The Unspoken Name by A.K Larkwood
Published February 20th by Tor Books
“Nothing in this world has earned the power to frighten you Csorwe…You have looked your foretold death in the face and turned from it in defiance. Nothing in this world or any other deserves your fear.”
Csorwe does — she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honoured 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.
I was lured in by a pretty cover and I stayed for the orc assassin. Usually, I have a good long paragraph at the beginning of my reviews explaining how and why I chose this particular book to review but it’s really that simple and I’m so glad I let my fickle mood reading self, pick this book because folks, it’s a doozy.
I haven’t read a lot of big or high fantasy in a good while, mainly because they tend to be chunky books and I’ve found it really hard to slog through larger books lately and when this turned up I panicked that I’d made a mistake. At over 450 pages it’s not huge but it was large enough to intimidate me a little. Within 100 pages I don’t know why I worried and by the end, I wanted to go back to the beginning and read the whole thing again or even better read the next book immediately (can I have the next one yet? Please. I’m desperate). The pacing was a little slow by the end of the first third but not terribly slow and by the time I was just over halfway through I was ravenously turning pages. I’m someone who procrastinates over the last 100 pages of a book but I’m honestly shocked I managed to accomplish anything else when I still had some of this book to read because it absolutely hooked me in and that last third is crazy. I kept turning to my husband to tell him “There aren’t enough pages left.”
One great thing about The Unspoken name is that although it really feels like high fantasy, to begin with, it has such a great mix of genres swirled in, we have some science fiction and space opera elements even. The world that Larkwood has created is rich, stunning and at breathtaking; the image of all these worlds connected to each other, some thriving and full of life, while others are dying and decaying, is just hauntingly beautiful. The way magic works too, as a warlock player in dungeons and dragons I felt was particularly interesting and alongside the world-building, all of the information is just introduced and explained in such a natural organic way throughout the story.
Pretty much all of the characters in this book are a hot mess, in the best way. There is no one main antagonist and almost every character is a beautiful shade of morally grey in some way or another and honestly, I am absolutely here for it. I love characters that aren’t black and white and don’t tend to fall fully towards particularly ‘good’ or ‘evil’ which I’ve seen a lot of in the high fantasy I’ve read previously which made this book even more of a breath of fresh air. I love the messed up relationship between Csowre and Tal (No hard feelings) and I really hope we get more of that in the next book.
The Unspoken Name is out now and I cannot recommend it enough, especially if you’ve had enough of your garden variety fantasy books! Thank you once again to Tor Books and the ever fantastic Jamie-Lee for sending me this early copy for review. When can I get my hands on the next one?