The Unspoken Name

The Unspoken Name

by A. K. Larkwood

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Overview

A. K. Larkwood's The Unspoken Name is a stunning debut fantasy about an orc priestess turned wizard's assassin.

What if you knew how and when you will die?

Csorwe does—she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.

But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin—the wizard's loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.

But Csorwe will soon learn—gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.

“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. I love this book so much."—Arkady Martine, author of A Memory Called Empire

“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

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250238900
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 02/11/2020
Series: Serpent Gates Series , #1
Pages: 464
Sales rank: 27,460
Product dimensions: 6.20(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

A.K. LARKWOOD studied English at St John’s College, Cambridge, and now lives in Oxford with her wife and a cat. The Unspoken Name is her debut novel.

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The Unspoken Name 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 9 reviews.
Anonymous 1 days ago
It's hard to describe this book. It's hard to rate and review this book. Sometimes, it was hard to read this book, but I'm glad I did. There was something undefinable but comforting about the sense of familiarity I felt reading this book. Whether that comes from playing and watching tons of fantasy video games and tv shows I'm not sure, but it was definitely more like those things than like any other fantasy novel I've read. Sometimes that made the book incredibly fresh and fun, and sometimes, like I said before, it was not an ideal reading experience. The pacing and structure are not the traditional act structure. What feels like the main action climax comes at about the 75% mark, and the rest of the book felt like those video games that allow you to play more quests, just to stay in the world a little longer. It was...kind of great? It won't work for everyone, but it actually did for me. What did not work for me was the multiple povs. I think there ended up being four non-main character povs. Which drove. Me. Up. The. Wall. They showed up unpredictably and weren't balanced. it was more like encountering a cut scene in a video game, but I found it incredibly hard to power through them in print form. More than two povs and povs from non-main characters are a pet peeve of mine, though, so ymmv. All in all, despite a few rough patches in the writing, I really enjoyed this and I loved Csorwe, Shuthmili, and even Tal. I'll definitely give the sequel a try whenever it comes along, and I'd be interested to see what else this author has to write. *A little note about m/m content: there is no m/m romance in this book. What there is is a storyline about the main character and a secondary character who has a few pov scenes extricating themselves from an emotionally abusive mentor.
WordsLikeStars 2 days ago
What a fascinating premise to this new fantasy novel. How can anyone who's a fan of the genre resist? Unfortunately, the reality fell short of the premise, which is always a disappointment. The first part of the book dragged more than it needed to, and then I noticed a pattern throughout the rest of it until I arrived at the fourth and final section of The Unspoken Name. Chapters in novels, usually, end at a specific moment in the storytelling process. There sixth sense in the reader that instinctively knows when a break will come and another chapter will start up because that hitch naturally comes to pass. But this novel lacked that, which resulted in chapters going on and on for such long periods of time that it felt as if it were taking me longer than usual to read. And this structural discrepancy distracted me so much from enjoying the whole piece that at times I thought of setting it aside. The Traitor's Grave, the fourth part of the novel, was excellent. Whatever action lacked throughout the first part of The Unspoken Name was packed into this section. The last five chapters, especially, were delicious to read. There was murder, torture, a fast-paced and heroic liberation of a kidnapped character... It was fantastic, and exciting, and made me wonder why the first part of this story was not like that... Until I recalled the very special and important chapter structure's fissure. I had a difficult time grasping the full personality of the lead, which was odd, because almost every other character made it really easy for me to see who they were—with the exception of Sethennai, and that's a valid point given who his character really is and what it hide. But Csorwe went through the novel almost listlessly. She would rise to the occasion whenever physical action called for it, but otherwise she seemed content to just go along with the flow. We're told again and again that she's the right hand of Sethennai, she's this tough and dangerous sword-woman, but I never saw that. The only time that I saw her lift her hand with a blade was either in self defense, or in an attempt to help others around her. Whatever reputation was attached to her never came to pass because by the time that she had gained it, the story had fast-forwarded and we never got to see it, which made it impossible to believe. Others, like Shuthmili, herself, were thankfully a breath of fresh air. She came out of her cocoon little by little, and beautifully at that. She was enjoyable to see evolve, give in to her sense of humor, give into the madness and danger that lives inside of her. Her, Oranna and Tal—who is unapologetically himself, with every tarnish that his personality holds—were the trio that saved this story and made me want to continue reading. The world is fantastic to see described, the magic system is very interesting—and I always enjoy it when magic is directly derived from the gods in a novel's pantheon—as are the few character races that we meet. Especially Atharaisse, of Echentyr. There was beauty to The Unspoken Name, and growth that still has time to occur. The first in a series is not always fully realized, so I have high hopes should the second novel be released in the future.
QuirkyCat 8 days ago
The Unspoken Name is the first novel in a new epic fantasy series by A.K. Larkwood. It’s also a novel that I’ve been hearing nonstop chatter about – all gushing reviews and commentary. So naturally, I knew that this was going to be a piece worth checking out. Csorwe has lived her entire life knowing when and where she would die. She grew up knowing that she was the Chosen Bride of the Unspoken One. And that meant that on the day of her fourteenth birthday, she would become a sacrifice to him. Her birthday came, but the sacrifice did not. For one wonderful wizard walked into her life and offered her a choice. It was the first real choice ever offered to her, and it changed her life forever. Literally. “The Chosen Bride of the Unspoken One was set apart by protocol, but also by pragmatism. There was no point cultivating the friendship of a Chosen Bride.” Oh my goodness. I officially understand why everyone was gushing so much about The Unspoken Name. This novel has a lot to offer, not least of which being how unique and thrilling it is! This is a novel unlike any other fantasy series out there, at least not that I’ve seen. The Serpent’s Gates is the name of the series, and I can already tell that this is going to be an epic fantasy series worth keeping an eye on. If The Unspoken Name is anything to go by (which it is), Larkwood is going to have many more surprises up her sleeves. The entire premise of this novel is choice. Csorwe had that taken away from her as a child. Only to be handed it back by the hands of a stranger. From that moment onward, her tale was a series of choices. She chose to be free. She chose to follow the wizard who saved her life. She chose to fight. There’s a powerful message to be found there. And it’s not the only message Larkwood wove into her tale. I think that is why this is such a powerful tale, and why it is speaking to so many readers. This novel (and series) cover a lot of intensely human elements. The worldbuilding showcased in this novel is extremely impressive. I know that this is A.K. Larkwood’s debut novel – but seriously, keep an eye on her. Her worlds are outstanding, so lush and full of detail. There’s plenty of religions, politics, alliances, lore, and plotting to be found in her works. Another noteworthy part of this book? It really reads as more of two books blended together. The first half of the book are the scenes I’ve described above; the life Csorwe lived when she intended to be a sacrifice, and then her choice to flee with the wizard and everything that entailed. The second half of the novel jumps forward five years after Csorwe has trained and learned confidence in herself. She is still very much keep on making her own choices, and that leads her to the fray – and to choose her own destiny in regards to love as well. I’m honestly blown away from The Unspoken One and am already finding myself anxiously looking forward to the sequel in this series because it’s clearly going to be a good one. At least I know I’m waiting in good company.
Dee_Arr 8 days ago
This is the story of Csorwe, a young girl who has been raised to be wed to a god, a day that will also mark her death. On that day she is rescued by Sethennai, a wizard whose aims are his own and seldom visible to others. Csorwe is trained as his swordswoman and follows without question the orders that Sethennai gives her. On the trail of a rare relic, events happen that cause Csorwe to question her life. Not knowing who to trust, she must make decisions that could cause her life to flip upside-down. Author A. K. Larkwood has created a world that is unique and imaginative. It is a place where religion and magic mesh when appropriate and the different races collide. The mode of traveling is novel and presents ideas that are refreshing. Ms. Larkwood’s efforts at world building is her five-star element. The strong characterizations of Csorwe, Qanwa Zhiyouri, and to some extent Sethennai, offered pleasing depth to the book. I would have liked to have seen more from Shuthmili and Tal, especially when it felt like Csorwe’s personality was an extension of their actions. The focus on these last three characters definitely gave the book a YA feel. For those who object to coarse language, there are enough f-bombs and other words to cause you to lay this book aside. Personally, the words themselves don’t upset me, though I found them to be overused and not entirely important to characterizations or the plot. Tal’s continuous use of profanity was unlike anyone else in the book (including others of his race), causing me to question his authenticity as a character living within the confines of the book. Overall, a good read. I had feared a cliffhanger ending, but Ms. Larkwood did provide an ending to the current adventures while leaving the door for the next installment. Overall, a solid four stars. My thanks to NetGalley, Macmillan-Tor/Forge, and Tor Books for an advance electronic copy of this title.
magicalreads7 12 days ago
3.75 stars **I received an ARC from the publisher. These are my honest opinions and in no way was I compensated for this review.** The Unspoken Name came highly recommended to me, and I greatly enjoyed it. What a great debut! The Unspoken Name was a story of choices and the consequences of them. The worldbuilding was very impressive; it was on a grand scale but not so much that I couldn’t understand it. There were various countries, each dedicated to different gods/patrons/divinities, who give people magic in return for their worship. Csorwe was dedicated to her god, the Unspoken One, and was to be sacrificed on her fourteenth birthday. However, a foreign wizard comes to her and offers her a way out. She chooses him to go with him, of course, and so the story begins. She trains with Sethennai as he alternately seeks his rightful position as the ruller of his county and the Reliquary of Pentravesse, a mythical source of great wisdom. Along the way, we meet more main characters: Oranna, the librarian who also seeks the reliquary and cannot be trusted; Tal, the usurper’s nephew who sides with Sethennai and is basically Csorwe’s frenemy; and Shuthmili, an Adept (similar to a priestess who can summon magic from her god) who becomes roped into this whole plot. There were so many interesting dynamics between all these characters. Csorwe and Tal both worship Sethennai for giving them second chances and because they feel as if they owe him. For this reason, Csorwe and Tal also despise each other. Sethennai and Oranna are both seeking the Reliquary but have different approaches to it. Csorwe and Shuthmili are foils in a way, both dedicated to gods but have made different choices. Csorwe and Shuthmili’s relationship was slow to start, but I really loved their relationship growth! Csorwe knows the position Shuthmili is in; they’ve both been told their entire lives that they must blindly follow their gods. She helps her realize that she doesn’t need to continue as an Adept, just because that’s what everyone told her to be. There’s more to life than being destined to die. Their relationship was very soft honestly. Sexuality in this world is not something brought up or questioned. Nobody really cares who is into who and whatnot. Csorwe and Shuthmili are (presumably) lesbians, and Tal is gay. Sethennai has had relationships with both men and women. I’m interested to see how this story continues. This is a series, and while there were some loose ends, this book wrapped up pretty neatly. The Unspoken Name was a wonderful read, with a great cast of characters and impressive worldbuilding.
TheReviewBooth 13 days ago
If you knew when and how you were going to die would you trade it for another fate? Csorwe has been groomed since childhood to obtain the high honor of sacrifice to The Unspoken. Offered the chance to turn away from death, The Unspoken, and the destiny she was chosen for a chance to live by becoming a powerful mage's right hand woman- assassin, spy, thief, and chosen sword. The mage offers these things in return for restoring him to his rightful empire and power. Will Csorwe become all of these things, be able to outrun The Unspoken and her fated path as a sacrifice? "But the Unspoken One will know," said Csorwe. She could feel the beginnings of its outrage already, building and crackling under the earth. "Yes," said Sethennai. "It will. The secret of greatness is to know when you should risk the wrath of god." It has been a long time since I've read a good beginning to a fantasy series. It's also been quite a while since I read a book that included a form of pronunciation guides and character list. It would be a nice touch to include a map for reference; that kind of thing has always been interesting to me, I love illustrations and maps. This book reminds me of certain portions of a few things that I have interests in but mainly: The Wheel of Time - because of the Ways, the Halo universe - because of the Forerunners, a little bit of World of Warcraft - because of the characters races and last but not least The Elder Scrolls - the draugr, a little bit of the world aspect and the divines. The descriptions of the worlds remind me of a mashup between science fiction and fantasy - makes me think of a little Elder Scrolls and Halo. The Unspoken Name is a very well done first novel for A.K. Larkwood's new series and she describes the people, experiences and places in a way that leaves you with few questions. One thing I found that I didn't like were the jumps in time - I understand why but it broke up the story and it took me a minute to really get back into what was going on. The LGBT aspect of this novel was surprising but it is pretty vanilla - the author doesn't really go into any kind of detail, it's just... a fact of her novel. Overall I felt that the story did a really good job as an introductory novel to her new series and I am excited to read what comes next. This is a series that I will more than likely be revisiting once the new books are here. A huge thank you to Tor/Forge and NetGalley for the opportunity to read this exciting new fantasy novel, I really did enjoy reading this novel.
Anonymous 13 days ago
The Unspoken Name is the first installment of a high fantasy series with orcs, wizards, gods, assassins and spies. I absolutely loved Csorwe the main character and Orc raised to be the sacrificial bride of the Unspoken. The story follows her running away to be a mercenary for a wizard instead of wasting away in a tomb. I loved her changing loyalties and questioning authorities, coming into her own and making her own decisions. Her rivalry with Tal is hilarious. And the f/f romance with Shuthmili was cute and felt realistic and thankfully didn't overshadow the plot. Larkwood does a superb job with characters, although I found the world building a bit unclear it doesn't take away from the great story and characters. The plot took a while to really grip me, but once it did, it had me reading late into the night. As the first in a series you definitely don't get all the answers you want, but there's enough closure for it to feel like a complete story, while leaving you with enough questions to look forward to the sequel. Which I'm looking forward to eagerly.
shilo1364 13 days ago
Plot: 5 stars Characters: 5 stars Writing Style: 5 stars Cover: 5 stars Representation: 5 stars Enjoyment: 5 stars Overall: 5 stars - I'd give it more if I could This book was amazing. AMAZING. I loved every minute of it and I predict that it will absolutely be one of my favorite books of 2020. Yes, it’s only January but I seriously loved it that much. I can’t tell you how excited I am to see that it’s #1 in a planned series. I want MORE. Also, I have to say that that cover is gorgeous. (Also, that image is WAY more significant after reading the book lol) In a lot of ways this book reminded me of my favorite from 2019: Gideon the Ninth. Not in any bad ways, or even in any of the details – other than an inclusion of necromancy, queerness, and a sassy character, there’s few details the same about them. I mean things like the richness and inventiveness of the worldbuilding, the constantly surprising compelling plot, and the depth of the characters. Most of all the way the stories sucked me in from the very first page and never once let me go. From the very first I cared deeply for Csorwe and her journey. From 14-year-old sacrifice to a devouring god, to devoted blade of a powerful man, to falling in love and finally choosing her own destiny. None of the characters were ‘good guys’ or 'bad guys’ – there was a constantly shifting set of loyalties and alliances that helped spin the plot along. The writing was beautiful with just enough cursing and prickly antagonism (looking at you, Tal) to give it spice. I will be recommending this book to everyone I can think of for the rest of the year and can’t wait to read more about Csorwe’s (and everyone else’s) journey. Thanks to netgalley and Macmillan Tor/Forge for giving me the opportunity to read and review this eARC
Marta Cox 14 days ago
Well this is a very strong beginning to this fantasy series that doesn't shy away from diversity. Our protagonist is Csorwe, a fourteen year old orphan raised by the church that reveres the Unspoken One to be what I can only describe as a sacrificial virgin . This isn't something she's questioned previously but Csorwe knows her death won't really change things or indeed help anyone so when a powerful Mage offers to take her away and train her she's definitely tempted. Csorwe could be so much more than a temporary mouth piece for a God that brings death and the plucky Csorwe takes her courage in her hands and walks away to a life of adventure, servitude and danger ! We follow Csorwe as she learns to protect herself and become so much more than she ever dreamed. With frenemies, great world building and definitely nasty enemies along the way this was a very entertaining read. I did struggle somewhat with the pacing but it definitely improved towards the halfway point. I loved the characters although I had guessed the big reveal. Still I applaud the author for giving us such a strong, well balanced protagonist because reading about her personal growth was a wonderful experience. Plus Csorwe isn't some pretty blue eyed, blonde heroine but she's grey with tusks and I almost had an Ork type in my minds eye which was very refreshing. This voluntary take is of a copy I requested from Netgalley and my thoughts and comments are honest and I believe fair