ARC Review of Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

UntoldAs I promised in my review of Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unspoken, we recently got our hands on the ARC of the second book in the series, Untold. When Kate was reading Untold she sent me wonderfully mean texts such as “I laughed out loud at page 61’s description of kissing” and I begged her to tell me all of its secrets, especially if they were kissing secrets. I even picked a mutual friend up from the train station expressly for the purpose of getting this book from him after he had visited Kate in Portland. He was pleased AND confused.

Llllladies, Untold is great. It’s really great. It takes all the momentum from Unspoken, and just keeps moving in really interesting, dynamic ways. I will not spoil anything for Untold, but I will talk about a couple of plot points from Unspoken, if you haven’t read it yet (Why haven’t you read it yet? Go get it!).

All of the things I love about Unspoken are still there in Untold. Kami is still a really great protagonist. The writing is excellent, the characters are charming, and most importantly, it’s everything book two in a trilogy should be. Things Happen in this book, it in no way feels like a placeholder, and it still manages to set things up for what promises to be a very interesting book three.

So, at the end of book one, we find out who has been killing the people of Sorry-in-the-Vale and lines are drawn between good and evil, right down the middle of the Lynburn family. And Kami and Jared, for the first time in their lives are separate people, no longer able to communicate with each other mentally.

One thing Untold does especially well is ratcheting up the tension. A question a lot of authors have to deal with is why their characters stay and fight, when sometimes it seems like leaving–running–would be the easier (and better) choice?

Bear with me for a minute while I quote the Doctor and Rose in an increasingly grim situation from the end of season one of the new Doctor Who:

DOCTOR: There’s another thing the Tardis could do. It could take us away. We could leave. Let history take its course. We go to Marbella in 1989.
ROSE: Yeah, but you’d never do that.
DOCTOR: No, but you could ask. Never even occurred to you, did it?
ROSE: Well, I’m just too good.

Look at Rose and the Doctor, being adorable!

Look at Rose and the Doctor, being adorable!

Which is all good for Rose and the Doctor, (although interestingly he sends her home to safety without him in the next beat of that scene) but what about the families at the center of the Lynburn Legacy books? Why do they stay and fight? Untold addresses this in a simultaneously satisfying and scary manner. But to be fair, Kami is a fighter, and she has always been willing to fight for the people she loves. Like Rose, she would never ask to run.

Jared and Kami’s relationship hasn’t ever really been easy. From growing up thinking they were crazy, to trying to navigate having a real live person that goes with the voice in their respective heads, to now navigating suddenly not being connected. Not surprisingly, there are a lot of hurt feelings and missed connections. They are both really, really bad at reading each other, and not super awesome at talking out loud, but they still know each others every mood and darkest secrets, and that links them even when they don’t want it to.

One of my favorite things about this book is the strong female friendship at it’s core. Kami and Angela are a great best friend pair. Angela may pretend that she hates people, but she can certainly never hate Kami. There is also some great stuff over the course of both books with Kami and Angela befriending Holly Prescott, who hasn’t had too many female friends since she grew boobs and got super popular with the boys at school. Of all people, it’s Jared (who knows a thing or two about people being intimidated with his physicality) who points out to Kami that Holly is looking for a friend. While Kami is dealing with Boy Drama, and Angela is dealing with Girl Drama, it certainly never overshadows their friendship, and I really appreciate that.

A number of the supporting characters get a little more attention this time around. Rusty Montgomery pretty much campaigns for brother of the year, in his own sleepy, deceptively disinterested way. And basically unless you are Kami, (who is adorably inept at reading romantic interest) it’s clear from his first appearance in Unspoken that Rusty has some Feelings for our intrepid heroine. A few other characters also get a bit of the spotlight. Jared’s cousin Ash deals with the consequences of defying his father, Kami’s parents deal with the aftermath of a huge secret coming out, and we get to know Holly better.

Things I didn’t like: There could be even more kissing? I’m really undecided on what characters I’d like to end up together, (I change my mind every 30 pages) so I think they should just really try kissing in all configurations and see who likes what. Although in all seriousness, if I’m making the book sound like it lacks depth because of all of my talk of romance, that couldn’t be further from the truth. The characters are dealing with some serious issues, so the relationship stuff mostly takes a backseat (heeehee, not like that) to the action. However, it’s a testament the writing that all of it feels so real. Being a teenager and not knowing who you are and what you want is hard. There aren’t so much love triangles in this book as much as teenagers who are not quite sure what they want, or how to get it. Oh, and tiny bit of mistaken identity kissing, just to keep it interesting.

One of my favorite moments in the book is something Jared says to Kami. Early in the book he gives her a flaming branch to help her defeat a magical foe, and later when questioned about this he says, “I thought you’d rather have a weapon than a rescue.” Which to me, sort of encapsulates this whole series pretty neatly. These girls can do it by themselves, but they don’t mind an assist now and then. This is what being a strong woman is about.

Untold will be out September 24th, and if I didn’t make it clear, it’s a delight, and well worth a read.

Charlotte also laughed out loud at page 61’s description of kissing: “He kisses like a minx. Like a minx on fire.”


2 thoughts on “ARC Review of Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

  1. I’m so jealous! I’m waiting on tenterhooks for this book to come out!! I ordered it from the UK, where it comes out a month earlier, so I’m getting my hands on it before the rest of the American population, but it’s SO not soon enough. I’m so glad to hear that it’s good. I’m beyond excited. SRB is an amazing author. I can’t wait!

    • Oh man, you are going to LOVE it! All of the things you loved about the first book, plus (in my opinion), the writing gets better. Which isn’t saying it was bad to begin with! Just more showing and less telling.

      The trick of getting to read things first is to either work in a bookstore, or become besties with someone else who does. If you have a friend who works in the book industry (seriously, counter job at your local indie counts) offer to write reviews for the store in exchange for advance reader’s copies. If the store in your town is anything like the store where I work, they get WAAAAY more books than they can possibly read, especially young adult books. That being said, we don’t give advance copies away – you have to be pretty close to an employee, and be willing to bring the books back when you’re done.

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