“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.”
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.
This was one of my most anticipated books of the year. I often love books published by Tor Publishing and so I fully expected The Unspoken Name to be one of my favorites of the year. But, alas. The further I got into this book, the further it fell in my esteem.
The book started off fairly strong, but fell apart over the course of the story. It got to a point where I stopped caring. I almost DNF’d the book, but really wanted to review it. But it took me three weeks to read. Less than 500 pages and it took me three weeks to finish. That’s how much of a drag reading this book became.
First off, every character is infinitely more interesting than the protagonist, Csorwe. The only thing I can tell you about her is that she’s an orc. Nothing else about her is notable. She reads like a blank slate YA protagonist for the reader to step into (which is even more irritating in an adult fantasy). Every other character would make a more interesting protagonist than Csorwe.
This then interferes with the romance, which is F/F. I couldn’t get invested in Csorwe and Shuthmili’s relationship because I don’t know Csorwe. We also get basically every character’s perspective except for Shuthmili (well, and Sethennai), which is weird. Especially since Shuthmili would make a much more interesting protagonist than Csorwe.
Shuthmili is an Adept and has magic, but is distrusted by her own people because of her patron goddess. Her arc is about learning there is more out there for her than what she’s been taught she’s good for. I think the story would’ve been so much more interesting if it was told through her perspective.
As I said, the other characters are also far more interesting than Csorwe. There’s Tal, a charming young man disowned by his family who feels his current path is the only path where he can make something of himself. Sethennai is mysterious, seemingly generous but you never quite trust him. Oranna is ambitious and clever, a terrifying threat and dubious ally. And every single one of those characters were more fun to read about than the orc priestess-turned-assassin.
Honestly, the side characters were the only aspect of this story that kept me reading. I mean, it’s not like the world-building was any help. Because there wasn’t any.
Oh, there are unique aspects to this world. They’re just never explained. There are ships that go through Gates to other worlds and I’m still unclear as to how they work. The ships are described like boats, but they fly. They also float in water. How does any of this work? I don’t know. I’m not even sure Larkwood does.
This confusion oozes into the plot as well. This is a character-driven story, which I usually love. But none of the plot threads feel like they’re leading to a predetermined point. It genuinely feels like Larkwood made it up as she went along. The major plot twist is literally only possible because a character just forgot a major aspect of their life. What?!
In fact, Larkwood half reveals the twist and then just drops it from the plot for 100 pages and then remembers she forgot to wrap that part of the plot up. How did no editor catch this? How did no one care???
On the upside, this book is super queer. Csorwe is a lesbian. Shuthmili is sapphic. Tal is gay. Sethennai is bisexual. I really appreciated that. I’m not sure if there is any other confirmed diversity, but I pictured Shuthmili as a woman of color.
I am so sad that I didn’t like The Unspoken Name. I was prepared to find a new favorite series and instead I was drastically let down. I don’t hate this book, but it’s definitely not one I’d recommend. Please do not look at my wrap-up/TBR post where I said I was enjoying it. My early appreciation of this book should’ve gone unspoken.
Torture and graphic violence
Have you read The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood? What are your thoughts? Let’s discuss in the comments!