The Unspoken Name
Reviewed by: Jessica Prieto
When I was looking for new books to read for the month, I did a quick Google search for some new fantasy books that were supposedly some of the best of 2020 so far. The Unspoken Name, written by A.K. Larkwood, caught my eye with the dark color and gold-tipped tusk on the cover. Not only that, but any books that mention an assassin and traitor must be interesting, right?
I must say that I was not disappointed. This book has certainly kept me interested from the very first line in the book. That first line was so intriguing to me that I pulled my husband away from his video games to read it to him!
“The girl leads the calf to the altar and they cut its throat. The blood runs black in the dim spring light. It splashes on the frozen stone and flows into the vessel. She takes the bowl of blood. She climbs the steps to the shrine. She is never seen again.”The Unspoken Name, pp. 17-18
The main protagonist of the book is Csorwe, an orc priestess who is sentenced to die as a sacrifice to their god, the Unspoken One. A wizard steps in and twists her fate, promising her life if she, in turn, goes with him to reclaim his city from the clutches of a usurper. She takes his offer and flees her home. This is where her story really begins.
The world that Larkwood has created is one that I would personally love to explore myself. It is such a huge expanse, and I feel as if this book was not enough to fully show it all. From the dying worlds to the wonderful city of Tlaanthothe, every page brought new detail to this intriguing world of Larkwood’s creation. I am looking forward to the next book in the series where I hope to see more of this exciting new place.
The characters in the novel are also very well done. Each character feels real. The protagonist, Csorwe, is taken from her home and thrown into this strange new world of cities and cruelty. She is a strong character, loyal almost to a fault, but she has some flaws and errors of judgement that I found I was able to connect with personally. Another character, Tal, was an annoying twat to me throughout the book, but I found that I genuinely desired a happy ending for him. Throughout the pages, his motivations and circumstances were made clear, and I started to feel for him. There are so many characters like these two that really make this book feel as if it is full of living people, not some character cut-outs.
There are some critiques that I have with the book, however. The pacing of it feels very fast to me. For example, after Csorwe is taken to the city of Grey Hook, she goes through years of rigorous training. She even is included in a group known as the Blue Boars. Here, she learns how to cope outside of her homeland, in a world completely different than what she knew. I was excited to see her growth and her struggles as she tried to fit in. However, all of her time here took place in about twenty pages. I was a bit disappointed that this wasn’t expanded upon more.
There were other parts like this that I felt flew by much quicker than they needed to. I don’t feel as if I got to see what Csorwe’s life was like apart from the major plot points. There was no slowing down and relaxing before the next big thing hits you. I would have liked to have seen this book split up into two or three books, allowing for more time and detail into the lives of the characters. I think it would have been easier to understand the Gates and different world aspects of the book if there were more time to explain them further.
This book is one that I do recommend any fantasy lovers to read. Despite the pacing and lack of explanation in some areas, it is a unique novel that has an expansive world, full of interesting characters and cultures. The plot is compelling and you will find yourself surprised at many points throughout reading it.
My Overall Review of The Unspoken Name
Characters: 9/10 – I would have simply liked to see more about them, but I love that I can relate to them.
Setting: 8/10 – The world is HUGE and offers incredible potential for more exploration into it. However, it could use more explanation as to how it is all connected and how the Gates work.
Plot: 6/10 – It was an intriguing idea, and I was genuinely taken by surprise at some of the plot twists. However, it moved very fast, which sometimes made it slightly disappointing.
Description: 7/10 – The author does a good job describing the many different settings and characters. The way she does this is some of the best I’ve read. However, there are times when she doesn’t describe or explain something as well as she could have, and it took away from the book for me.
Grammar: 10/10 – I didn’t find any grammar flaws or odd sentence structuring at all while reading this book.
Overall score: 40/50 – I would recommend this book to any fantasy lovers out there who want a really good story.