Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan | Book Review

Unspoken, the first book of The Lynburn Legacy Series, is a book not to be read at night or in the very early hours of the morning. (Yep. I stayed overnight until the break of dawn reading this.) This is a lesson I learned the hard way. Or maybe, I’m just faint-hearted. ‘Sassy gothic’ is the term used by the author to describe this, which cannot be more spot-on. Romance. Check! Horror. CHECK!  (But then again, I’m easy to scare.) Sassiness? Oh yeah… overflowing in every shape and form.

Unspoken tells of Kami Glass, a female protagonist who can defenestrate her own thugs. What can I say? She totally kick ass and quite literally as well because she knows handy self-defense moves. She’s an aspiring journalist who just successfully set up a school paper. With that comes along her strong nose for stories and incurable and sometimes dangerously placed nosiness too. You can easily rule her out as ordinary (and also awesome, of course) if not for her ‘friend’. This friend exists in the name of Jared and only in her head (have no mistake, she’s still awesome). She’s been talking to this ‘imaginary’ friend all her life – from shared lullabies to puberty tantrums. It is both a connection which became her source of strength and comfort and the cause of her estrangement from the rest of her tiny placid ordinary[1] town. Laughing at nothing and staring at empty space while she’s lost in her head are the norms for Kami until Jared turns out to be corporeal and volunteers to throw thugs out windows for her.

Jared is real and incredibly tall and incredibly handsome and incredibly getting on Kami’s nerves. Just like Kami and the author, Sarah, I have no real objections to handsome princes… so, I’m all in for that! However, Kami’s bewildered. All her life she thought she’s mental but now here’s a deal breaker for her craziness or has she only became even crazier? The story continues to unfold as Kami deals with this big revelation. While that’s happening it’s not like everything else around her is helping as a bigger and more sinister reveal is brewing.

You see, Jared did not come alone. He’s one of the Lynburns whose family owns the manor that overlooks Kami’s village for centuries. Referred to as the “creatures of red and gold”, (yep. I’m just gonna keep giving  you mysterious references to convince you to read it) in the quiet whispers around town, the people of the village find the Lynburns terrifying although, at the same time, they are also drawn to them in fascination. The return of the sisters, who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago, with their sons Jared and Ash definitely stirred the town.

Speaking of the town, the novel is set in a fictional town called Sorry-in-the-Vale. Since it’s fictional, you can say that the author has complete freedom when it comes to world-building. She can tailor the town according to her needs. Yes, true… But the town itself is placed in the real world. Somewhere in Cotswold near Gloucestershire, to be more specific. And she made the town feels and looks like just how a small English town should be. With its rolling fields or “fields that rock and roll”, as Kami puts it; cobblestone streets; old-fashioned shop windows; tight-knit community; and slight medieval tendencies despite being well into the 21st century, it is absolutely magnificent and breathtaking. You can also look at it using this simple equation:

 Country side setting + fantasy/paranormal = assured sinister

 At what seems to me as a charming addition, Kami still lives in a thatched cottage! She does not like it but I love it! I mean, how fairytale-ish, right? Additionally, the word play with town and location name is very clever and brilliant. I won’t say much because I’ll spoil it otherwise[2], but this brief excerpt from the book pretty much sums up how awesome it is.

“Sorry-in-the-Vale, Sorriest River, Crying Pools” said Jared.

“Is the quarry called Really Depressed Quarry?”

“Yes,” Kami answered. “Also, I live on the Street of Certain Doom.”[3]

Earlier, I said there’s romance so let’s talk about that! The love story is certainly a big part of the plot. Jared and Kami is the sort of couple that would certainly have the ‘It’s complicated’ status on their Facebook account. I know it must sound such a cliché when I say this is different; however, this one certainly has unique spin to it. The telepathic connection between Kami and Jared also meant that Kami can’t tell whether she is feeling his emotion or hers. It is most usually overwhelming to the point that “(She) hated the link between them. She didn’t know if anything she was feeling was real.”[4]

Nevertheless, also because of that same connection when Kami say things like she couldn’t be her without Jared… she meant it. She really meant it and it has a different, heavier weight to it.

“In love. That’s how it sounds, doesn’t it? His heart is my heart,

nobody can ever take him away from me, I keep him in here!”

She thumped her breastbone so hard it hurt.

“People say stuff like that but they don’t mean it: they mean they’re in love.

All except me. I mean it.”[5]

Is it the connection or is it love? That’s what we have to find out.

Moreover, the element I love the most about this novel is the switching of gender roles. I know it shouldn’t be a thing and not something we should find unusual on fiction, but the harsh reality is it still is. So I am thrilled to see it in this book and I want more like it. Rosalind Lynburn, Jared’s Aunt, is the head of the family and owns it! Claire Glass, Kami’s mum, takes control of things her way. As for Jared, he is the one afraid of intimacy and sexual stuff. The boy is the one who have total lack of romantic experience. This is something I don’t particularly find very often. It’s good to have a break from the ‘damsel in distress’ when it comes to those circumstances. Basically, every female character is just awesome! Just take the main protagonist as an example of good representation of women, Kami is a bad ass but she wasn’t stripped of the feminine traits the society considers as norms. We don’t just need ‘strong’ women characters, necessarily. We just need female characters represented as well as one would represent their male counterparts. And this book does just that! You know what’s more awesome; this book has a portrayal of a lesbian character and Kami, herself, is from a mixed-raced background. These are also things that we really should see more often but don’t. It is worth mentioning that we do get these representations of transgenders and ethnic minorities in this book but it doesn’t dwell on them as some sort of major plot points. They are part of the characters but the readers don’t get to find out more about WHAT they are but WHO they are independent of that.

I also wish to mention these tiny tiny details that I came to love so much. Can I just say, some of the rhetorical descriptions of the reactions and emotions are epic! I.e.

He stood in the doorway, looking like Kami imagined

the angel guarding the gate of Eden must have looked

at the moment he realised that the serpent had gotten past him.[6]

—————

…a bewildered knigh-errant

whose rescue mission had gone off course.[7]

Right?

There’s also the references to other literatures like Pyramus and Thisbe and Romeo and Juliet. And, of course, my favourite… the reference to Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice. Well, I say that but it’s really more of a reference to Colin Firth.

There are a lot of characters and I like most  of them! Kami’s dad is too funny; he just cracks me up. Here are a few of my favourites lines from him:

“So, I know what the ladies like,” Dad said.

“I used to be a bad boy myself.”

Kami raised her eyebrows. “Oh, you were?”[8]

—————

“You had wiles? Kami inquired…

“Damn good wiles,” said Dad.[9]

—————

“Is it true, Kami? Are you going out on a date?” Dad asked tragically.

“Wearing that? Wouldn’t you fancy a shapeless cardigan instead?

You rock a shapeless cardigan, honey”[10]

Angela Montgomery, Kami’s bestfriend, maybe suffering from misanthropy but she spurts out the best lines. You can’t help but love her sarcasm against the world.

“Have you met people? They’re very annoying.”[11]

 —————

“Your soul is like the souls of a thousand monkeys on crack,

all smushed together,” she told Kami.

“But enough about you. Show me to my napping sofa.”[12]

There’s a lot more of characters and lines but then you’ll now have to read it for yourself.[13] I might as well narrate the entire book otherwise. I love the characters. There’s not much depth to them though and I guess that’s partly because this is the first book. There isn’t much of them yet and we barely scratched the surfaces of these characters. Nonetheless, the author created awesome foundations to build up from and surely I can see that she left a lot of room for character development and that’s always something to look forward to.

The book culminated to a terrifying hunt and battle through the forest, it left my heart pounding. And when the said heart is still pounding, the book suddenly breaks into an abrupt and shocking stop. The ending is not a cliff hanger, so to speak, but it just sort of stops too… definitely leaving you to crave for more. On that note, I think it’s good to end this review too. It went pretty long didn’t it? I love the book… can you blame me? And as one who picked up this book, “looking for something to laugh at, something to cry at, something to interest you, something to remember…” I found it! THANK YOU, Sarah Rees Brennan.


[1]  *whispers* It’s not really that ordinary.  Sssshhh! Only those who’ve read it deserve to know. *winks* So, now go read it! Time’s a-wastin’!

[2] There’s more to it. Hidden meaning and stuff. I say hidden meaning but…  Curious enough yet? *evil grin*

[3] Part II, Chapter 13, p. 108. – Witty banters between Kami and Jared: Exhibit A

[4] Part III, Chapter 17, p.182

[5] Part IV, Chapter 22, p. 229

[6] Part II, Chapter 9, p.86

[7] Part II, Chapter 10, p.94

[8] Part IV, Chapter 23, p.236

[9] Part IV, Chapter 23, p.237

[10] Part III, Chapter 15, p. 143

[11] Part V, Chapter 25 p.260

[12] Part I, Chapter 1, p. 11

[13] Convinced to read it yet? Go on… buy it here