Unspoken: YA Gothic romance

fantasy book reviews science fiction book reviewsUnspoken by Sarah Rees BrennanUnspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan is a twist on a classic Gothic romance, like Jane Eyre. Complete with a mysterious mansion on a hill, a desperate love triangle, mysterious goings-on and troubled characters, Unspoken throws a twist into the formula by reversing the genders of the main characters, setting it in a modern setting, and adding a sense of humor.

Kami lives in Sorry-in-the-Vale, a small English town that lives in the shadow of the Lynburn mansion. The Lynburns have been gone since before Kami was born, and most of the people in the town are glad they have been gone. However, one day the lights in the mansion are back on, and word whips quickly through town that the Lynburns are back. Kami, an aspiring journalist, thinks this would be a great story for the newly resurrected high school newspaper. However, she is surprised to discover that the Lynburns have returned with not one, but two gorgeous boys her age, one looking like an angel, and the other like a fallen one. Whispers of the Lynburns’ dastardly deeds start resurfacing, and Kami is caught between the attentions of both of the Lynburn boys and the voice in her head that she’s heard since she was an infant. And then animals start being ritually killed in the woods, and Kami is determined to figure out what is going on, and that’s before someone tries to kill her.

Kami is a fun heroine. She’s spunky, mouthy, and headstrong. She has an entertaining group of friends and is a born leader. As the adventure unfolds, she seems to plunge in headfirst without much awareness of the danger, beyond the level you would assume normal for teenage belief in their own immortality. Where I do appreciate Kami’s personality the most is in her refusal to be a stupid swoony girl over the two boys that are interested in her. Rather than stringing them both along, she shows reasonable doubts about both of them and is clearheaded enough to understand why they are interested in her, rather than considering it true love. Without giving away any important plot details, the central triangle drives the plot not just romantically – there is surprisingly little actual romance – but strategically in both revealing the plot and driving the conflict forward.

The book shifts from a fairly Disneyfied spunky girl detective story to a more mature PG-13 with both an increase in violence and language. Additionally, the last 75 pages or so reveals a lot of information and then ends without any resolution. The atmospheric darkness that hangs over the story is not cleared away and has actually darkened as the story ends. I was actually frustrated with the lack of resolution. There are ways to leave the story open enough to continue while providing a sense of closure to the installment of the larger tale.

This is a fun addition to the realm of YA fantasy. As Unspoken ends with a fairly significant cliff hanger, it will be interesting to see where the story goes with a lot of the mystery dispelled and the alignment of the characters more crystalized. The book ends with the central love triangle being completely reconfigured, so I assume that the continued volumes in THE LYNBURN LEGACY will play with the inter-character conflict. I’ll definitely be reading the next book in this series, but I don’t think this book will have the crossover to broader audiences that some YA fiction will, but will appeal to fans of YA fantasy and gothic fiction.

The Lynburn Legacy — (2012-2014) Publisher: Kami Glass is in love with someone she’s never met — a boy she’s talked to in her head since she was born. This has made her an outsider in the sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale, but she has learned ways to turn that to her advantage. Her life seems to be in order, until disturbing events begin to occur. There has been screaming in the woods and the manor overlooking the town has lit up for the first time in 10 years…. The Lynburn family, who ruled the town a generation ago and who all left without warning, have returned. Now Kami can see that the town she has known and loved all her life is hiding a multitude of secrets — and a murderer. The key to it all just might be the boy in her head. The boy she thought was imaginary is real, and definitely and deliciously dangerous.

Sarah Rees Brennan Unspokenfantasy and science fiction book reviewsfantasy and science fiction book reviews


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RUTH ARNELL (on FanLit's staff January 2009 — August 2013) earned a Ph.D. in political science and is a college professor in Idaho. From a young age she has maxed out her library card the way some people do credit cards. Ruth started reading fantasy with A Wrinkle in Time and The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe — books that still occupy an honored spot on her bookshelf today. Ruth and her husband have a young son, but their house is actually presided over by a flame-point Siamese who answers, sometimes, to the name of Griffon.

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One comment

  1. Sounds like an interesting read! I like the name Kami, too.

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