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By Singing Light

Pretty much everything here originally appeared at my actual blog: By Singing Light. I particularly focus on upper middle-grade and young adult books. I also enjoy adult genre books, especially speculative fiction.

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Unspoken - Sarah Rees Brennan Today, my friends, we are going to talk about epigraphs. Because clearly the plot and the characters of Unspoken are NOTHING compared with my nerdly glee when I went through and read all the epigraphs. There are many of them. They are all poetry. They are all from favorite poets. THERE IS ONE FROM CHRISTINA ROSSETT AND ONE FROM SONNETS FROM THE PORTUGUESE AND NOT EVEN THAT ANNOYING ONE EVERYONE QUOTES. ELIZABETH BARRETT BROWNING IS MY BFF AND I AM TYPING IN ALL CAPS LIKE A CRAZY PERSON.

Oh, fine, I'll talk about something else now.

Unspoken is the first book in the Lynburn Legacy trilogy. As a major fan of pretty much everything Sarah Rees Brennan writes, from her excellent Demon's Lexicon books to the "Queen of Atlantis" short story, which I love more than cake, I was very very excited for this book. Also, Gothics! Also mysteries! Also short people! I am a fan of all of these things. Needless to say, I jumped at the chance to read this book on NetGalley (in fact, it is the reason I signed up for NetGalley) and I loved it. But I loved it even more when I re-read it after my copy arrived, in all of its red and gold silhouettey beauteousness, which leads me to believe that my brain is just hardwired for the printed word as opposed to ereaders/screen reading. But I digress.

Kami Glass is our main character. Half Asian in the middle of a Cotswolds village, a future investigative reporter, Kami is always a little bit on the outside. But that's even more the case because she has an imaginary friend, Jared. As she puts it, imaginary friends are cute when you're seven. When you're seventeen...not so much. And then the Lynburns, the lords of the manor, return and one of them is Jared. (Not a spoiler! In the official description!)

In short, <3

I love Kami, who is fierce and dependable, an oldest child in a way that this oldest child totally bought. (Also, short! As a short person, I approve.) I love Jared, who has two faces, the one he presents to everyone else, and the one he shows Kami. I love Angela and Holly, and the fact that we basically have a reporting trio of DOOM. I do not love Ash, nor do I trust him, though the end changed my mind a little bit (why is it that I always distrust the apparently normal one...and usually am right?). Lillian is unexpectedly awesome.

One of the things I noticed was that it's harder in this book to decide which side someone is on. I'm always on your side, Kami and Jared tell each other, and it's almost true. In the Lexicon books, there were pretty clear cut sides--betrayals, sure, but I always felt pretty sure who was going to be good and who wasn't. Here, the characters shift and morph, slipping from bad to good and back again. I'm quite certain this is deliberate--we are not meant to be able to say who is really on Kami's side and who isn't. (In fact, I need to check again, but I'm pretty certain that book 2 is going to surprise some people because one of the characters we thought we could count on is...not going to be that.)

And the descriptions! At the author event I went to in August, Sarah said that she has trouble writing descriptions. She may not find them easy to write, but by golly, she nails them here. The image of the Aurimere garden, with its overgrown beauty, of the house and the village--all of them were beautiful and marvelous and helped convince me that the world was real. This is one of the things I missed on my first read, but adored on my second.

The world, incidentally, is smaller than it is in the Lexicon books. Kami and Jared go up to London briefly, but it doesn't work so well. Jared and Ash both have lived in America, but the whole point is that they come back to Sorry-in-the-Vale. I think this fits perfectly, not just with the way the characters are set up, but with the genres that the book is playing with. The action begins when the Lynburns return, much like an Austen novel, or Jane Eyre, for that matter. The tight location, almost claustrophobic in its relentlessness owes a lot to the Gothics, where the whole point is that you cannot get away. At any rate, I love setting! I love the way characters and places interact, and Unspoken is full of that interaction.

And I haven't even mentioned the way that Kami and Jared are so awkward with each other, the way the other's physical presence freaks them out, and they can't hide this. It takes into account the real weirdness of their relationship in a way I haven't seen other imaginary friend short stories deal with (even Hexwood which is in every other way wonderful).

Last but not least, a spoilery discussion of the end. I've seen a lot of people moaning about the ending, and I'm not sure to what extent they're actually upset and to what extent they just want the next book RIGHT NOW. If it's the latter, I totally and completely understand. Personally, though, I thought that the ending was extremely well set up. On both reads, I found that it had a ring of narrative inevitability to it--that is, I cannot imagine Kami doing anything else. I mean, it's awful, especially for Jared and I don't think she's thought through the consequences very well, but...I totally buy her problem and that this is the only solution to that problem. In that sense, it's not sprung on you at the end--it's carefully set up throughout the book. (Also, The Two Towers is way worse. Also Pegasus by Robin McKinley.)

Now I want to go pet my copy again. And re-read the epigraphs.

Book source: from NetGalley, also bought
Book information: September 2012, Random House; YA

My Sarah Rees Brennan reviews
Also, I met her!
Other Unspoken reviews:
Liz B
Bookshelves of Doom
The Book Smugglers
Also, there are short stories!
Kami and Jared