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.
Thank you very much to Tor/Pan Macmillan Australia for providing me with a copy of this novel in exchange for an honest review.
CN: human and animal sacrifice, drug use, violence, murder, self-mutilation.
THE UNSPOKEN NAME IS SET FOR PUBLICATION 25 FEB (AUS),
20 FEB (UK) & 11 FEB, 2020 (US).
“The secret of greatness is to know when you should risk the wrath of a god.”
The Unspoken Name has everything I love in fantasy books: badass female assassins, a smouldering f/f slow burn romance, a self-destructive gay who just wants to be loved, and a chance to become a martyr for a god … and then deciding to join the villain for a life of pleasure and rebellion instead.
If you love fantasy novels as much as I do, then The Unspoken Name will be your new favourite read of 2020. Yes, it’s only February but I’m calling it. I got the pleasure to read this book late last year and here I am, months later, still thinking about it, so trust me when I say you will too.
This book is the first in a new fantasy series about a young orc priestess named Csorwe — yes, this book has orcs! — who has been chosen as a sacrifice to her god, the Unspoken One. But on the day of her death, a mysterious magician named Belthandros Sethennai offers her a choice: stay and die, or leave with him and become his learned assassin. Csorwe chooses to live and gets swept up in a years-long adventure to find the fabled Reliquary of Pentravesse, a magical item said to contain unfathomable knowledge by the long-dead scholar Pentravesse and his patron snake goddess.
The Unspoken Name’s plot is immense and grandiose, but it never becomes overwhelming or confusing and I can merit that to Larkwood’s beautiful writing. She has this incredible ability to explain worldbuilding that features dead gods, complicated magic systems, spaceships and traveling through different worlds in such a compelling way. A high fantasy story and a space opera in one? Yes please! I am so thoroughly impressed by the fantastic worldbuilding and genre-bending in this book and will definitely be picking up anything Larkwood writes in the future.
On her fourteenth birthday she would go up to the Shrine of the Unspoken One and that would be the end of her.
The summer would come. There would be another Chosen Bride. The novices would get their adult tasks and make their vows as acolytes. The world would continue, but she would be gone.
But my favourite element of The Unspoken Name is definitely the characters. I am a real sucker for queer characters, self-destructive characters, ambitious characters, and characters who learn that they deserve more than the scraps they’ve been given, and this book that and more in spades. Cswore was a remarkable main character and her journey from an innocent child to warrior assassin is developed so wonderfully and epically. After being saved by Sethennai, she dedicates her life to him out of a sense of misplaced loyalty and has to slowly undo that learned behaviour. Loyalty and faithfulness play a big part in The Unspoken Name, particularly in regard to how the person you swore your allegiance to might not be the person you always thought they were.
My absolute favourite character in this novel is Talasseres Charossa and I guarantee by the end of the book, he will be your favourite too. Tal is the second main character and he also owes his allegiance to Sethennai, but he and Csorwe hate each other. Tal spends a majority of the novel searching for happiness, but finds that’s hard to come by when you have an awful personality and enjoy manipulating people. But don’t be too hard on Tal! His character development, like Csorwe’s, is perfectly written and he grows as a person. I mean, he’s still an asshole by the end of the book, but that only makes me love him more.
The Unspoken Name is a genre-bending novel with incredible worldbuilding to be sure, but its also a character-driven novel in the sense that the characters’ interactions really drive the plot forward. The dynamic between all the characters — Csorwe, Tal, Sethennai, Shuthmili and Oranna — is captivating and has you reading more and more chapters, long past your bedtime. I adored the slow-burn relationship between Csorwe and Shuthmili: at first, the girls are too awkward to understand how to discuss their feelings, but their relationship eventually develops sweetly.
If you’re a lover of fantasy or sci-fi, I highly recommend you pick up this glorious novel. It features a wonderful cast of queer characters, characters beginning to question everything about their lives and trying to forge a new path, and some of the most unique worldbuilding I’ve come across. I guess the only question I have is, when’s book two coming out?