "nh" sound, it will drive you slowly insane.
I love a good British accent; I've spent years studying accents and dialects of English for stage and screen, and I'm an amateur phonetics junkie, so I feel fairly comfortable making the judgement that for a book in which the protagonist is a PEASANT GIRL, you don't want someone who sounds like a parody of Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day in the early 1950s.
First of all, it just doesn't fit the story, which is a retelling of an old folk tale and would greatly benefit from a SIMPLE British accent -not Cockney, not working-class- just a simple, young, versatile R.P. accent.
Second of all, hearing "doh-eh(nh)" for the word "door" and "smohl-eh-(nh)" for the word "smaller" and on and on makes you feel like you are being COMPLAINED AT for the length of the audio book.
It's the talking-with-the-mouth-half-closed style of her voice, combined with the fact that the narrator doesn't really ever change her cadence or prosody (rhythms of language) from sentence to sentence...this narrator might be fine for some character in an Agatha Christie, but she doesn't even change her voice much for the main character, who is supposed to be a PEASANT GIRL for pity's sake. The voice of the Beast is not much changed either, save for being kind of desperate and rather overwrought, and a bit deeper.
Just. So. Wrong.
I could suggest about five different narrators off the top of my head who would have been better. Or, should I say "bet-teh-(nh)"...
So, long review short: BUY THE BOOK (or kindle book). Justine Eyre ruins this one, and it's a VERY good one to be so ruined.
"A wonderful retelling of Beauty and the Beast"
This is a new adaptation of Beauty and the Beast, and it's an excellent one.
Bryony and her sisters, Holly and Iris, grew up as the daughters of a wealthy merchant--the wealthiest merchant in the land, he made sure everyone knew. After the death of their mother, though, their father grew more and more reckless in his investments, wand finally, when Bryony was fourteen, lost everything. Now the girls are living in a little cottage none of his creditors wanted, in the out-of-the-way village of Lostfarthing. Their father has died, taking one last risk that didn't pay off.
It's been three years, and the girls are eking out a living. Bryony has become a skilled and dedicated gardener. This dedication leads her to visit a neighboring village to get seeds from some particularly hardy rutabagas, and on the way home she is caught in a dangerous snowstorm. When she finds a manor house that shouldn't be there, she has little choice. Despite a rational fear of magic, she and her pony will die if she doesn't take refuge there. She doesn't meet the Beast until the net morning, when she attempts to leave with the beautiful, perfect rose that was on the table for her meals there.
We all know the basic story. Kingfisher plays with the complexities of it, giving us no only a smart, tough "beauty" and an alarming yet likable Beast, but a truly terrifying villain, and a kindly if sometimes prickly House. Even the relatively minor character of eldest sister Holly has depth and interest, and Iris, even though much less seen and heard from, has some texture and richness.
This is a really lovely rendition of an old favorite, well worth your time to either read or listen to. Recommended.
I bought this book.
"Delightful and moving"
I loved this retelling of the Beauty and the Beast story in print, and it's even more delightful as an audiobook. Justine Eyre's performance enhances the text nicely.
Gardeners will understand why the scene in which (no spoilers here) they approach her garden's border brought tears to my eyes, in a good way.
More of T. Kingfisher's work as audiobooks, please!
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