Title: The Unspoken Name
Author: AK Larkwood
Series: The Serpent Gates #1
Published: Tor Books (February 11, 2020)
Pages: 464 (eARC)
*eARC provided by Tor via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*
The Unspoken Name was one of my most anticipated reads of 2020. An orc priestess turned traitor and assassin? Yes, please. And luckily, this did not disappoint!
“Nothing in this world has earned the power to frighten you Csorwe,” he said. “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 knows her destiny. She’s known it practically her whole life. As a Bride of the Unspoken, she will die on her 14th birthday. And, she seems to have made a kind of peace with that. But, on the day of her sacrifice, the wizard Belthandros Sethennai shows up and offers her a choice. Stay and die. Or, she can leave with him and live. Betraying her god, Csorwe chooses to flee with Sethennai, becoming his personal assassin and aiding him on his quest to find the legendary Reliquary of Pentravesse.
“The secret of greatness is to know when you should risk the wrath of god.”
There is so much about this book that I really enjoyed. Csorwe is a fantastic main character and her arc was so satisfying to follow. I really appreciated her “inner monologue” as she grapples with these big ideas of destiny and choice. And what we owe to other people….and more importantly, what we owe to ourselves.
And, did I mention this book is queer? Because it totally is. Several of the named characters are queer, and the main f/f relationship was so sweet and lovely. A perfect contrast to the gritty, violent world our characters inhabit. Also, can we take a moment to appreciate the banter between Csorwe and Tal? I love me some frenemies. I could read about these two one upping each other forever. I mean, “no hard feelings,” right?
“Tal never took one bite of a bad idea without polishing off the whole chunk.”
Ultimately, I think this is a book about choices. Do you follow the the path you believe to be your destiny? Or do you make a choice to carve your own path? Who do you put first? Who do you trust? And, I think this works well because there is really no “big bad” in this story – none of our characters are inherently evil. But, we are the choices we make – and our characters have to live with the consequences of theirs. There are constantly changing alliances which keep the plot interesting and moving in new directions. The characters feel real, their motivations feel authentic and that kept me invested in the story the whole way through.
“Exalted Sages, Csorwe. If there ever comes a day when anyone faces justice, then you and I had better hope we’re both far, far away.”
The only real downside to this book for me was the pacing. The first and second halves almost feel like two different books, and I would have preferred to see more time spent with Csorwe while she is training. Like, what happened during that five year jump? I want to know!
Overall, I think this is a great start to a new fantasy series. And, I can’t wait to see where the story goes from here. If you’re looking for a new queer fantasy to sink your teeth into, I highly recommend giving this one a go!