Unmade // by Sarah Rees Brennan


//published 2014//

Gah, I don’t even know where to start with this book!  There were lots of things about it that I loved, and lots of things about it that aggravated me.  In the end, I think a 4/5 for this book and for the trilogy as a whole.  I didn’t love the second or third books nearly as much as I loved the first, and it’s always sad when the first book in a series is my favorite.  So even though Untold and Unmade are both solid reads, I think I loved Unspoken so much that I just couldn’t get over a slight feeling of disappointed that the next two weren’t as good as the first.

This review may contain mild spoilers for the first two books, but nothing crazy.

So, some positives.  I still love Kami.  Like, a lot.  She is funny, industrious, loyal, smart, and kind.  She has a snarky attitude that is never cruel.  She consistently finds the positive in a situation and works from there.  She never sits about wringing her hands or waiting for someone to do something – she starts doing herself.  Kami’s character is probably my favorite part about these books.

I also really like Kami’s crew.  Her friends are different, but still loyal to one another.  They follow Kami, but not blindly.  Angela is a great best friend for Kami.  I love the balance in their friendship.

Jared and Ash are both solid.  And I felt like Brennan managed to write a love triangle that wasn’t exactly a love triangle, so it worked alright.  It still wasn’t my favorite part of the story (more on that in a minute), but on the whole it worked.  I also appreciated that there was a big difference between the relationship Kami and Jared had when they were linked, versus the relationship Kami and Ash have when they are linked.

I still love Kami’s parents and family.  I really wanted to see more resolution between her parents’ relationship, but I felt like they were on the right track, and I think they will find their way eventually.  What I would actually really love is another story set like ten years later that focuses on Kami’s brothers.  How awesome would that be??

The story itself is fairly well done.  I still feel like large chunks of the second book could have been eliminated.  It just seems like way too much time passes – it kind of makes the random urgency seem weird.  The whole thing at the end of the first book with the good sorcerers also seemed super strange, and in a way I felt like the story never recovered from that.  Instead of having good guys versus bad guys, it’s just bad guys versus… a couple of teenagers.  And I guess that’s supposed to make the story more dramatic, but also made it feel extremely unrealistic.  (And I know we’re talking about a fantasy story with magic here, but being realistic is a relative term.)

Apparently I’m sort of easing into some negatives here.  I still felt like Kami and Jared’s relationship was full of way more drama than it needed to be.  They are both in love with each other, and that never changes through the entire story, so I don’t really get why they spend so much time mooning about acting hurt and confused.  It was frustrating because it felt like they just needed one good conversation, but neither of them wanted to have it.  It was like they would rather pout than just talk to each other.  I get that it’s this whole thing where they used to be able to read each other’s minds, etc. and Jared is still struggling with self-worth, etc. but still.  It felt a little ridiculous to me.

The whole relationship between Angela and Holly just really annoyed me on a couple of levels.  (This paragraph will have some serious spoilers about their relationship).  I think the biggest thing is that, in the first book, Holly is so excited about having friends who are girls.  She has been sexualized for the last couple of years – the boys just want to be her friend because they might get a shag out of it, and the girls shun her because she gets attention from all the guys.  So finally Holly gets to be part of a group of friends who just like her for being her, and are willing to look at something deeper than just her appearance, and it’s awesome… except then Angela makes it a sexual thing again.  Instead of Holly really getting to embrace the joys of friendship, she’s put back into a situation where someone with whom she wants to be friends wants something more from her.  And in the end, Brennan chose to have Holly except that and want to reciprocate, and that felt really wrong to me.  I think that the story would have been so much stronger with a genuine friendship between Angela and Holly – one really close relationship for Holly that had nothing to do with sex.  Instead, I felt like Holly just got used again.  Even though I understand that Angela wants more than sex from Holly, it still comes down to Holly wanting a friend and ending up with romance.

And that’s not even touching the fact that their entire storyline felt like 100% filler.  Um… hello?  We’re kind of all getting murdered by evil sorcerers here?  I find it hard to believe that you have so much spare time to moon about thinking about feelings.  The whole thing seriously detracted from the actual action of the story.  Like we’d finally be getting some momentum and then…  more of Holly’s feelings.  Sheesh.

Speaking of feelings, I’m actually in love with Kami’s dad.  What even.  That guy is PERFECT.  And I love the way that he cares about Kami and wants her to be safe, but is also willing to let her step out and do things that she knows she needs to do.  Throughout, her dad is pretty awesome about listening to Kami, giving her advice, and then letting her do her thing.  On the whole, that helps Kami be honest with her dad, although she does skirt around him on occasion –

The first thing to do was slip away from her father, who might have questions about why she kept insisting on going back to the lair of ultimate evil.  Kami saw why so many teenagers who had adventures in books were interestingly tragic orphans.  Parents were a real buzzkill, adventure-wise.

So perfect in every way.

Seriously, it was the humor that kept me going through this whole series.  While the first book was definitely the funniest, this one had its moments.

“Do you want my jacket?” Jared asked.  …

“Yes,” said Kami instantly.  He drew it close around her shoulders.  “Also your pin and your class ring.  That’s how you do dating in America, isn’t it?  You see, I know the ways of your people.”

“I don’t really know how dating works,” Jared told her.  “High school for me was mostly musical numbers.  That’s how it is in the States, you’ve seen the movies.  Every time someone had an emotional dilemma or epiphany, they would burst into song, and we would all have to break out into perfectly choreographed dance sequences.  It took a lot of intensive training.  So many jazz squares, no time for love.”

I genuinely think that “So many jazz squares, no time for love”  may be my new favorite line of all time.

On the whole, I totally recommend these books.  They were completely engaging and I loved the characters.  While I had some minor quibbles with how some different things played out, I still really enjoyed them and have every intention of adding them to my permanent collection at some point.  4/5 for Unmade, and for the series as a whole.  The only bad thing is now I feel obligated to add all of Brennan’s other books to my TBR…

Untold // by Sarah Rees Brennan (+ two short stories)


//published 2013//

So it’s taken me a while to get to this second book in the Lynburn Legacy, which was a little distressing because I freaking adored the first book in the trilogy, Unspoken.  ***Please note that there may be some spoilers for the first book in this review.  Nothing crazy, though.***

In the meanwhile, I read two short stories that Brennnan published between these two books.  The Spring Before I Met You is a glimpse into Jared’s life before he moved to England and met Kami in person.  It was really fun to get a little bit more into Jared’s head, as I feel like we don’t get enough of him in the actual books.

We switch to Kami’s perspective in The Summer Before I Met You, and I could not stop laughing while I was reading this short story that delves into that whole “cricket camp scandal” thing that is mentioned in the beginning of Unspoken.  It was funny and interesting and gave some more depth to the friendship between Kami and Angela, as well as a better concept of how Kami has gone her whole life talking to Jared in her head.

However, there is a third short story, The Night After I Lost You that I simply cannot find.  The links I’ve found for it no longer work, but the reviews I’ve read said that this is a really good follow up to the end of Unspoken, and I would really like to read it so if anyone knows where it can be found, or even if you have the pdf and are willing to email it to me…  that would be fantastic!

In the meantime, I went ahead and delved into Untold.  While I didn’t enjoy this second book as much as the first, and felt like it did suffer from moderate second-book syndrome, it was still an engaging and interesting read, and did a fairly good job of moving things forward from book one, and setting things up for the final showdown in book three.

This book definitely had more angst than the first book, and to my perspective it took a lot longer for Kami and Jared to have an actual conversation than it should have.  It really frustrates me when everyone’s problems are based around the fact that they haven’t bothered to sit down and exchange the three sentences that it would take to straighten out their issues.  I know that a lot of it was because of the mean things Jared said at the end of Unspoken, so Kami was scared to talk to him, but still.  Please.

There was also a little too much time spent on the sexual orientation questions of a couple of characters.  Like basically you have these evil sorcerers who are planning to take over your whole village, but we spent a lot of time with Kami contemplating her feelings towards Jared and Ash, watching Jared thunder around like a spoiled stormcloud, and listening to Angela and Holly wonder if they have feelings for each other, and I just felt like worrying about so many feelings in the face of imminent death made the whole imminent death thing seem like it wasn’t that real.

And to me, that was the second-book syndrome part of this story – a lot of filler time focused on feelings and not enough actually getting something done.  Don’t get me wrong, I still love every character in this book, and I totally enjoyed reading it, but I had a lot more eye-rolling moments in this book than I did during the first.

Also, I understand Kami’s dad being upset about everything, but if her parents don’t work through their issues and get back on the same page by the of book three, I am going to be seriously ticked off, because their marriage made me SO happy in the first book.

All in all, a solid 4/5.  A good progression to the series, and enjoyable read on its own (despite extra angst), and I am totally anticipating the conclusion to the series.

Unspoken // by Sarah Rees Brennan


//published 2012//

So much of YA these days is just riddled with angst.  All the characters are depressing and devoid of hope.  They struggle through a morass of apathy, taking life so incredibly seriously.  The fantasy is just as serious: someone has a job and that job must be done, or else the world will fall.  And in the meantime, it would be a crime to laugh.

Imagine my absolute surprise and happiness, then, when Unspoken made me laugh while reading the first page.  The phrase “respect the sheep” should definitely be used in conversation more often.  Brilliant.

My immediate love for Kami Glass, the heroine of Unspoken, did not diminish throughout the book – it grew.  I found myself sending quotes to my sister almost once a chapter.  The book has a great plot, fabulous characters, and is just plain funny without losing any of the tension or mystery.

And here’s a huge bonus – it’s written in third person past tense!  I didn’t even think they did that any more with YA fantasy!  Every now and then I just found myself being so happy that I was reading a third person (PAST TENSE!) narrative!  It was BEAUTIFUL.  Thank you, Sarah Rees Brennan.  Please, go forth and tell your comrades in writing to emulate your choice!

The story itself is great.  It’s paced well, with just enough information being revealed at just the right moment.  Besides loving Kami, I also loved all of her friends and reluctant gang.  Despite the fact that the synopsis of the book sounding like things might be weird, Brennan makes everything feel very plausible.

Another plus? Kami’s parents actually like each other.  What a concept!  Even better??  They like Kami, too!  Wow.

It’s not that Kami is perfect, or that her life is perfect.  But Kami is intelligent and the perfect balance between someone who takes charge without being obnoxious.  I love that she has aspirations of being a journalist, and is working towards that goal, but also realizes that she’s still in high school, so it’s not like every moment of her life has to be devoted to her craft, or if someone doesn’t take her completely seriously, it’s probably because she’s a kid, not because she’s a girl.

I was just completely in love with Kami’s upbeat and industrious attitude.  She didn’t sit around bemoaning her fate or waiting for something to happen.  She went out and got shizznizz done.  Instead of sitting around wondering what people knew, she went and asked them questions, straight up.  She consistently did what she thought was best, and didn’t spend a lot of time dithering.  I loved her quick, analytical mind, and the way she saw what needed to be done – and then did it.

In short, this book is delightfully low on angst.  Instead, the characters work through their complications, come together as a team to problem-solve, and in the end are pretty badass.  I totally loved this book and am super excited about reading the rest of the trilogy.