I was eager to listen to this first entry in the author’s new The Cousins of O’Dwyer trilogy. Two of my favorite Nora Roberts’ trilogies take place in Ireland, while another features witches, so the combination seemed perfect. Maybe not. Haley reviewed the print version of Dark Witch and gave it a C+. I found the story just average, but absolutely despised the narration.
I liked most of the opening chapters in which the original Dark Witch, Sorcha, and her three children are introduced. I was particularly impressed with the voices Ms. Kellgren uses for the three children, accurately conveying their age, fear, and attempts to be brave. However, each time Sorcha does a spell or has an encounter with the evil Cabhan, Ms. Kellgren shouts! These sequences are so loud that I had to constantly fiddle with the volume to avoid hurting my ears. I hoped this overly-dramatic tendency would go away in the modern portion of the book but that was not the case.
In quick succession we’re introduced to the heroine, Iona Sheehan, along with the heroines of the next two books and the three heroes. Iona, one of three ancestors of Sorcha, is an American and has left everything behind to come to Ireland to meet her cousins, Branna and Conner. Iona wants to learn to use her powers to help fight Cabhan (who’s still lurking around) and quickly gets a job with Boyle – our hero – at his stable.
On a positive note, I always knew when Iona was speaking. It was easy; Ms. Kellgren gives her a clear American accent and, as the only American, there were no problems. Unfortunately, Iona babbles and Ms. Kellgren makes her sound unbelievably immature, almost like a teenager. This makes for a difficult contrast, as the other two women – Branna and Maera – sound at their youngest, 40, and more frequently over 50. It was very hard to take either of them seriously as instant best friends with the babbling Iona, as they sounded more like her mother or older aunts. And it’s virtually impossible to imagine these two women as heroines of the next two books. To make matters worse, I found it difficult to distinguish between the voices given the two Irish females and the three Irish men, making long passages with minimal dialog tags very confusing.
If anything, the dramatic, over-the-top narrative techniques increased in the modern section as there were a lot of spells. Iona repeatedly encountered Cabhan in his various forms and each time Ms. Kellgren yelled. This is tough for me because I like a narrator to convey the emotions in a story through her voice. But Ms. Kellgren yells and gives excessive emotion when it just isn’t called for.
If not listening to Dark Witch for review, I would have switched to print and asked for my money back for the audio version. The story isn’t awful, but I did keep comparing the three women-three men to my other favorite Irish trilogies by the author, and this doesn’t stand up. But the narration makes the reading experience much worse. It was hard to take Iona seriously as Ms. Kellgren makes her sound immature and overly dramatic, more like a teenager in love for the first time than like an adult.
If you think the story will interest you, I strongly encourage you to read it in print rather than listening to the audio version. As for me, I’m completely puzzled. A few months ago I listened to Ms. Kellgren narrate Susannah Kearsley’s The Firebird and don’t recall have any issues with the narration. This was just abysmal.
Breakdown of Grade – Narration: D and Book Content: C
Unabridged. Length – 10 hours 40 minutes