From the novelist with Antonia Fraser's authenticity and Anne Rice's allure comes another "highly enjoyable romp" (Newsday), with a millennial twist.
In The Oracle Glass and The Serpent Garden, Judith Merkle Riley enchanted listeners with rich, pause-resisting re-creations of eras past, wicked thumbnail sketches of power players, riotous action, delicious mystery and romance, luminous prose, and feisty heroines with a feminist sensibility. The Master of All Desires has it all, with an extra helping of the occult, clad in Riley's hallmark style and wit.
It is 1556 and the queen's astrologer, the prophet Nostradamus has uncovered a secret that could destroy the kingdom of France. The queen, Catherine de Medicis, a dabbler in black magic, has decided to get rid of the king's mistress by seeking out the legendary Undying Head of Menander the Magus, known as the Master of All Desires. But she does not know that evil befalls all those who wish upon this accursed object. And the head, in its coffer, has fallen into the possession of a charming, wryly perceptive but stubborn young woman: Sybille Artaud de la Roche, a bluestocking poet who needs it to obtain all her desires...beauty, genius, and a dashing, intelligent cavalier. The three-way battle that ensues - a prophet who scorns poetry, a woman in love, and a sly and ruthless queen - is set against the rich, detailed tapestry of a nation on the verge of civil war and a lively constellation of famous figures clustered around Nostradamus, seer of the millennium.
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Second half was much better than the first.
Yes to Judith Merkle - No to Hollis McCarthy
Good mix of fantasy and historic characters
Heavens no! Couldn't stand some of the male voices she uses, made them sound like imbeciles!
Almost quit listening about Chapter 3, story line developed way too slowly. It picked up after that thank goodness.
Great story, but not so great narration
I'd say fairly high. The plot was great, with the twists and interesting characters I've come to expect from JMR. A little history, a little intrigue, a little mystery, and some unredictable romance, it was a good book I was certainly driven to finish.
The wit of the characters. They never let you down in humor, cunning or determination. And they were never fully good or fully bad; they were believable.
Oh gods, she was awful. I almost gave up in the beginning. She makes poor Sabille sound like a complete airhead in the beginning, and all the men sound ridiculous, but luckily the story kept me going and eventually the narrator toned the every-single-word breathlessness down a bit and it was easier to listen to. If you can just suffer through, I think the story will catch you like it did me and you can listen past the narrator. One small point in her favor is that she didn't butcher the French pronunciations.
Oh, such a close call here. Nostradamus was fantastic, his familiar was wonderful, but I think it was the Aunt Pauline who stole the show.
This was a great listen, even past the awful narration. Stick with it and by the end I think you will be pleased you did.