The Unspoken Name by A.K. Larkwood – REVIEW
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. On the day of her foretold death, however, a powerful mage offers her a new fate.
Csorwe leaves her home, her destiny, and her god to become the wizard’s loyal sword-hand — stealing, spying, and killing to help him reclaim his seat of power in the homeland from which he was exiled.
But Csorwe and the wizard will soon learn – gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Tor UK.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“But my life is mine… Mine to spend, mine to burn, mine to waste. Mine to give away.”
I was lucky enough to receive a proof copy of The Unspoken Name and decided to slowly read it over a few days. I first saw this book mentioned on twitter when someone described it as an orc fantasy. Whilst the main character Csorwe does share some physical similarities with orcs, the term is never used within the text. What we do have are wizards, ancient gods, and elf-like characters. Csorwe was an intriguing and engaging protagonist, and the reader roots for her throughout the book. I especially loved the slowly-developed w|w relationship with Shuthmili, a Church-trained practitioner of magic. However, it was the snarky Tal who ended up stealing every scene he was in. Reckless, stubborn and ridiculous, Tal never knows when to stop and has so much quotable dialogue.
“Tal never took one bite of a bad idea without polishing off the whole chunk.”
I found the first 25% a little off with its pacing due to the number of years crammed into a few pages. It began flowing much better though once the story had room to breathe and I found myself reluctant to stop reading. The layered world building and fascinating magic system create an accessible fantasy that would suit readers new to the genre whilst also satisfying long-time fans. The shadowy machinations and hidden motives of many of the characters combine into a plot that questions the loyalty we owe to ourselves and others. The idea of destiny and choosing your own path is frequently explored through the character of Csorwe, and to a lesser extent Shuthmili and Tal.
“I was raised for death, and death has been my lifelong study. I have no fear of the end.”
I love stories featuring ancient beings and the presence of ancient gods in this book forms the backbone of the plot. As the reader learns more about them, we inevitably end up with further questions; the world the author has created feels like one that could be explored and explored without ever discovering all its secrets. The ending functions as a standalone so I’m not sure whether the next book in the series will feature Csorwe as the main character or someone else we’ve already met. No matter who, I’ll definitely be preordering what I’m sure will be another witty, intricate, and gripping fantasy.