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The Bones of Avalon

Narrated by: Seán Barrett
Series: John Dee Papers, Book 1
Length: 13 hrs and 57 mins
4 out of 5 stars (75 ratings)

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Summary

It is 1560, and Elizabeth Tudor has been on the throne for a year. Dr John Dee is her astrologer and consultant in the hidden arts…a controversial appointment in these days of superstition. Now the bookish Dee has been sent to Glastonbury to find the missing bones of King Arthur. With him is his Robert Dudley, a wild card…and possibly the Queen’s secret lover. The town is still mourning the gruesome execution of its abbot, Richard Whiting. But why was he killed?

What is the secret held by the monks since the abbey was founded? The mission takes Dee to the tangled roots of English magic, into unexpected violence, necromantic darkness…and the cold heart of a complex plot against Elizabeth.

©2010 Phil Rickman (P)2010 Isis Publishing Ltd

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Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • United Kingdom
  • 11-03-13

Not a laugh a minute romp

Woah, that was hard work, its a grim hard joyless book. Not a bad book, well written and well read but just so grim and moody...I like Phil Rickman and his work does tend to be slow burning and downbeat but this was a bit much for me..if you have not read him yet start with Wine of Angels its very Rickman but a bit more balanced.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Great narration by Sean Barrett!

I've read/listened to so many books I've lost count and have found out, the hard way, that some narrators are just plain rubbish and ruin what would otherwise be an ok book or story. Sean brings Phil Rickmans characters to life..... Anyway The book. I'm a big fan of Phil Rickman and this is first rate. Dr John Dee is brought out of history to life. Set in wonderful Glastonbury.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

What - No Merrily?

Phil Rickman goes for earlier time and a slightly further south destination in this book. Based on John Dee, Queen Elizabeth's (the 1st) magician (her Merlin) and based in Glaston (bury). It involves King Arthur, the papist French, Nostradamus - what's not to like! Just waiting for a hippy lutist and a little bloke in an embroidered Gomer Parry Ditch Digger smock to help solve a mystery...

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Interesting and complex

Only downside is that the self- absorbed Dr Dee started to annoy in the middle section but that is perhaps a viable character trait and I got past it. Interesting portrayal of rural life during Elizabeth 1st early reign.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Intricate story with convincing Elizabethan feel

I really enjoyed the complex story with its blend of mysticism, religion and politics. Phil Rickman is very good at recreating the atmosphere of Elizabethan England still unsettled from the the break with Rome. Putting the semi-legendary Dr Dee in the middle of the Glastonbury for what is, effectively, a murder mystery is a splendid conceit.

The historical characters and events are familiar to me and jRickman's interpretation of them is ingenious. Not sure how easy it would be to follow if you don't have a basic grasp of the period.

Sean Barrett is a great reader who handles the accents very well and manages to clearly differentiate between characters. His tone is just right for the story.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars

Not for me

I am sure this book will appeal to many (the plot is VERY clever), but it was too steeped in mysticism and philosophy for me. Too many endless conversations with people who refuse to give straight answers, and the usually excellent Sean Barrett gives a strangely soporific performance.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    1 out of 5 stars

snooze

The narrators voice is excellent but its the content that does not inspire, I have made this a book to listen to if I wish to get to sleep as it really is boring. Though narrated with a lovely voice.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Slow burner but so worth it

It took a while for me to get into this one but I love Phil Rickman and could listen to Sean Barrett all day. I was over half way through before I could get into this but oh my it was worth the wait. Have just bought the next in the series.

  • Overall
    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Good but not great

I really liked the premise of the book but found too much happened too slowly

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Cowboys n' Druids

I think PH takes himself far too seriously to consider a tallow lights glimmer of humour, worthy of sullying his scribblings.

He seems to have done a bit of research, for this Lizabeathen offering. But "hasten to the chase"? God's holy bones, that's unforgivable. Were this an attempt at olden days dialogue by a first year undergrad, maybe a red pen underlining and a "see me". But a writer with his experience, no. Changing "cut" to "hasten" changes nothing. The phrase isn't even a century old, never mind a few hundred years.

Idle idiot? Some might say that, but not me. I just feel a bit sad and move on.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Madeleine
  • 12-01-12

Historical Fiction with a Wicked Hint of Evil

I knew Phil Rickman from his Merrily Watkins mystery series. However, this is a complete departure from his earlier work.

This incredibly well researched piece of fiction casts the historical figure of Dr. John Dee as a slightly misanthropic, bookish man tasked with the impossible task of finding the bones of King Arthur.

The prose is really very beautiful. Rickman has cleverly addressed the issue of 'voice' and tone' in his 16th Century protagonist by adopting a blend of Elizabethan syntax and popular turns of phrase while still delivering an accessible and intimate narrative.

Like most of Rickman's novels, this one allows the story to straddle the grey zone between oddity and the the supernatural. It's so refreshing to read a writer who leaves his texts so open like this, when most fiction writers seem obsessed to tie every little mystery up.

If you like historical detective fiction, especially featuring real figures, and you like bit of a spine tingle, you'll enjoy this audiobook.

The narration by Seán Barrett is flawless. He does great regional accents, which added to the sense of place in the story.

19 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Pat
  • 02-11-12

On the Trail of King Arthur's Bones

Queen Elizabeth has recently been crowned, and she's anxious to get help anywhere she can. That means sending a faithful scholar into the hinterlands to locate and retrieve the bones of King Arthur. This is a unique and clever story. The characters are well developed, and for the most part use language that gave a touch of the past without hindering the story. And Sean Barrett's narration was, as always, brilliant.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • L.T.
  • 09-08-14

Superb!

Where does The Bones of Avalon rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Top 10

What did you like best about this story?

I appreciated the mystery's level of intricacy and its slow unraveling. An intellectual story you must pay full attention to is a rare treat.

Which character – as performed by Seán Barrett – was your favorite?

Our hero Dr. Dee but all were good. Mr. Barrett is a new favorite.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Authurian legend as you've never imagined it.

Any additional comments?

Looking forward to the next Dr. Dee book now in my library.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • S
  • 08-09-14

Dee is a bit dull

What did you like best about The Bones of Avalon? What did you like least?

The time frame and the history

What was your reaction to the ending? (No spoilers please!)

Disappointed though I know there is more to come. I was happy to have it over.

What aspect of Seán Barrett’s performance would you have changed?

He was excellent

Did The Bones of Avalon inspire you to do anything?

Sleep

Any additional comments?

It lingered for too long, it could have done with a kick up the backside.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • L Henry
  • 30-07-19

Tale of Elizabethan intrigue w/a suprnatural twist

Once again Phil Rickman brings us back to Glastonbury but unlike in his novel The Chalice, this is set in the reign of Elizabeth I where the historical details discussed in The Chalice are still fresh in the minds of the local townspeople.
John Dee is charged along with Robert Dudley to go to Glastonbury in search of the bones of Elizabeth's illustrious 'ancestor' King Arthur who's bones were said to have been housed at the Abbey before it was destroyed during the dissolution. However when Dee & Dudley arrive, they find things are not all what they seem and are soon caught up in the intrigue as Dudley's servant was cruelly murdered in a ritualistic manner leading to the cry of witchcraft being raised. Nothing is as it appears in Glastonbury & as Dee struggles to figure out the truth regarding the ancient knowledge once known by the Abbot before his cruel death, time is quickly running out as lives are at risk.
The narrator is the same one that Rickman has favored with his other audiobooks & I can see why as his voice is mellifluous which makes listening an even more enjoyable experience

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Russ
  • 07-10-18

history and mystery with great narration

I love this book more each time I listen. Mr. Rickman always brings his characters fully to life and Mr. B. gives them voice in smoothly transitioned accents and attitudes that make the listen truly a joy.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • catFox
  • 14-11-17

Good but could've been shorter

It's a good enough book but at times it did thump on and on in the most hushed and portentous tones that never really delivered. An entirely humor free story too but still - I liked the mystery and historical setting in Elizabethan England. I prefer his lady priest books though all in all.

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Anne Harding
  • 16-06-17

A marvellous tale

A wonderful tale, beautifully read . I inhaled it in two sittings. I am looking forward to my next read , but I have read most of his books all ready

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Librarian
  • 01-05-16

Interesting period piece

Recommended to anyone liking historical fiction. A mystery but not a murder mystery. At times overly long in description but still held my interest. Excellent reader.

  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Jennifer S Pomeroy
  • 14-04-14

Good story, difficult interpretation

Is there anything you would change about this book?

The sibilance of the reader's S and Z consonants was painfully loud in comparison to the rest of his vocal production. I also felt that the reader did not make clear enough variation in his intonation for individual characters.

What was the most interesting aspect of this story? The least interesting?

I loved the telling of this little-known historical persona (John Dee) as he interacts with his well-known contemporaries (Elizabeth I, Dudley etc), as well as the whole alchemy-magick-"the hidden" stuff. HOWEVER I got very sick of the protagonist's self deprecation and cowardly nature. Granted, the author has clearly done amazing research into the historical figure, and is likely endeavoring to provide an accurate characterization based on the narrative of Dee's actual publications, but it hinders the otherwise compelling concept behind the novel.

Who would you have cast as narrator instead of Seán Barrett?

Someone with a voice that matches the age of the Dee in the novel (around 33 I believe), and Dudley, who is a prominent secondary character, in his mid-twenties, and supposed to be a smooth-talking pampered courtier - not a gravelly-voiced good ole' boy.