Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Review: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates, Book #1)
by A.K. Larkwood
Release Date: February 11th 2020
2020 Tor Books
Kindle Edition; 464 Pages
ISBN: 978-1250238900
Genre: Fiction / Fantasy

2.5 / 5 Stars

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.

My Thoughts
The Unspoken Name is the first book in The Serpent Gates series, but I admit I struggled reading this one.  There were parts that were quite interesting and I couldn't flip the pages fast enough, but then there were parts that I just slogged though, and I had to put it aside and read something else for a while.  I really debated over my rating, as I really, really wanted to like this book.

The sense I really got from this book is the author may have been too ambitious in her storytelling and the story she really wanted to tell so it came across as jumpy and unconvincing to the reader.  I actually enjoyed the opening sequence and don't necessarily need everything explained to me about the world and its people all at once (reading Malazan has cured me of that! LOL!), but when I am halfway through the book and I still can't quite figure out what the main character looks like, other than knowing she is not quite human due to having tusks, I realize there is a problem.  And once it clicked, I felt so stupid.  But it shouldn't have been that way.  My mind shouldn't have wondered away from the story line because I couldn't figure out who the people were in the story. But it did and it totally distracted from the actual story.

I actually love world building and enjoy reading about it; I love it when an author takes the time to build that up, especially in a book I know is going to be part of a series.  There were some interesting worlds in this book and I really wish the author had taken the time to explain more about the people, but I really felt little was explained and I was left filling in the gaps myself.  I don't mind trying to figure out some things, but there were just too many holes to fill in myself. It was frustrating at times.

Thank goodness for Shuthmili as she was my favourite character by far.  Her growth and development was nice to see and gave me hope for some of the other characters in future books.  It also gave me hope that we will see some interesting magic in the future as she is a powerful mage.  When you read the description, it sounds like Csorwe would be involved in this huge conspiracy to grapple power and be involved in helping a powerful wizard take over what was once his, but I was so disappointed in that part of the book.  It was nothing like that and Csorwe, as a character, was BORING.  Yes, there were times when she would wave her sword and do some...stuff, but in reality, if her character had been written off, and it wouldn't have changed anything whatsoever. There was a lot of discussion about choice versus destiny, but while Sethennai's choices were pretty clear and you knew he wanted power, Csorwe's were not and I think the author did this character a big disservice by trying to give her a purpose although she was clearly Sethennai's puppet.  It made her motivations seem flimsy at best and definitely were not her own; as a reader, I came to question all her choices.  I actually preferred Shuthmili and would like her to be the main character as she is much more interesting.  And I don't even want to start with Tal.  Ugh!

The Unspoken Name definitely had some fans, but I was not really one of them.  The flow of the story seemed like it was lacking a soul, and the story line was quite fragmented.  The author was ambitious, I'll give her that, but I feel like she wasn't exactly sure what ethical point she wanted to make with her characters, and the story was kind of convoluted as a result.  Because of this, things were not fully explained nor were reasons given for certain actions which left a sour taste in my mouth. There is a lot of potential here however, and I am curious to see what happens next.  I do however, recommend you take a look at the book and judge it yourself as you may like it; it just wasn't for me.



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