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Summary

The year is 1210 and a black force is sweeping England. A vengeful King John has seized control of the Church, leaving corpses to lie in consecrated ground, babies unbaptized, and the people terrified of dying in sin. In the village of Gastmere, the consequences grow darker still when Elena, a servant girl, is dragged into a conspiracy to absolve the sins of the lord of the manor. In desperation she visits the cunning woman, who has been waiting for just such an opportunity to fulfil an ancient curse conjured at the gallows.

©2011 Karen Maitland (P)2011 Oakhill Publishing Limited

Critic reviews

"Atmospheric and original." ( Woman and Home)

What listeners say about The Gallows Curse

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    1 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

struggled to listen only

Having loved Company of Liars and David Thorpe's narration, I decided to get this thinking I enjoyed his voice so much I would ignore other critical reviews of the voice he adopts for the main character. Wrong. The silly high pitched screeching of this man's every thought and word drove me too distraction. Just like a piece of metal being scratched across glass. Painful and my nerves are still jangling. Because of the squeaking screech, I could not take his character seriously and his final great outpouring of the source of the story was made laughable by it ruining the story.
Adding further annoyance was the affected broken english-foreign accent of the main character AND for some unknown reason other characters - with this story plainly based in England. He does the same in Fire and Ice, where at least the characters originate and operate on the continent but I am so fed up with it from the previous novel I have had to stop listening to it. PLEASE bring back the voice from Company of Liars Mr Thorpe/Audible.

25 people found this helpful

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The trouble with Mandrake

I am not normally a fan of full-on witchcraft and fantasy stories but the good reviews intrigued me so I decided to give this a go. To my relief I found that this is a credible story and is primarily about the harsh lives led by medieval peasants and they way they were maltreated by their overlords. This is set in the time when King John seized control of the church and as a result people could not get proper burials and be absolved of their sins. An innocent young woman, Elena, is duped into eating the sins of a dead crusader by his friend Rafael. This allows the crusader to go to heaven but leaves Elena with the burden of the terrible acts he perpetrated while at war. Despite this evil deed, Rafael is a tragic anti-hero, whose life is marred by the fact he has been made a gelding and in middle age speaks with the voice of a young child. He is treacherous but is not completely dishonourable and his struggle with his feelings for Elena is very poignant. What follows is a satisfying tale of revenge, murder, betrayal and love. Karen Maitland weaves a vivid story and the sections describing folklore (some of which is still practiced to this day) suggest she has done a great deal background research. My only criticism of the story is that I did think some of the sections were a bit ponderous and the plot could have been tightened up a bit more, but it is still a thumping good yarn.

I enjoyed David Thorpe's reading but struggled a bit with Rafael’s voice. I expected him to speak with the voice of a pre-pubescent boy but it sounded a bit too shrill to my ear. It was however distinct, and there was no danger of me confusing him with any of the other characters.

29 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Depressing, over long and dull

What did you like best about The Gallows Curse? What did you like least?

The main character is a whiny brat and almost impossible to like but the setting is well researched and believable.

What could Karen Maitland have done to make this a more enjoyable book for you?

Shortened it, added some emotional highlights to the characters and given it a satisfying ending.

Did David Thorpe do a good job differentiating each of the characters? How?

The characters were well differentiated but the high pitched character grates and annoys.

Could you see The Gallows Curse being made into a movie or a TV series? Who would the stars be?

No idea.

9 people found this helpful

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Fascinating

Where does The Gallows Curse rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

I really enjoyed this book, I've loved all of Maitland's book. Regarding Rafael's voice. It was odd at first but the narrator did a fine job with that and all of the characters. I think reading the printed copy wouldn't have the same impact as hearing Rafael and trying to imagine why people were sniggering at him. Some wonderful characters in the plot, I couldn't wait to see what happened to them all. As with the other books I can't wait to download the latest one to listen to.

9 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Loved it

My first Karen Maitland book and wow—amazing, compelling and so imaginative, I just gobbled it up and I can't wait to get stuck into the next one. Having said that, the narration is rather annoying in places but the character is a castrati and described as having a high voice so I can't see how he could have portrayed it in any other way. Great stuff.

9 people found this helpful

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3 Stars.. But.. Disappointed Thrice

After enjoying Company of Liars and The Owl Killers both of which I enjoyed I was 3 times disappointed by this book.

1. The voice the narrator adopted for a main character was just beyond ridiculous and at almost 20 hours became more irritating with each passing hour.

2. At around 10 hours in the ever increasing use of the use of the word "BUT" almost drove me insane.

3. In contrast to to several places where the story appeared to be rambling and prolonged the ending was rushed.

I still gave it 3 stars BUT I'm not sure why. It has put me off further Karen Maitland titles I was planning to read the series now I need a break.

8 people found this helpful

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England's out of Europe -chaos reigns!

No, it's not Brexit, but there is some irony in listening to this book in the immediate aftermath of the Referendum.
King John has isolated the country in a standoff with Rome, so his subjects are suffering under an interdict. (Not as all encompassing as this book suggests, if truth be told; baptism, and confession/absolution of the dying weren't forbidden, some feast days were allowed, inter alia.)
Left to itself, England is home to deception, superstition, witchcraft and perversion. And the shadow of a dodgy war in the Middle East scars returned veterans. (This is the 13th century, nothing like the 21st, is it?)
I didn't enjoy this as much as "Company of Liars", neither story, nor narration (same reader). The bulk was recounted in an Italian accent; one main character was Italian, but he was a eunuch, portrayed with an exaggerated high pitched voice - higher than a child's, improbable even for a castrato. The story is based on major historical and theological errors, beyond poetic licence, and I'd like to have been spared some bad sex.

7 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Couldn't listen

What did you like best about The Gallows Curse? What did you like least?

Dreadful narration, silly high pitched voice and false accent drove me to delete the book :(

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Superb

After listening the Company of Liars three times, I knew this book would give all sorts of twists, turns and intrigue to keep me glued to my audio devices. I was not disappointed.
The only thing that grated was the voice of Rafael which , to me, was not believable for a man with a girls voice. A minor quibble which did not put me off enough to not want to leave the book un-listened to. I have already downloaded her other books and will I look forward too and listen too with relish.
A superb book from a brilliant author.

6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

A very good listen

The story is very interesting and its very well read. If you enjoyed her other books you will enjoy this. One of the main characters has been castrated so speaks in a very high voice. This is a bit odd to begin with but you soon get used to it. The Mandrake root is important to the story and if it's a good story it doesn't matter who or what is telling it.

11 people found this helpful