Author: Amy McNulty
Narrator: Kaitlin Descutner
Length: 5 hours 50 minutes
Publisher: Patchwork Press
Released: Jul. 18, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy
As her fingers move across the strings of her family's heirloom harp, 16-year-old Clarion can forget. She doesn't dwell on the recent passing of her beloved father or the fact that her mother has just sold everything they owned, including that very same instrument that gives Clarion life. She doesn't think about how her friends treat her like a feeble, brittle thing to be protected. She doesn't worry about how to tell the elegant Elena, her best friend and first love, that she doesn't want to be her sweetheart anymore. She becomes the melody and loses herself in the song.
When Mack, a lord's dashing young son, rides into town so his father and Elena's can arrange a marriage between the two youth, Clarion finds herself falling in love with a boy for the first time. Drawn to Clarion's music, Mack puts Clarion and Elena's relationship to the test, but he soon vanishes by climbing up a giant beanstalk that only Clarion has seen. When even the town witch won't help, Clarion is determined to rescue Mack herself and prove once and for all that she doesn't need protecting. But while she fancied herself a savior, she couldn't have imagined the enormous world of danger that awaits her in the kingdom of the clouds.A prequel to the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk that reveals the true story behind the magical singing harp.
HALL WAYS REVIEW: Author Amy McNulty has created an imaginative rendering of the story before the story of Jack and the Beanstalk. She introduces a lot of characters quickly, and some are not as well fleshed-out as others, so as an audiobook, it is a little hard to keep-up initially. But soon enough, each role is clarified and McNulty gets snaps for coming up with the most novel love triangle (square?) I have seen. I found it interesting and refreshing that the characters being homosexual and bisexual aren’t scandalous in any way. What is scandalous is a young female going out in public without a bonnet on her head and the admonishment of “Do you want the village to think you’re a harlot?” from a concerned adult.
A surprising element to the story is that it is quite violent. McNulty is fond of describing the “bent necks” and odd angles of the bodies of the deceased -- and there is a high body count, so don’t get too attached to anyone. I have mixed feelings about the necessity and frequency of the violence, but I suppose the story is in keeping with the tradition of many fairy tales in that regard. There are some confusing parts to the various story lines and more than a few unanswered questions, but Ballad of the Beanstalk definitely entertains. Be warned: if you're looking for a happily ever after story, this isn't it.
The narration by Kaitlin Descutner is mostly well-done, but there are a few things that caught my attention. First, the pacing is a little inconsistent and fluctuated between too fast and just right at 1x speed. Also, and especially as the action increased towards the end of the book, the narrator starts pronouncing main character Clarion’s name (three syllables) as Claron (two syllables). Descutner excels at keeping the (many) characters’ voices distinct from one another – not an easy feat! She does a great job of conveying the ever-changing emotions in each character from sadness to happiness, and even channeling a very (Disney) Ursula-like voice as Jacosa is teetering on madness.
I imagine this one might work a little better for me if I had read it with my eyes instead of my ears, but it’s worth a look either way. It’s short and engaging and the premise is unique, which in itself is enough to keep a reader listening these days.
Thank you to Audiobookworm Promotions for providing me a free download in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give.
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Amy McNulty is a freelance writer and editor from Wisconsin with an honors degree in English. She was first published in a national scholarly journal (The Concord Review) while in high school and currently writes professionally about everything from business marketing to anime. In her down time, you can find her crafting stories with dastardly villains and antiheroes set in fantastical medieval settings.
In 2010, I graduated from California University....of Pennsylvania (yes, you read that correctly) with a BA in Theatre and Dance. I have been a professional actress for 7 years in Columbus, OH working in both Musical Theatre shows and Dramatic plays ranging from Classic, Rock & Roll, Modern, British, American Southern, etc. I work as a Children's Theatre teacher as well as a Commercial Actress where I specialize in voice acting, photo, commercial and tutorial video work. I am interested in new projects and pursuing new opportunities.
I am a big, avid reader, and listen to audio books more than the radio in my car. My favorite genres are historical fiction, fiction, nonfiction and biographies/ memoirs. This is a new endeavor for me, and I am thrilled to explore different characters through storytelling. Reading is a big passion of mine. Bring on the books!
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