**I received an ARC from Netgalley. These are my honest opinions and in no way was I compensated for this review.**
Book: The Unspoken Name (The Serpent Gates #1) by A.K. Larkwood
Release Date: February 11, 2020
My Rating: 3.75 stars
Rep: lesbian protagonist and main character, gay main character, bisexual side character
Summary: 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.
On her fourteenth birthday she would go to the Shrine of the Unspoken One and that would be the end of her.
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.
Nothing in this world has earned the power to frighten you, Csorwe. You have looked your foretold death in the face and turned from it in defiance. Nothing in this world or any other deserves your fear.
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.
She had believed it enough to go up to the Shrine without question. She hadn’t known there was any other path but the path of sacrifice. She hadn’t known there was a choice to fight.
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.
“Shuthmili,” she said. “Whatever kind of monster you are, so am I.”
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.
About the Author: A.K. Larkwood is a science fiction and fantasy writer and enthusiast. She studied English at St John’s College, Cambridge. She has worked in higher education & media relations, and is now studying law. She lives in Oxford, England, with her wife and a cat.