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Ballad of the Beanstalk

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As her fingers move across the strings of her family’s heirloom harp, sixteen-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.

270 pages, Paperback

First published April 11, 2017

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About the author

Amy McNulty

31 books496 followers
Amy McNulty is an editor and author of books that run the gamut from YA speculative fiction to contemporary romance. A lifelong fiction fanatic, she fangirls over books, anime, manga, comics, movies, games, and TV shows from her home state of Wisconsin. When not editing her clients’ novels, she’s busy fulfilling her dream by crafting fantastical worlds of her own.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 46 reviews
Profile Image for Dianne.
6,765 reviews583 followers
March 21, 2017
Don’t you just love getting “the rest of the story” regarding those fairy tales we grew up with? Did you ever make up your own fairy tale to go with one, say like Jack and the Beanstalk? Amy McNulty did just that with her tale of THE BALLAD OF THE BEANSTALK as she reveals her version of the real story behind the magical singing harp.

Perhaps we weren’t ready for this until we were grown up, because it is NOT a fluffy version of magic and happy endings, but it does make one want to re-read Jack and the Beanstalk, if only to cement the possibilities that this really fits!

Clarion was a young girl whose family had fallen on hard times, forcing her mother to sell her beloved harp that helped her escape the ugliness of life as she made its strings sing with enchanting music. She has never loved a boy, but she does know love with her best friend Elena, a love they can never make public. When a young lord comes to town, to be betrothed to Elena, Clarion discovers she can love a boy, and she falls hard for the young man who suddenly disappears into the clouds on a beanstalk. She will find a way to save him, even if the town thinks she’s daft and the local witch refuses to help. What she finds in the clouds will chill your bones as a crazed giant king brings death and destruction to his own kingdom and it threatens to spill below in the world of humans.

Is there more to the lord than meets the eye? Will Clarion’s impetuous acts change the lives of those she means to save? Will her bravery and determination be her own downfall or will it expose her true inner self and the beauty of her precious harp?

Amy McNulty isn’t looking to make things all pretty and nice, she brings out the dark and raw possibilities of the harp’s story told in a bold way, warts and all. Fairy tales always have a dark side, and this backstory is no different. Well written, sometimes filled with touches of simple beauty, the dark atmosphere puts a razor sharp edge to this tale.

I received an ARC edition from Amy McNulty in exchange for my honest review.

Publisher: Patchwork Press (April 11, 2017)
Publication Date: April 11, 2017 Paperback - March 16, 2017
Genre: YA Fantasy re-Telling - LGBT
Print Length: 281 pages
Available from: AmazonBarnes & Noble
For Reviews & More: http://tometender.blogspot.com
Profile Image for Montzalee Wittmann.
4,503 reviews2,315 followers
August 5, 2017
Ballad of the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty and narrated by Kaitlin Descutner is an audible book I requested and the review is voluntary. This is the back story of the harp and the story of the bean stalk characters. The story was very hard to get into. It was slow, too many character introductions, the plot was going nowhere... It did get a bit better later but the characters still were shallow and the plot just okay. The saving grace was the narrator who performed wonderfully with what she had. I would have given this a lower score had it not been for the narrator.
Profile Image for Dorothy Dreyer.
Author 36 books574 followers
February 23, 2017
What an awesome take on the Jack and the Beanstalk world. This book was very engaging, and McNulty's prose was fluid.
458 reviews393 followers
February 7, 2018
interesting take on a classic tale, 3.5 stars. Longer review to come.
Profile Image for Marguerite.
551 reviews32 followers
June 10, 2017
4 Stars.

I have to say, I'm not sure what it is that I expected from Ballad of the Beanstalk, but not only did it deliver, but it completely delighted me with every page! This book was a brilliant prequel story for a well-know and well-beloved fairytale, and I loved reading it! If you're looking for a unique, inventive and imaginative prequel tale for Jack and the Beanstalk, than this is the book for you.

What I loved most about Ballad of the Beanstalk was the characters - Clarion was absolutely delightful, and her voice was honest, raw and extremely engaging. The world was then populated with interesting and fascinating characters - Elena, Mack, Jacosa - all fantastic! The harshness of the world, and occasionally the characters themselves, reflected a truthful perspective of the dark places people can go when the supernatural starts all around them. There was selfishness, dishonesty, confusion and it all fed into why characters made the choice they did and for me, it never felt shallow or unnecessary. I understood why characters made the choices they did, and it was wonderful to read.

The world was really fascinating and well explained! Particularly when we reach the cloud-land of the giants, it was fascinating!!

The plot was well paced, interesting and something was always unfolding, either actively or emotionally. I found it easy to drop back into this world and loved it so much (I've been saying that a lot, haha). The end was, or course, bittersweet, and I'm not a huge fan of those endings (what can I say, I love HEA), but for Ballad of the Beanstalk, whilst it made me feel a little sad for the characters overall, I understood, and even felt satisfied with how everything turned out.

I'm not sure what else I can say now. I really can't recommend this book enough for a reader searching for a fairytale retelling that is a little different from the mainstream approach being taken at the moment.
Profile Image for Pallavi Sareen.
Author 4 books72 followers
April 2, 2017
I received an ARC from the author in exchange for an honest review.

I really do love retellings but only when they are done right and since I have previously read all other books by this author I had expected this one to be just as good as well. Well, it did not disappoint. With Ballad of the beanstalk, the author brings to us the prequel of Jack and the beanstalk explaining the mystery of the magical singing harp and what happens in the land above the clouds.
Clarion has lost her father and her only solace is the harp that she learnt to play from her father. As her financial condition gets worse and she is in love with her best friend ( a relation that cannot be shown to the world), things are just not going well for her. She doesn't believe she can ever love a man until one day everything changes. A new mystery man in town, a giant beanstalk, the village witch is hiding secrets. From there the story takes an interesting turn. What I liked most about this book was the unexpected elements and also how it was part light fairy-tale and then equally dark and real. The author doesn't shy away from showing the real heavy stuff and then when the ending came, I was left in awe.
I liked all the characters equally and the writing just flows so easily that I finished the book in one go, without ever being bored or thinking of taking a break.
A charming and delightful read.
Profile Image for The Book Junkie Reads . . ..
4,838 reviews137 followers
October 4, 2017
This was a whole new way to look at ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’ regarding the giant’s magical singing golden harp. This was a true trip in to fantasy and the beginning to the harp (Clairon). Clarion and Elena were both friends and one boy came to town and made things more complicated. This begins the journey for Clarion up the beanstalk and the prequel to Jack and the Beanstalk.

Narrator Review of . . . BALLAD OF THE BEANSTALK . . . Kaitlin did a good job. She allowed me to become more engaged in the characters and the world around Clarion, Elena, Mack and the beanstalk and its inhabitants. The audio was smooth and hiccup free.
Profile Image for Sheena-kay Graham.
Author 0 books40 followers
March 19, 2017
A lovely retelling that should be read by all. A unique tale on what happened before Jack climbed the Beanstalk.

The plot was great and fascinating. I don't believe there are nearly enough great Jack and the Beanstalk retellings out there. At least I haven't found them. Clarion is a good MC in that she wants what's best not just for herself but those around her as well. The death of her father doesn't make her get bitter and hard. Instead she grieves but still cares about others. When she goes from loving her female friend and ex-girlfriend Elena to falling for Mack. A dashing young Lord from another kingdom, we get to see bi-sexuality explored without hitting the nail over the head. Then the story becomes so much larger and grander when she reaches the land of the giants. Amy's writing truly shines in this half of the book. The ending is both surprising and expected. But in the best of ways when retelling a story that is not an automatic happily ever after.

Despite a few pitfalls this is a great book with a unique take on the beanstalk tale. Especially when we get to the world of the giants which not only greatly expands the story but even gives the local witch from Clairon's town a much better story line than that strange woman who makes potions and herbs. You will be very happy you got this book and surprised by all the great additions within.
Profile Image for Amanda P.
75 reviews
April 11, 2017
**I received this ARC from the author for an honest review and in no way did it impact my review of this book. **

I loved the spin that Amy McNulty put on this classic tale of Jack and the Beanstalk! Her writing is so amazing that you totally forget that this is technically a child's story turned into a adult's book. The main character of the story Clarion, is struggling with her sexuality. She thinks she has it all with her sweetheart and one of her best friends Elena. But when she happens to see a random boy one evening and gets butterfly's, she starts to second guess and wonder if it's really right to stay with her. Clarion knows that her and Elena's "understanding" is not acceptable in their times. I mean the setting is when woman wear bonnets and still need to be chaperoned with a boy. Clarion seems to struggle with a lot of things, her father passed recently, and she doesn't get along with her mother very well because she seems to want to sell everything off. Especially her father's most prized possession, his harp, that she plays and sings too. The mayor wants to buy it and offered for Clarion to play it whenever, and the mayor just to happens to be Elena's dad. Clarion and her friends Elena and Krea also go to the town's witch Jacosa's to help in her garden planting. And have formed a somewhat friendship with her. These are 16 year old girls, and boys are starting to take note and the dads are wanting to marry them off and Elena's brother seems to like Clarion, but Krea is smitten with Jackin. They have a ball at Elena's house and before that Clarion learns her mother has sold the harp. And Clarion meets the mysterious boy who gave her butterfly's officially. His name is Lord Magnus "Mack" of Rosewood.He wants Clarion to call her Mack. Clarion breaks things off with Elena and she does not take it so well. Elena does not understand that even though she loves her why can't she be attracted to both sexes?Oh, and to spice things up Magnus is there to meet and hopefully wed Elena! Clarion played the harp at the ball and it's like when she played her and Mack couldn't take eyes off each other! She went outside and talked to Mack and there was an earthquake and her and Mack could see something in the distance. They go investigate to find a beanstalk! And I promise it's a wild ride from there! Because Clarion refuses to give up. She is tired of being treated like a delicate little flower. She will do anything to find the truth, and help save the ones she love, and even is starting to love. In the end she has a a heart of gold and a song that will always sooth the ones she loves. Amy McNulty did not disappoint in this story!
Profile Image for iamnotabookworm.
402 reviews16 followers
May 8, 2017
This is another fairy tale retelling and I loved this very much. This was my first time to read an Amy McNulty story and I was so happy to have signed up for this book. Thanks again, Amy McNulty for the ARC. This is actually a prequel to Jack and the Beanstalk that reveals the story behind the magical singing harp.

This is one of the best retellings I have ever read. I was really dazzled and bewitched by the story. I want more. I hope there is a sequel. I usually give my ratings at the end of each review but for this one, I am telling you now that it is a 5/5 bowls of five different kinds of beans. Just fitting because the story did mention different color of beans.

Since, I had a great time reading this book, let me tell you the best parts about it. The twists in the story were so unexpected. I liked how they were played out. The main character, Clarion, a poor but gifted harp player, found herself in a very tricky love triangle between her best friend and a dashing son of a lord. The story centers upon these three characters' entwined lives. Clarion's climbing the beanstalk will lead to the most interesting and astounding events in her boring life. She will discover a world right just above her own. She will meet curious characters that will become dear to her and will do anything to help them. This is an adventure of a lifetime for Clarion. I, too find her adventure very fascinating.

The reason why I liked this because of the unpredictability of the events in the story. They were so well-written that most of the time, I didn't know what was going to happen next. Yes, this is not a happy-ever-after story. The love triangle was not really resolved. The very surprising ending was not really what I liked either but the fact that it hinted that the story was not over yet and there are more to come is what made me happy. The promise of more was what made my day. I want to know more. I want to know what happens to Clarion, Mack and Elena. And who was that new character that was introduced into the story right before the story ended? I am curious as to how everything will play out. What other twists will the author add?

I have another book of Amy McNulty but have not gotten to read it yet. After this book, I am curious to read her other stories. I have read other reviewers saying her other works are really good also. Nice meeting you Miss McNulty and I am looking forward to reading the rest of your stories.

All the best things in this life will cause you some pain. But they're worth it. So long as you never give up because the pain seems frightening.
- Amy McNulty, The Ballad of the Beanstalk -
Profile Image for Challa Fletcher.
Author 1 book133 followers
May 5, 2017

Clarion struggles after the death of her father and her life with her mother is growing more difficult. When she learns her mother has sold the last two positions of her father, Clarion feels like there is nothing left for her in the world. Clarion's relationship with Elena, her sweetheart and best friend, becomes strained at the arrival of a new man in their town, Magnus. Though he is meant for Elena, he is drawn to Clarion and she is equally attracted to him. They find their way up the mysterious beanstalk that is planted by the town's witch. When the trio finds themselves stuck in the cloud-land, Magnus and Elena bickering, Clarion does the only thing she thinks she can do to help.

I like this modern, mashup prequel of the old "Jack and the Beanstalk" tale.

What Didn't Work
Love does not prevail in this story in any way. I didn't know which relationship to hope for in this story. A lonely and obtuse governor. A superficial mother. A second best relationship and a love triangle that ends with a twist. Spoiler Alert: There is no happily-ever-after for this painful story. Sorry. The only reason that didn't work for me is because I see this story as a fairytale in every way; there should be a lesson or moral. This story lacks that.

What Did Work
I enjoy a good prequel and I never thought to imagine one for "Jack and the Beanstalk." As the story is set up I don't realize what I have entered into. When it revealed itself I was all the way invested into the story. I found that I was happy to finish reading it at that point because then it was a connection to something so familiar, though forgotten.

I also like there is a modern twist in including the lesbian relationship. Fairy tales should change with the times updating with what is going on in society at the time the story is shared. An alternative to heterosexual pairings is a part of our culture. In the story, it is still ignored and looked down on by the other characters, but the author doesn't hide what Elena and Clarion are to each other either. Nice update!

I missed my "And They Lived Happily Ever After," at the end of this story, it was still a compelling and a fun read. It was not too long and the pacing is pretty consistent to the end.

Ballad of the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty, for originality and modern twist -
3.75/5 Open Book Rating

Happy Reading and Give Your Gift
Profile Image for Kristine Hall.
822 reviews42 followers
September 30, 2017
Audio Book 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.
Profile Image for Emmy.
912 reviews9 followers
October 24, 2017
Before Jack, Mack and Clarion discovered the Beanstalk and the Hen Who Lay Golden Eggs

I'm always on the hunt for intelligent, adult driven, psychological, and/or deeper (or darker) fairy tale or nursery rhymes retellings. This one gets two thumbs up. Rather, two hands and two legs to climb up.

The first thirty minutes or so (I wasn't watching the time) could be overwhelming with the introduction of many of the Land characters. The 'giants' seemed to be more slowly coaxed onto the pages. The relationships among the characters were a mixture of loss, sickness, happiness, new and lost loves, strict parents, diplomacy, and other dynamics. A book of this length usually doesn't cover a wide spectrum but Ms McNulty wove it well and seamlessly. If it was a quilt, it'd win the highest bid.

It quenched the curiosities of this forbidden and feared land we read from Jack's adventures when he traded his goat for the beans.

Clarion was a young a complex teenager, but this book was written for readers of that age group and older.

The romance was slightly touched with the innocence of young lovers. More in depth than puppy love; but no jumping in bed, love/hate innuendos. Complex feelings of bisexuality versus homosexuality were spoken between the characters. Love, arguments, and understanding twinkled in the developments of relationships.

Many surprises and breath taking moments - good and bad. But it made for a very solid, well-rooted fairy tale. One that isn't quite a happily ever after.

Ms Descutner's voice flowed with the characters' emotions, intensity of the movement of time, and personal confusions and explanations. Each character had a distinct tone. I'm extremely satisfied with her narration of this audiobook.

I haven't listened nor read any of this author's other works but would be happy to, should she explore other 'prequels' or retellings!

4.75 stars for story simply because an extended fifteen minutes (or so) to pace the numerous villagers would have been ideal.
Profile Image for Katy.
268 reviews62 followers
March 4, 2017
3.5- rounded up because it was just so much fun to read.

I really liked this book. I found the beginning a little hard to follow, there were so many names and it took a bit for me to keep track of who was who, but when I did, I found it a fast, enjoyable read. I wish there had been a little more character development. Most of this book hinges on the lengths that Clarion is willing to go to to save those around her, but I constantly wondered why. Elena struck me as petty, a little mean spirited, and quite insecure, while Mack wasn't really fleshed out enough. We are told that he is charming, but he only gets a few pages to actually be charming.

Despite this, the actual story was just so much fun to read. The further into the book I read, I just didn't care about any of my complaints. The story was original, the writing flowed, and the plot was fast paced. I sat down to read the last 84% of the book and looked up a few hours later realizing I was done. And very hungry. Oops.

I've never really cared for the story of Jack and the Beanstalk, probably because it hasn't been written in a world as interesting as this one. The components of the original story seemed so random and never really meshed well in head. Well, they do now. I very much hope that there's another book someday to continue the story. I'd read it in a heartbeat.

*I received a copy of the book in exchange for a fair and honest review.
Profile Image for Heather.
439 reviews2 followers
September 26, 2017
This fairy tale retelling tells the story of the magical golden harp in Jack and the Beanstalk. Clarion is the daughter of a pig farmer, one of a trio of friends, and a harpist that can capture listeners' hearts. After her father's death, her mother resorts to selling all of their possessions, including Clarion's beloved harp. While playing her harp for the last time at the Mayor's ball, Clarion and a visiting lord's son discover a giant beanstalk growing in a witch's garden and the adventure begins!

I love fairy tale retellings, and I've never read a Jack and the Beanstalk story before. The author created an interesting world and characters. I liked that the sexuality of the characters was presented as matter of fact without labels. I actually preferred Elena to the main character, and sympathized with her when she realized that Clarion had feelings for a man, and she was alone.

The plot was interesting, but every new reveal had to be explained to Clarion in detail, so every twist consisted of another character telling Clarion, 'No, THIS is why that happened'. Clarion asked all the right questions, but instead of being addressed, they were ignored. I'd love to hear more about why the little people didn't know about the giants, and where Jacosa's magic came from.

The narrator read dramatically and with feeling. Instead of reciting songs, she sang them, and it was really well done. I was provided a copy of the audiobook, and I'm voluntarily leaving a review.
Profile Image for Dawn.
575 reviews2 followers
August 16, 2017
Wow. This book took a classic story and twisted it upside down the back again. I really enjoyed how different the two lands were, yet tied strongly together.

Clarion is one determined girl, who is not afraid to get what she wants. She may not know who she wants to be with more, but she certainly will stop at nothing to make sure she has that choice.

Kaitlyn Descutner is brilliant. She is easy to listen to and reads at a great pace to follow. It was easy to tell the characters apart and really enjoy listening.
Profile Image for Mara.
14 reviews
September 19, 2017
Just more great writing from Amy McNulty

There hasn't been a story that she's told that hasn't had me completely riveted. This, like all of her books, was another one that I didn't want to put down. Jack and the Beanstalk was never a favorite story, so I was reluctant to read this. In Amy's competent hands, she crafts another feudal world full of literary umami richly told with an unexpected journey to the well-known outcome. I'm pretty smitten with all of her work.
186 reviews2 followers
April 13, 2017
very interesting book; well written & engrossing. I thought both the characters & the plot were nicely developed.
now I want to read the story of Jack and the beanstalk. .
Profile Image for Susan.
1,744 reviews35 followers
October 7, 2017
Clarion is our quiet, determined hero of this story. She’s on the cusp of adulthood and this adventure will catapult her into life with several decisive actions. I really liked her character. She’s had a pretty stable if downward spiraling life up until recently. She and her mom are facing poverty. With her dad deceased, it’s up to her and her mom to make ends meet. I was right beside Clarion in her grief over her mom’s decision to sell the last of the pigs. However I do wonder why Clarion thought Royce and Raymond would keep their little pig farm going. I’m pretty sure Clarion understood that it takes male and female pigs to get a new generation of piglets… but her inner monologue on these two boy pigs says she doesn’t. That was the first little thing that didn’t make sense with this tale.

Note: I have since learned that it’s Royse (as in Medieval version of Rose). The author shared that little tidbit with me which is great since I didn’t pick up on the spelling with this audioversion.

Over all, I enjoyed this story. With that said, there are several small points (like the pig issue mentioned above) that show this tale could have used a little polishing. Clarion’s mom comes off as a bit of a harpy at first but then her character becomes softer, more approachable. But then we quickly move on with the rest of the story, so I can’t say which version of Clarion’s mom was the more realistic. These are just two examples of small points that sometimes contradicted each other.

Anyhoo, Clarion has a social gathering to get ready for and that involves first cleaning the Mayor’s house and then borrowing someone’s dress. Her beloved harp (a big awkward thing) may not be her’s for much longer. Both Clarion and I were sad about this. But we are given little time to cry over that because there’s a big beanstalk!

From this point forward, things get a bit predictable. The story still has a charm to it but I was not surprised by anything. Up in the clouds, there’s a domineering bully of a giant along with other giants. The characters travel up and down the various beanstalks while they attempt to resolve all the conflicts. The witch Jacosa plays a key role in these beanstalks and in shrinking and enlarging various characters; her herbs and magical beans provide the backbone for this tale.

Now I really did like that Clarion is having to muddle through her romantic feelings in the midst of all this. She and Elena have been friends for years and perhaps a little more. However, in the recent months, Clarion isn’t sure she feels that way about Elena any longer. Then a new young man comes to town, Mack, and Clarion feels her first little crush on a boy. I loved that her blossoming feelings for a potential heterosexual relationship doesn’t diminish her past homosexual feelings for Elena. Two thumb ups for this aspect of the story despite some ridiculous insta-love later on in the tale.

Now the ending is a bit of a cliffhanger so I hope there will be a sequel, otherwise Clarion will be stuck in an uncomfortable disposition forever. All told, it was Clarion that carried me through the story. I was attached to her even with the tale being a bit predictable.

I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Amy McNulty. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.

Narration: Kaitlin Descutner did a very good job with this story. She had the perfect young lady voice for Clarion. There was singing! Yes, indeed! Descutner pulled this off really well. Not all narrators can easily work in a bit of singing and Descutner did not disappoint. Her male voices were believable and all her characters were distinct. There were no technical issues with the recording.
Profile Image for Melissa Levine.
1,012 reviews41 followers
August 22, 2017
I asked for this free audiobook from the author for an honest review. Well...I didn't make it halfway through the story. While I felt there were too many characters introduced in such a short period, the narrator did nothing to help this. I hate leaving bad reviews, but I'm choosing 0 stars since I didn't finish it.

I'm not much of a fan of stories that are told to you. This is the result of the writing style the author chooses. If you know what I mean, then yeah, if not, you'll figure if you continue reading stories. My point here is that I'd rather experience the story along with the narrator.

The narrator? I'd say she's either a newbie (she is, just checked audible.com) or just not a natural like some narrators I've listened to. Either way, I wasn't a fan of her narrating skills. Her speed...I have audiobooks set at 1 and have never had to change the speed. Well, 1 was too fast for this narrator and .75 was too slow. :/ So I was kind of stuck either listening to her talk fast or a little too slow for my liking (No, you can't please everyone! But...) Even though she's new at narrating, sorry, but I'm not going to be nice because of that fact and not deduct points when I see fit. On that note, there wasn't much variety between the characters voices, sadly. Big deduction there. I like to be able to tell the characters apart. Perhaps, as she gains experience, she'll get better. That's not a given though.

The narrator's singing? Lol, I'd love to have seen how those parts were written out in the book. I felt she overdid it! Majorly!

Moving on, there were many times throughout the story when the narrator would pronounce the last word with an inflection as if she were asking a question. Additionally, she would throw in random pauses between words that didn't make sense. Those random pauses had me thinking she had lost her place. Who knows?! Lastly, there were times when she would be speaking and you could hear a laugh in her voice, which, again, made no sense given what the characters were talking about. This equates this listener to be very annoyed and not wanting to continue!

I've spoken to my audible-listener husband about this multiple times: the story could be great (5 stars) but you need the right narrator to tell it. This means I'm choosing an audiobook to LISTEN to not read. Therefore, if the narrator isn't doing the job, then that will look bad on the author/story itself. Because of this, I usually try to get through as much of the audiobook before stopping. Sometimes the narrator just kills it (in a bad way) that I don't want to continue. That was the case here.

In the end, I may just read this story because it does sound interesting and it's different than what I normally read, but I'm not sure (I have a backlog of books to read).
Profile Image for Lauren Jones.
416 reviews11 followers
September 30, 2017
This tale is an interesting retelling of the original and well known fairytale called “Jack and the Beanstalk”. If you saw a giant plant sprout from the earth and travel all the way into the clouds, how would you react? McNulty does a really great job with explaining the confusion, suspicion, and curiosity that passes among her characters after a giant beanstalk takes up precedence in a magical garden which coincidentally belongs to the town’s witch. This adventure has tons of creativity, originality, and entertainment, while still encompassing some of the consistency of the original fairytale. McNulty lures her readers in with her enticing, yet mysterious characters and an adventure waiting to unfold up the beanstalk.

Clarion kind of feels like an outsider. The women and men that she calls friends, view her as highly emotional and uncomfortable to be around after the passing of her papa. Alana has been her dearest friend, and quite frankly, perhaps something more. Clarion’s views about her lifestyle change after her papa’s passing though and she can no longer continue a relationship with Alana. After meeting the mysterious Mack, a lord’s son, who is supposed to marry her best friend, she can’t get over him. She begins falling in love with him after talking to him over her much loved harp that she was tasked with playing at the mayor’s mansion. Then an earthquake erupts and Clarion and Mack are the other two who see a giant beanstalk out of a window as it fills their view. With curiosity and awe, both go together to investigate, but fail to tell anyone of their whereabouts until after Mack vanishes by climbing up in the fog and the clouds. Now, Clarion has to convince the skeptical village and not even the town’s witch, the one who cut down the beanstalk, will help her convince anyone of her story.

McNulty has an interesting and terrific retelling with “Ballad of the Beanstalk”. The book has fantastic character development, interesting characters, and a creative well, put-together story-line. Throughout the entirety of this audiobook, the narrator spoke in an inconsistent pattern though. It very well could have been common for women in this era to speak very fast to reflect intelligence, knowledge, and power, but it does tend to be really difficult to understand in an audiobook. Descutner’s representation of other characters were fun and inviting, especially for a king. This review is complimenting the audiobook. If you are a reader of fairytales and young adult fantasy, you may want to pick this one up.

A copy of this audiobook was provided to Turning Another Page by Audiobookworm Promotions, but this in no way affects our honest opinion of the book or the review that has been written. We provide a four-star rating for Ballad of the Beanstalk by Amy McNulty, narrated by Kaitlin Descutner.
Profile Image for Dianthaa.
212 reviews25 followers
October 16, 2019
It was short, and there were parts of it I really liked, but overall I wasn't very happy with it.

Ballad of the Beanstalk takes place before Jack and the Beanstalk, giving the background story for some of the characters. It’s also the story of a bi girl figuring out her love interests. And a gruesome dark fairy tale. I think it would work a lot better for people who like dark surprising endings.

I liked the classical fantasy setting with familiar characters and tropes, and how there were things I could catch that related to the fairy tale. Apart from one detail in the end I liked the layers that were added to the story and how certain things were explained.

It was a bit hard to get into because in the beginning the writing was pretty awkward. Scenes with more than two characters in them were sort of confusing, I got the feeling that names and pronouns were repeated too often to point out who was doing what, making the text stumble rather than flow. My other main issue was the gruesomeness towards the end. I’m not good with picking up hints, and there was some foreshadowing, but I was not expecting the ending to go in the direction it did. I think the gears were switched to abruptly for my liking from queer teen love story to blood magic and murder rampage.

The main characters are Clair, a 16 year old pig farmer’s daughter mourning the death of her father , Elena, her sweetheart and the mayor’s daughter, Mack, sexy new noble boy in town confusing Clair’s heart. I liked Jacosa, the wily and snarky village witch best. There are also plenty of unlikable parents scattered about.

The plot felt a bit disjointed to me. Queerifying a prequel to a classic fairy tale sounds great, but it felt to me like two stories that didn’t exactly merge. Clair’s coming of age and romance story on one side, and the trouble of the giant kingdom on the other. I think the reason it bothered me so much might be because after a certain point, it feels like Clair stepped into the giants’ and the witch’s preexisting stories, where she had little power to actually do anything other than run around and fetch things. And the ultimate resolution just seemed stuck on to make it fit the on Jack and The Beanstalk.

I liked how the Clair’s bi-ness was handled, especially how both Elena and Mack told her things people usually say to bi people, and the way these things were questioned, although it was also a bit weirdly done at times.
I got Ballad of the Beanstalk in exchange for an honest review through TBRindr.
Profile Image for Sophie A. Katz.
75 reviews1 follower
December 25, 2022
This is one of those times where I would recommend aspects of a story, but overall my reading experience was thoroughly unpleasant. The concept of a fairy tale retelling/origin story caught my interest, and I have to admit that I really like McNulty’s writing style and narrative voice, enough to make me consider giving her other works a try.

In this book, McNulty sets up a magical world of mysteries just waiting to be uncovered, full of colorful characters with clear flaws and potential for growth. However, that potential of those characters and those mysteries remains unfulfilled to the point where she seems to be actively trying to avoid fulfilling them.

This is a book about people treating each other like shit. That’s it. They don’t get better. They don’t learn anything. They start out selfish and they only get worse, and the character motivations are so inscrutable that at times it’s difficult for me to tell why anyone is doing what they’re doing. The stakes and consequences escalate bizarrely quickly until the book’s pages might as well be running red with blood, and it all seems so senseless and disconnected from any character’s choices or goals. The mysteries of this magical world remain equally inscrutable, since the only character who understands the magic of the world at all isn’t telling. The one concrete thing we learn about how magic works in this world, late in the game, disgustingly plays into antisemitic “blood-drinking witch” tropes.

Now, maybe the unpleasantness of this story shouldn’t have surprised me. After all, this is an origin story for “Jack and the Beanstalk,” and at the beginning of that fairy tale, things aren’t good. But I’m a firm believer that a story should stand on its own, even if it ties into other stories, and this one does not.

I think I need to stop reading books just because I’ve been told they have aspec rep. Clarion is either grey-aro, grey-ace or both, having only ever experienced attraction to two people, and unfortunately the people around her do not understand or respond to her attempts to explain her experience in any positive way. It’s a sad kind of realism that fits well with how nothing else in this story works out well for anyone.
Profile Image for Madeline.
65 reviews4 followers
March 25, 2020
This is definitely of the "grind his bones to make my bread" genre, rather than the "modern fairytale" sort.

I need to preface this review by mentioning that I found it while perusing "YA Romance," so when I picked it up, my expectations where wildly off-base. This angsty adventure/dark fairytale was absolutely not what I was in the mood for. I'm all for darker/more realistic fairytale retellings, but apparently only when I know that's what I'm headed into.

The first 60% of this book is very bland and rather boring, full of painstaking explanation of the town and daily life that somehow manages not to convey anything interesting or important, nor clear any confusion or answer any questions that occur. The last 40% is plunged unceremoniously into an unpleasant and unpredictably violent narrative that had me wishing for the mundanity of the previous chapters. Finally, the ending is so brutal and rushed and final that it doesn't seem to serve the story at all – the nod to the original fairytale feels awkward and forced rather than a natural part of the story. The rest of the book so meticulously combats plotholes, explaining every little detail, that this final deus ex machina makes absolutely no sense. The hope that things would improve was the only thing that kept me reading and the conclusion knocked the wind out of me in a way I didn't necessarily want with this tale.

The one thing that I thought was handled nearly flawlessly was Clairon's bisexuality. In a world without a context for such relationships or identities, the navigation of her own feelings and others perceptions of her relationships was clear, consise, and possibly the only reliable element of the narrative.

This was a wonderful premise that could have done so much more. An examination of violence and brutality and its effects afterward, exploration of different kinds of grief, discussions of magic and its repurcussions, more worldbuilding and emotion in general – any or all could have boosted the story into something that felt worth reading. As it was, I was left wondering what I was supposed to have learned or extrapolated from this tale.
Profile Image for Mariel.
222 reviews9 followers
October 19, 2022
Ballad of the Beanstalk
by Amy McNult, narrated by Kaitlin Descutner

I received a complimentary copy and am voluntarily leaving a review.

Sweet Clarion is sixteen and lives an arduous life with her mother, struggling to make ends meet after her father's death. Her mother sells whatever they have for a little coin, even the last of their pigs, but when Clarion learns that her mother sold her precious silver harp, she feels her world is slipping away.

Clarion turns to her friends for comfort, especially her first love, Elena, but her emotions for Elena wane when she meets Mack, the son of a Lord who accepts Clarion for the individual she is. When Mack disappears, Clarion is the last to see him alive. Everyone blames her as her only excuse is that he climbed a beanstalk and never returned.
Can Clarion convince the townspeople that the beanstalk really existed? Can she successfully find Mack alive and well?

Ballad of the Beanstalk is an original prequel to the well-loved tale of Jack and the Beanstalk and brings the harp to the forefront. I listened to the audio version and Kaitlin Descutner’s tone fits the story perfectly. I had a little difficulty getting into it at first, but it quickly dropped into place and the story flowed at a smooth pace.

Amy McNult’s characters are well-described; I especially had an aversion to Clarion’s mother, whom I felt had little sentimental time for her daughter. I sympathised with Clarion, who missed her father terribly.
This story is appropriate for readers or listeners who enjoy fairytales with a twist. It is a little unconventional, bringing raw emotions and revealing the harsh realities of life.

I also recommend it to people who don’t always need a HEA.
Profile Image for Nicole Field.
Author 18 books143 followers
November 25, 2022
I definitely think this book 'wins' the dubious award of the worst book I've read this year. I kinda hate saying it, but it was a bit of a slog. And I'm someone who usually utterly adores a good fairytale retelling.

I guess the caveat there is 'good'.

I figured out pretty early in this book that this is the story about the harp (I thought it was meant to be a golden harp in Jack and the Beanstalk, but maybe it was only a goose laying the golden egg). This, then, was a prequel story. That's fantastic. I really loved the interactions between Clarion, Elena and Krea. At the beginning, their friendship was nuanced and enjoyable. Actually, I could say that about basically all of the story that happened down in the normal world.

I don't know whether I don't remember the Jack in the Beanstalk story very well, or whether it was simply poorly laid out here. But the idea that just being in the clouds, in the giant's world, is enough to make people crazy? Does that seem like lazy story telling to anyone else?

The lack of reason behind the sudden changes in characters that I quite liked, particularly Mack and Elena, was enough to really spoil any enjoyment I had of them prior. And since I'm very much a character driven reader, that's really to say that I didn't enjoy the book at all. It didn't feel like an unreliable narrator in the end, but an unreliable author who was looking for an easy way to finish her story.

Don't get me wrong, the ending was just as fantastic a twist as everyone else in the reviews here seems to think. However, the internal integrity of the story leading to it ruined even that twist for me.
Profile Image for Kalli Bunch.
396 reviews18 followers
December 8, 2017
When you hear beanstalk, you automatically jump to the story "Jack and the Beanstalk"...well, this isn't that story. This is the story of the Harp, and even the Golden egged Hen, in a weird way. Clarion isn't your every day, average girl. Well, she is. But she's the daughter of Pig Farmer who died some months back, and her mother has taken to selling off everything she loves. Clarion herself comes from noble blood, though that seems like it does her no good anymore, as the Mayor's family has unseated hers long before her birth. And she's in love with the Mayor's daughter, Elena, all the while Elena's brother, Jackin, is smitten with HER. Elena, Clarion, and their friend Krea often help out the town witch in exchange for magicked herbs and remedies. Clarion has such a beautiful voice and plays the harp so enchantingly that she has been asked to play at the Village Ball. It's there that she meets the mysterious and handsome new stranger, Mack (Lord Magnus). You will definitely NOT want to miss this exciting twist on a classic fairy tale we all know and love. There will be danger, intrigue, mystery, self-discovery, surprises, twists, and Amy McNulty's style of writing will keep you wanting more and more. You'll love it!!
Profile Image for Christina Frøkjær.
129 reviews6 followers
December 29, 2020
A lovely retelling that should be read by all.
A unique tale on what happened before Jack climbed the Beanstalk.

The plot was great and fascinating. I don't believe there are nearly enough great Jack and the Beanstalk retellings out there. At least I haven't found them. Clarion is a good main character in that she wants what's best not just for herself but those around her as well.
The death of her father doesn't make her get bitter and hard. Instead, she grieves but still cares about others. When she goes from loving her female friend and ex-girlfriend Elena to falling for Mack. A dashing young Lord from another kingdom, we get to see bi-sexuality explored without hitting the nail over the head.
Then the story becomes so much larger and grander when she reaches the land of the giants. Amy's writing truly shines in this half of the book. The ending is both surprising and expected. But in the best of ways when retelling a story that is not an automatic happily ever after.

Despite a few pitfalls, this is a great book with a unique take on the beanstalk tale. Especially when we get to the world of the giants which not only greatly expands the story but even gives the local witch from Clairon's town a much better storyline than that strange woman who makes potions and herbs. You will be very happy you got this book and surprised by all the great additions within.
Profile Image for Carol Peace.
594 reviews
June 24, 2019
Amy McNulty has taken a classic fairy tale (Jack and the Beanstalk) and put her own ingenious stamp on it. This is a more in depth story of where the seeds came from and why Jack climbs the beanstalk, it also introduce new characters which you can't help but want them to succeed. \clarion and Elena have been friends for years and when a new prince is introduced to them they both have a reason to like him and as the friendship flounders we get to know the characters more. I loved the story and was glued to the book right to the last page, it was a little slow in the middle but I think that it was necessary to the story. Did this fairy tale have a happy ending ? you will have to read it for yourself.
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