✨Age Range: Adult
✨Series: 1st in a duology
✨Publication Date: 11th February, 2020
✨Publisher: Tor Books (US and UK)
✨Format I Read: Kindle e-book
✨Content Warning: Violence, gore, death
What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
Characters and Representation in The Unspoken Name
Csorwe is the kind of heroine you root for from the get-go. We get her viewpoint for the majority of the book and it’s a pleasure to watch her take control of her life as the narrative progresses. The plot in this book is character-driven and Csorwe’s character arc stands out wonderfully.
The cast of characters is quite small for a book that spans years and explores a lot of different settings. However, Larkwood’s strength is in crafting characters and every side character stands out with distinct personalities and motivations. My favourite is Talasseres, who shares an intense rivalry with Csorwe.
One of the selling points in this book is the F/F romance. I really like romance as a subplot in fantasy books and this one really clicked with me because was slow and subtle. There is more queer representation on the page too and the author is #OwnVoices for it.
Plot and World-Building in The Unspoken Name
The plot is the weak link in this story. It is essentially two arcs mashed into one book, the first one concluding quite quickly. However, as the narrative is more focused on the characters, I didn’t mind this unusual style, but I can see why this may put off other readers.
The world-building is one of the strongest aspects, in my opinion. There are several different worlds that are interconnected by a kind of magical highway called the Maze of Echoes, which only allows certain kinds of vehicles made from special substances to travel through. It is evident that Larkwood spent significant time developing the different cultures that inhabit each world in this book.
The different cults and religions are also well-developed. Since there are actual gods and magic that can be channelled from them, it is interesting to see how different cultures interact with the gods they choose to believe in. There are still some gaps in the magic system and I’m hoping that the second book will expand upon the foundation laid in The Unspoken Name.
Writing Style and Themes in The Unspoken Name
The writing style isn’t quirky or inventive in any way but I found myself getting used to it easily. The words and sentences have a certain flow to them and the writing really makes the characters and world-building stand out. However, the author does take some shortcuts when it comes to the description of a few key scenes, which stood out sorely to me.
This is another book that normalises queer relationships and I’m really enjoying this element in fantasy books these days. It also explores what it means to be indebted to another person, how much one is willing to sacrifice in the name of duty and agency over one’s life. I think the author did a really good job with all of the themes that are in the book.
There are some really good female characters in positions of power in this world, which is a refreshing change from the usual adult fantasies where women are oppressed for seemingly no reason at all. They are also well-rounded and well-written without falling into the “virtuous woman” trap or the standard “kickass female” trope. This is what made the book a unique reading experience that I seldom get while reading adult fantasy.
If you are looking for an adult fantasy that has good queer representation and does not feature queer pain as one of the themes, I highly recommend this book. If you like seeing different religions and culture clash in a magical world, this book would be a good fit for you. However, it isn’t the most original fantasy out there and the plot structure is quite unusual, so it may not be the book for you if these don’t appeal to you.
✨Related Post: 10 Best Fantasy Book Covers (Jan-Jun 2020)
Is this book on your TBR? What are your thoughts on it? Have you read any good adult fantasy with F/F romance lately that you’d like to recommend? Let me know in the comments section down below. Have a stellar weekend, readers from Earth!