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Publisher's 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
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Critic Reviews

"Atmospheric and original." ( Woman and Home)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Kaggy on 01-14-16

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.

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23 of 24 people found this review helpful

1 out of 5 stars
By kate on 02-23-17

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.

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7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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