ARC Review: The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood

I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.

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Summary: 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.

Release date: February 11th

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★★★★✩

Coming up with a way to first introduce The Unspoken Name in a review is, at the very least, complicated. This is a novel with many layers and many aspects that cohabit peacefully with one another, and to put focus on one before the others would be to build wrongful expectations for what is the end result.

…and there I tricked you by giving you what I feel like should be the first thing to keep in mind when going into this novel. If you expect it to be fantasy more than scifi, or plot more than characters, or characters more than plot, or relationships more than characters, then you’ll end up expecting something this novel isn’t.

Keeping that in mind, now we can move on and talk about the different aspects!

The first thing I realized I liked about this book was the writing. I will admit it does feel like a debut novel but like, in a good way that makes me want to read the author’s future books and see how she improves based on what I already know she does well. I personally love when authors don’t force-feed you information about characters’ intentions and feelings/reactions at any given moment but let you understand it from the context and what you already know about them. I think this aspect was excellent and it had sometimes hilarious, sometimes powerful effects in moments that would have been spoiled by an overly detailed description. I also think each character’s voice was very distinct and immediately recognizable.

Speaking of which, I think characters and relationships are where this book truly shined for me. Amidst a lot of plot and action, these characters bleed through the pages and you absorb them slowly, as you would with a real person. By the end they all felt real in a way that doesn’t always happen with fantasy, and I truly Felt for their relationships.

The romantic aspect was really enjoyable but to be honest, not my favorite part. It was, I guess, just not as present as I usually like it to be, but I do feel that the sapphic (!!!!) relationship was very naturally built up and cute. I was also under the wrong impression (I don’t remember if because of reviews or why) that there would also be a side m/m romance but there is not (if you’ve read it and see a romance in That…I really don’t know what to tell you), and I would like to add: thank the Nine Gods. I don’t think there’s anyone here who’s allocishet but anyway there are like: three confirmed mlm characters (at least one of them is bi/pan) and three wlw ones.

The plot was intriguing and I was never bored. I do think it had some pacing issues, not something that necessarily always bothered me (for example, I love when it got a little slower for the sake of showing us certain characters and relationships), but it did make things a little weird in a couple of points. If you’re someone who cares a lot about plot and pacing, you might notice and care about this more than I did.

The worldbuilding is so unique and I’m not even going to pretend like I’ve understood how things work well enough to be able to talk about them but basically it’s a fantasy + scifi setting in which together with more high fantasy elements we also have uhh,, space (?) ships and you can jump between worlds.

So, would I recommend this? Absolutely! If you’re into adult fantasy and/or casually queer (sapphic!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!) books then this one is for you. And I’m really looking forward to the next book (by the way, this book can be a standalone because it has an arc that’s fully resolved by the end, which is even more reason to give it a try!), hoping it will follow Tal (my favorite character tbh).

TWs: human & animal sacrifices, violence, gore, drug use, death, alcohol, self mutilation

Audiobook Review: The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley

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Summary: Somewhere on the outer rim of the universe, a mass of decaying world-ships known as the Legion is traveling in the seams between the stars. For generations, a war for control of the Legion has been waged, with no clear resolution.  As worlds continue to die, a desperate plan is put into motion.

Zan wakes with no memory, prisoner of a people who say they are her family. She is told she is their salvation – the only person capable of boarding the Mokshi, a world-ship with the power to leave the Legion. But Zan’s new family is not the only one desperate to gain control of the prized ship. Zan finds that she must choose sides in a genocidal campaign that will take her from the edges of the Legion’s gravity well to the very belly of the world.

Zan will soon learn that she carries the seeds of the Legion’s destruction – and its possible salvation. But can she and her ragtag band of followers survive the horrors of the Legion and its people long enough to deliver it?

In the tradition of The Fall of Hyperion and DuneThe Stars are Legion is an epic and thrilling tale about tragic love, revenge, and war as imagined by one of the genre’s most celebrated new writers.

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★★★.5✩

This is one of those books I would’ve never read if it wasn’t for the audiobook so I’m glad I had this experience. The narrators are great but I didn’t know how to feel about the story for the first 30% maybe, although there were enough elements to keep me interested so I kept listening.

Once it got to a certain point it became more of a travel fantasy (yes it’s a space opera but to be honest there’s not that much space) I started to enjoy it more, but bear with me: this book is truly disgusting. If you’re squeamish you need to stay away from this book. It has body horror and gore on every page and it takes place on worlds/ships that are rotting cephalopods. The book doesn’t make things nice for you, it just tells them like they are. Also stay away if you’re bothered by pregnancies and reading about giving birth and not in the “omg such a beautiful thing” way. Basically don’t read it if even the mention of bodily fluids makes you go “eww”.

It’s definitely not something I would have wanted to read otherwise but I was in it for the all female, all lesbian cast, and although I wouldn’t say there’s actually a romance (nothing I would call healthy anyway), there’s a really messed up f/f/f love triangle (but one could argue it’s more of a love square) where one of them (at least one of them?) is the villain. Another aspect I loved was the main character having lost her memory and see her on her (not only metaphorical) journey to regain it, alongside a strange and unlikely group of women that were really what kept me listening even when I was confused (and I was confused a lot).

Would I recommend this if you’re able to handle the stuff I warned you about? Probably only if you’re a big scifi/space opera/fantasy reader, or if you’re as invested in stories about lesbians as I am, or if you want to try reading outside of your comfort zone. So basically, yes.

TWs: extreme gore, violence, cannibalism, death, birth, memory loss