Larkwood spins an imaginative story of love, sacrifice, and betrayal that traverses worlds in this phenomenal debut. Csorwe, a 14-year-old orc princess, is betrothed to the Unspoken One, her world’s god, and is slated to be sacrificed to him on behalf of her people. Before the ceremony can be completed, a stranger, Belthandros Sethennai, finds her and offers her the chance to avoid her fate by leaving with him and helping him to regain control of his world. To return to power, Sethennai must find a holy relic, the Reliquary of Pentravesse. He trains Csorwe to be his “blunt instrument,” transforming her into an assassin and sending her on quests across alternate worlds to seek out the Reliquary. On one such journey, Csorwe meets a young mage named Shuthmili and falls in love, testing her loyalties once more. Larkwood’s intricately woven plot is jam-packed with intrigue and excitement. Lyrical, immersive prose masterfully conveys complex worldbuilding. Epic fantasy fans are sure to be impressed by this expertly crafted adventure. Agent: Kurestin Armada, P.S. Literary Agency. (Feb.)
DEBUT Csorwe has always known the day she will die. Raised in the House of Silence since she was an infant as a Chosen Bride, the young orc knows that, while her childhood years are spent as the voice for her god, on her 14th birthday she will enter the Shrine of the Unspoken and become his sacrifice. But then wizard Belthandros Sethennai comes to the House and brings Csorwe a choice: follow her fate to her death or craft a new one. Csorwe joins Sethennai on a journey across different worlds, training as a warrior and assassin, to help reclaim his seat of power and assist his search for a potent object that is hunted by a familiar face from their shared past. Csorwe faces lessons on loyalty, truth, and her own feelings, and discovers that she cannot run away from her god, or any others. The characters around Csorwe are delightful and maddening by turns, creating an action-packed and emotionally engaging story. VERDICT Lushly detailed with incredible worldbuilding, Larkwood's debut is a singular take on orcish fantasy, filled with fierce fighting and magic.—Kristi Chadwick, Massachusetts Lib. Syst., Northampton
Larkwood's debut, the first of a fantasy series, begins in familiar fashion as a warrior-maiden adventure and gradually develops into a love story.
In this imaginative but never fully convincing universe, places may be reached via magical gates leading through a maze of dead and dying worlds. Magic powers derive from a rare, innate ability combined with power vouchsafed by a patron god. Csorwe is of a hominin race that sports tusks—these are functionless and, unfortunately, impossible to visualize without thinking "piggish." In a narrative rendered in crisp, vivid prose, Csorwe serves the oracular shrine of a god—the Unspoken Name—but is destined soon to sacrifice herself. Then Sethennai, a wizard—his race has Spock ears—requesting a prophesy about the mysterious and powerful Reliquary of Pentravesse, offers her a choice: serve him and live, or marry the god and die. Csorwe chooses life and becomes Sethennai's ninja. The wizard, formerly the ruler of the city Tlaanthothe, needs her to help reclaim his position from a scheming rival. Later, during a quest to secure the Reliquary, she will clash with the Qarsazhi, imperial interworld extortionists, and their powerful young wizard Shuthmili, who's fated to be absorbed by their enforcement arm but, like Csorwe, never conceived other possibilities. Until this point, the story meanders, but finally the author finds a unique voice no longer dependent on boilerplate action, chases, escapes, torture, and fights. And when Csorwe and Shuthmili meet and fumble toward a relationship, we recognize heartfelt emotion, real substance, and an emergent theme: loyalties and the choices we make that engender them. These, along with the strong female leads, are solid foundations upon which to build.
A moderately promising entry that should find an audience.
The Unspoken Name is great funfantasy with an epic sweep in a gorgeously drawn universe.”Ann Leckie, New York Times bestselling and Hugo award-winning author of Ancillary Justice
“A fun, fresh take on the traditional fantasy quest, and an adventure I couldn't put down!”S. A. Chakraborty, author of The City of Brass
“Just a perfect fantasy debut.”The Daily Mail
“Astounding... written with skill and stunning assurance. The worlds this story spans are as exotic and dangerous as the characters who traverse them. From its flawless first page to its bittersweet last, The Unspoken Name is unlike anything I’ve read before.” Nicholas Eames, author of Kings of the Wyld
“What a glorious book! Richly detailed, enthralling, and extraordinary, with brilliant nods to such luminaries as Ursula K. Le Guin and Diana Wynne Jones. A.K. Larkwood's book hooked me in from the first page and never let go. Fabulous, in every meaning of the word." Jenn Lyons, author of Ruin of Kings
"A.K. Larkwood's The Unspoken Name is an epic fantasy in the vein of Le Guin's magnificent Tombs of Atuan if Arha the Eaten One got to grow up to be a swordswoman mercenary in thrall to her dubious wizard mentor. The action is fast-paced and emotionally compelling; the magic is dangerous, beautiful, and utterly compromising. I love this book so much." Arkady Martine, author of A Memory Called Empire
"An unexpected and new take on classic orcs 'n' swords fantasy. Stylish, classy, and timeless - but with racing stripes and an inbuilt camera. I cannot recommend it enough." Tamsyn Muir, author of Gideon the Ninth
"Takes all the tropes of fantasyorcs and epic quests, dead gods and undead souls, daring rescues and last-second escapesand spins them into something wild and new. A dizzy, delicious debut."Alix E. Harrow, Nebula and Hugo finalist and author of The Ten Thousand Doors of January
“A wonderful, rich fantasy with fantastic queer characters I fell in love with. Fans of the fantastical world-building and ancient divine secrets of Ann Leckie's THE RAVEN TOWER or Steven Erikson's MALAZAN BOOK OF THE FALLEN will really enjoy this one.”Django Wexler, author of The Thousand Names
“An imaginative story of love, sacrifice, and betrayal that traverses worlds in this phenomenal debut . . . Larkwood's intricately woven plot is jam-packed with intrigue and excitement. Lyrical, immersive prose masterfully conveys complex worldbuilding.”Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Quick-paced, occasionally brutal, and genuinely funny, Larkwood’s debut novel turns standard fantasy tropes on their head with grace and humour. Csorwe might have the tusks of an orc, but she is human to her core. Readers will be rooting for her to receive the happy ending that she obviously deserves.”Kerstin Hall, author of The Border Keeper
"The Unspoken Name has everything - spine-tingling prose, gorgeous worldbuilding, powerful older women, found family (but it's terrible), and true love. It's fantastic. I read it in one sitting." Emily Tesh, author of Silver in the Wood
“Crisp, witty and entertaining. Such fun and it distracted me from my work far too well!”Genevieve Cogman, author of The Invisible Library
"Larkwood's debut is a fresh, fun take on the genre, packed with smart prose, badass characters, and fantastic worldbuilding. A necessary addition for any fantasy lover's collection."Tara Sim, author of Scavenge the Stars
"A truly wonderful book...grabbed my attention on the first page and wouldn’t let go. Fresh, exciting and new, with fascinating characters, shifting alliances, impossible odds, breathtaking settings, and shocking twists." Dyrk Ashton, author of Paternus
"A breathtaking journey. It's epic fantasy with both creeping, omnipresent horrors and yet a tenacious, delicate warmth." K. A. Doore, author of The Perfect Assassin
“The Unspoken Name is the best kind of modern fantasyit feels totally fresh, it's full of satisfyingly weird gods and frightening magic; plus it's stuffed with the sort of characters you'll either want to be friends with or run screaming from. I loved this book!”Jen Williams
“Action-packed and emotionally engaging . . . Lushly detailed with incredible worldbuilding, Larkwood's debut is a singular take on orcish fantasy, filled with fierce fighting and magic.”Library Journal (starred review)