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This wonderful book is an evolving story, unfolding through Greek and Etruscan history to present day Berkeley and Tuscany. Memorable characters, mystical rites, and psychic powers blend with vivid historical details that draw the reader/listener into the scenes, keeping one engaged on several levels simultaneously. The reader navigates through several languages, accents, and characters with ease. It is an auspicious first book, and I look forward to the two to follow!
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This is the first book in a proposed trilogy called "The Witches of Tuscany". It was previously published in 2000 under the name "The Giuliana Legacy" and has now been re-edited. The second book in the series is due to be published later this year.
After her father's suspicious death, the search for her legacy takes Julia Giardani from her native California to Cyprus and on to Tuscany in a quest to find a mysterious artifact that has been in her family's possession for centuries. As the Giardani heiress, a witch serving the Goddess Aphrodite, Julia learns of psychic and spiritual gifts she possesses. But Julia isn't the only person in search of the mystifying relic. Looking for eternal life, former KGB member, Gregor Danilenko, wants the powerful object for himself.
The premise of The Gardens sounded really interesting, and I was waiting for some suspense, some adventure, but none of that ever materialized. I'll be honest, I was bored and found it wasn't holding my attention. There basically wasn't an awful lot happening. The villain wasn't wicked. There was a large cast of characters, but not many were memorable. I assume some of them will play a role in the next book. There was some romance involved. All very clean and quite cheesy, and I didn't feel the connection between Julia and Andrei.
It is obvious that the author is very enthusiastic and knowledgeable about her subject. Some of the descriptive passages about the Tuscan countryside and its people were nicely done. The way history and more contemporary issues, e.g. the struggles of Italian farmers, were interwoven into the plot was interesting. But ultimately, this book dragged for me and I was glad to get to the end. I'm more of a dark-and- disturbing-thriller or a fast-paced romantic-suspense person, so this just wasn't a good fit.
However, I think this will definitely appeal to listeners who have a very keen interest in spirituality, inspirational literature, parapsychology, ancient goddess lore and history, witchcraft, and/or cozy women's fiction.
The Gardens is read by Claire Calverley who was a new-to-me narrator. Her general reading voice was very pleasant and her pacing very good. She did quite an admirable job coping with the different accents (Italian, Russian, French etc.) and also with some vast age ranges. Her child voice was pretty good and her male voices were believable. Where I struggled - and again, I think this is a very personal niggle - was her performance of the main character, Julia. That voice, that accent, drove me up the wall. Because of that I actually found it rather difficult to like the protagonist or feel invested in her fate. But overall, the narration was proficient, and I would certainly listen to Claire Calverley again.
There were no issues with the production of the audiobook.
Audiobook was provided for review by the author.
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2 of 3 people found this review helpful