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Once again Phil Rickman creates characters with depth and vitality. I also loved the 'drop ins' from characters mentioned in other books- it was lovely to hear the Thoroughgoods were still around and the mention of Big Wheel too. Gomer and Jane just get better with age and even Lucy makes a guest appearance :)
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This is a wonderfully written engaging story that I would recommend. The narrator is ok, but does some absolutely annoying accents that made me wince and turn down the sound. Not every character needs a separate silly voice! Some nasal and high pitched, others talking with stones in their mouths, and some so slow and ponderous as to put you to sleep. Please!<br/>Performers should not be putting their interpretation of the characters so heavily into the story.
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Another good instalment in the Merrily Watkins series - with Phil Rickman managing to find another storyline sufficiently different from what has gone before to be enthralling once again.<br/><br/>Emma Powell reads well, although, as has been said before, some of her accents can be slightly grating. She has the occasional slip in tone or emphasis from where logic would dictate it should be, but not many when you consider that it is a 16 hour read.<br/><br/>My biggest bugbear with this book - and the series - is that Rickman allows his own prejudices to make his characters very two dimensional. If you get told they like music, they're a good guy. If they own a big farm or are "rural-gentry", they are a bad guy. If you get told they have anything to do with hunting, you know they're a really bad guy and his ultimate signpost of evil is they are "a local organiser for the countryside alliance" (whatever one of those is?). He also seems to have it in for magistrates and county-councillors for some reason. <br/><br/>At one stage in this book, as we went through yet another rant about the plucky small farmer being bullied by the evil big farmer, I found myself thinking "Seriously, this guy has seen far too many westerns. It's all greedy cattle-barons vs gritty homesteaders, with a touch of Ivanhoe-esque Normans oppressing brave Saxons thrown in".<br/><br/>Quite ironic, then, that a bit later one of the characters expressed similar disbelief that what was happening should not be happening except in a western. The real irony, however, was that the character was right. It genuinely was too much to believe.<br/><br/>Rickman's research on his main themes is generally appears to be very good, but lacks in the minor details. His heroes storm through the book loudly declaring that shooting after dark (something, of course, that would only even be considered by a "bad guy") is illegal, whereas, in fact, it is perfectly legal and practiced widely throughout the whole countryside.<br/><br/>All that said, Phil Rickman manages to keep Merrily Watkins entertaining and continues to find new twists and avenues to explore.
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