The Unspoken Name by A. K. Larkwood

Csorwe is a young orc priestess who is stolen away and saved from a sacrificial ceremony to her chosen god… she is saved by a powerful wizard who has been beaten and banished from his own land. Csorwe makes this deal with Belthandros Sethannai and becomes his assistant. They travel through portals to different lands in an effort to both provide her with training and prepare for his return to his own land for revenge. She becomes spy, treasure hunter, assassin, and faithful student.

What a good mashup! Wizard battles, multi-world exploration, steampunk fun, political machinations, and a bit of romance thrown in.

Here’s some things I liked about the book (Warning: a little spoilery):

  • I felt like the worldbuilding flowed so well. From city scenes to frozen landscapes and tombs, Larkwood is able to transport the reader through a plethora of settings.
  • It’s not often that I read a novel where parts of the story are broken up so well. Each section is separated by multiple years or at least more time than I’m used to. This made the narrative feel more immersive to me, like I was experiencing vast swaths of characters’ lives.
  • The interplay between Csorwe and the other characters. She is a naive 14-year-old at the beginning who believes her life will only amount to a quick sacrificial end, but over the course of the book, she grows so much and to see that strength and evolution was quite fun.

Some things I thought were puzzling…

  • Orcs, hobbits, elves, humans… historically each race has had different characteristics, yet I never felt like those of the orcs were explored in the book. From Lord of the Rings to Gummi Bears, I have a pretty good sense of how they have been depicted in media, but in this book, they seemed simply like characters with tusks. Yet, although I didn’t need that stereotypical version of the orc, I needed more. Tusks are mentioned as well as skin color during the course of the book… but nothing that had as much an effect on the narrative and characters as I wished.
  • It did take me a bit get into the writing and characterization.

Overall, a good debut where the pros outweigh the cons. If you’re looking for a book that will take you through portals and witness the battles of necromancers and the undead, bring it on!

3.5 out of 5 stars

Thank you to Edelweiss, Tor Books, and the author for an advanced copy for review.

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