Bryony and her sisters have come down in the world. Their merchant father died trying to reclaim his fortune and left them to eke out a living in a village far from their home in the city. But when Bryony is caught in a snowstorm and takes refuge in an abandoned manor, she stumbles into a house full of dark enchantments. Is the Beast that lives there her captor or a fellow prisoner? Is the house her enemy or her ally? And why are roses blooming out of season in the courtyard? Armed only with gardening shears and her wits, Bryony must untangle the secrets of the house before she - or the Beast - are swallowed by them.
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Not AT ALL the Right Voice for this Wonderful Book
I read this book long before I heard the audio version, as T. Kingfisher is one of my favorite authors.
This book is also one of my favorite books by this most excellent author: mystery, excitement, love, humor, gardening - what's not to love? The BOOK gets FIVE STARS.
But this is the kind of book that needs to be read with a little TWINKLE in the eye...if you've listened to Gerard Doyle perform the Septimus Heap books, you know what I mean. And among other things about her performance (see below), I'm not sure that narrator Justine Eyre has ever HAD a twinkle in her eye.
The AUDIOBOOK gets a generous THREE - and ONLY because the book itself is so good.
But Justine Eyre has (or fakes quite proficiently) a very nasal, kind of upper-class British accent, and once you hear how, at the end (or at some point in the middle) of about fifty percent of the words in the English language, she makes a kind of "nh" sound, it will drive you slowly insane.
I love a good British accent; I've spent years studying accents and dialects of English for stage and screen, and I'm an amateur phonetics junkie, so I feel fairly comfortable making the judgement that for a book in which the protagonist is a PEASANT GIRL, you don't want someone who sounds like a parody of Queen Elizabeth II on her coronation day in the early 1950s.
First of all, it just doesn't fit the story, which is a retelling of an old folk tale and would greatly benefit from a SIMPLE British accent -not Cockney, not working-class- just a simple, young, versatile R.P. accent.
Second of all, hearing "doh-eh(nh)" for the word "door" and "smohl-eh-(nh)" for the word "smaller" and on and on makes you feel like you are being COMPLAINED AT for the length of the audio book.
It's the talking-with-the-mouth-half-closed style of her voice, combined with the fact that the narrator doesn't really ever change her cadence or prosody (rhythms of language) from sentence to sentence...this narrator might be fine for some character in an Agatha Christie, but she doesn't even change her voice much for the main character, who is supposed to be a PEASANT GIRL for pity's sake. The voice of the Beast is not much changed either, save for being kind of desperate and rather overwrought, and a bit deeper.
Just. So. Wrong.
I could suggest about five different narrators off the top of my head who would have been better. Or, should I say "bet-teh-(nh)"...
So, long review short: BUY THE BOOK (or kindle book). Justine Eyre ruins this one, and it's a VERY good one to be so ruined.