The Unspoken Name


A. K. Larkwood


Science Fiction / Fantasy


Date Reviewed:

December 10, 2020

thoroughly enjoyed this fantasy novel. The Unspoken Name is a marvelous story, it successfully creates a plethora of well drawn character; it has a well thought out plot, and the world-building is excellent. The Unspoken Name stars Csorwe, a female acolyte of indeterminant species. Csorwe is definitely not a human - she has grey skin and prominent tusks, but she still has feelings, ambition and ruthless determination to get things done.

Raised in a decaying temple called the House of Silence, Csorwe is fated to be sacrificed to the god called the Unspoken Name on her fourteenth birthday. She will walk up the steps, and disappear into the cave from which no one ever returns. Csorwe accepts her lot, she knows nothing else but service to the mysterious god. But when she enters the cave, a wizard named Sethennai is waiting there. He offers Csorwe a choice - continue further into the cave, and meet her doom, or join him in a quest for the Reliquary. Betray her god? Csorwe decides to live, and enters into service of the wizard, and embarks on a remarkable career that spans a variety of well drawn worlds, encountering villains and allies, facing dangers most perilous and the wrath of gods. It makes a great story.

It turns out that Csorwe's world, Oshaar, is just one world of many. People travel between these world on flying ships (powered by alchemical engines) by passing through Gates. Between the Gates is a vast Maze that the ships sail over until they find the appropriate Gate to the next world. Some of the worlds Csorwe visits are decaying and crumbling, they have been abandoned or cursed by their gods, doomed to disappear into a fragmented world that eventually is absorbed into the ever growing Maze. Each of the world's that Csorwe encounters on her adventures is well drawn. Sethannai and Csorwe stumble into a dying world that once was inhabited by monstrous, intelligent serpents. Now nothing remains but dust, a crumbling stone city, and the huge skeletons of the vanished Echentyr species. It is a great scene (though I did wonder what tools serpents employed to inscribe those scrolls in the library.)

Sethannai once ruled Tlaanthothe, but he was usurped by Olthaaros. Sethannai would dearly like to return to his rightful rule, and so he and Csorwe scheme and plot.

Larkwood fills her novel with exploration, dread gods, magical battles, and plenty of adventure. The villains are diabolical and ruthless, but they are not cartoonishly evil (in too many fantasy novels, the "dark lord" plots to destroy the entire world, but to what end?). In The Unspoken Name, the adversaries have their own motivations and desires, and act accordingly. I liked that Csorwe is not "the chosen one", but instead is an ordinary person who does extraordinary things because of her wit and her prowess and her fearlessness. I really enjoyed reading this novel.

The Unspoken Name is a wonderful achievement, it is hard to believe that this is Larkspur's debut novel. Fortunately, Goodreads.com calls it book #1 of the Serpent Gates, so there will be subsequent volumes, which I certainly hope to read. Highly recommended!