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Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan

September 13, 2012 Leave a comment Go to comments

by Sarah Rees Brennan

Unspoken (The Lyburn Legacy #1)

By: Sarah Rees Brennan

Release Date: September 11, 2012

Rating: 4 Stars

Summary:Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.But all that changes when the Lynburns return.The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?


Unspoken is a different kind of paranormal fantasy, a slow, suspenseful mystery that builds up over time. It’s not a ghoulish book, it doesn’t trade on scares, but rather it slowly reveals its secrets through an interesting cast of characters and a fully immersive yet haunting atmosphere. It’s a book that had me asking along with one inquisitive reporter, just what is the secret of the Lyburns?

I like how Sarah Rees Brennan immediately establishes a mystery without saying much of anything. I’m no expert on small English towns, and maybe every single one of them has some sort of deep, dark secret, but Kami Glass just knows there’s something off with Sorry-in-the-Vale, and that’s good enough for me. She asks a lot of questions – why did the Lyburns leave Sorry-in-the-Vale? What important role did they play in the town’s history? And just why are they back now? A lot of mysteries for one strangely gothic little town, but don’t get the wrong impression that Unspoken is just about one family, one town, one deep dark secret, or even one girl, it’s bigger than that.

There’s Kami’s strange connection to the mysterious Jared Lyburn for one. And the strange sacrifices of animals in the woods for another. It’s hard to connect all of the clues as the book slowly unveils them, but I really feel Kami is just the right person to uncover all these secrets, not because of what the story reveals about who she is, or even because I have a soft spot for nosy reporter types, but because she’s the best person for the job. I had a lot of fun reading her voice, following her misadventures, because Kami’s tough, quirky, dedicated, and willing to get to the bottom of all the strangeness going on in her town. So even though I had no idea how the plot would play out for most of the book, I was strangely drawn to Kami’s efforts to discover the Lyburns’ secrets.

And what secrets they are! Of course it’d be rude of me to give them away, but suffice it to say it’s rather obvious, even from the beginning, that not all the Lyburns are nice people, there’s something off with them. So even as Ash is written as the golden boy and Jared seems to be the stereotypical bad boy, that’s not how it turns out at all. Brennan turns the overused triangle on its head with these two characters, they both surprised me, Ash with how he shoulders the burden of the Lyburns and his relationship with Rob, and Jared because even though he is a rebel, it’s not how he rebels, but why, that makes his character interesting. I did not expect to like either of them as much as I did.

But most impressive of all is Sarah Rees Brennan’s writing style. Paranormals are usually written in the first person, for obvious reasons, it’s much easier to connect with the protagonist, especially if he or she’s giving a running snarky commentary of the plot. Unspoken is written in the third person, Brennan has to try way harder to make Kami relatable, yet I ended up connecting with Kami’s character in a way I didn’t think I would, she gets some great dialogue and characterization. But it’s really the imagery that takes the cake, the unsettling descriptions of Sorry-in-the-Vale, the vividly dark descriptions of Lyburn Manor or Monkshood Abbey, the symbolism of red and gold. Incredibly memorable.

Obviously, Unspoken is one of those books that hooked me in with an initial mystery but kept me reading for its peculiar yet unsettling story. Different is not always a good thing but in this case different leads to a hauntingly memorable book.

Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.

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  1. September 13, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    Wonderfully reviewed, Mitch! I had similar feelings about this book. The writing definitely impressed me too, and the whole atmosphere of this story really appealed to me. I’m looking forward to the next book now! 🙂

  2. September 13, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Thanks. Yep, can’t wait for the next book.

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