Sunday, February 16, 2020

The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1)

The Unspoken Name is the first book in a debut series by A.K. Larkwood. Released 11th Feb 2020 by Macmillan on their Tor imprint, it's 464 pages and available in hardcover, paperback, audio, and ebook formats. It's worth noting that the ebook format has a handy interactive table of contents as well as interactive links. I've really become enamored of ebooks with interactive formats lately.

Occasionally (but distressingly rarely) a new (to me) author comes along in one of my favorite genres and really blows me away. This is one such happy occasion. This combines epic fantasy, incredibly detailed world building that feels real down to details of social convention and interaction, elements of the best SF, a female protagonist who isn't supergirl and too utterly perfect, overarching themes of honor, building a life which defies external expectations, and does so without feeling like a mash of a million unrelated threads trying to be everything to everyone. I also appreciate that this book didn't devolve into a romance, that Csorwe (the young female orc protagonist) was more realistically rendered (apart from being a badass assassin) than a lot of super-protagonists. Early on in the book, she's being taught languages by a succession of tutors and really does grumble like a kid being forced to do unwanted homework.

The plot is wonderfully rich and detailed, the narrative arc is beautifully engineered and for a book of nearly 500 pages, it moves along at a good clip. I never felt that the story dragged or lost my interest. In fact, I stayed up way too late on a couple occasions reading and almost missed my bus stop on my morning commute because I was so absorbed in the story.

I heartily recommend this author and this debut unreservedly. Five stars.

Disclosure: I received an ARC at no cost from the author/publisher for review purposes

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