09 April, 2011

Review - The Unremembered by Peter Orullian

One of the most stunning covers I've seen in a long time, The Unremembered [US] [UK] is one of the biggest releases of 2011. The question remains, does the book live up to its cover?

In many ways, The Unremembered is a very traditional tale. A couple almost-kids are swept up in an adventure they never imagined they would be in, chased by monsters who were thought to be myth, helped by people who know what they're doing (and have awesome powers). Luckily, even after the many traditional tales I've read, I still very much enjoy this type of story, but I'm sure many will find it a bit of a retreading.

And still, The Unremembered took me a while to get into. There are a few characters who are well introduced, but also a few more who are not, but yet are swept up into this adventure anyway. The author does do a great job of filling you in as the story progresses, through dreams and/or the places they visit, which have their own special power. One of those characters, Wendra, actually became one of my favorites by the end.

This lack of introduction, however, does lead to a bit of a disconnect with the reader...or maybe I should say a never-connect and hampered my ability to really get into the story for a while.

The author also tends to switch in and out of third-person omniscient and third-person limited. This is something that you can get used to, but can also be jarring and confusing at times at least at first, and yet another reason that it took a while to get into the story.

Another thing that grated on me, and this will be the last of my complaints, is that while the characters were well drawn and realized, they still tended to fall into some patterns, some cardboard characterization, that annoyed me.

Almost like Edding's Belgariad (and moreso in the Mallorean) where anytime Belgarath said anything, it was almost like "Oh Belgarath, you're always such a grouch". These types of things continued throughout the story even in the most dire of circumstances, and instead of lightening the mood, bugged me thoroughly.

While I've mentioned some good things, up till now I've focused mainly on the negatives and I'm sorry. I actually did enjoy this book and I think it's worth your time as well.

The world Orullian has created is amazing. It's detailed, it's completely well thought-out, and it has a deep history. There is plenty more to tell and plenty that has been hinted at, giving it a rich atmosphere and a world all it's own.

There are different races, most notably, the Quietgiven and the Far. The former, evil beings from the Bourne, the latter, a short-lived race with certain powers of their own. I sometimes called them "reverse elves". Then there's the League of Civility, a group that has successfully taken over much of the known world and attempting to get rid of history, and really write their own. They are also attempting (and somewhat successful) in getting rid of the Sheason, the magic wielders (for good), who they don't trust to wield so much power.

His writing is epic and fulfilling. It reminded me a lot of Robert Jordan at times - detailed, layered, and not as gritty as a lot of the contemporary works like Abercrombie, Lynch, or Erikson. In fact, The Unremembered is very reminiscent of The Wheel of Time, especially The Eye of the World. It's a coming-of-age tale in a highly realized world full of good and evil.

I mentioned the characters earlier, and while I had some reservations, overall, they're extremely three-dimensional. The main protagonist, Tahn, begins the story as a hunter. Every time he shoots his bow, he has to repeat a certain mantra that allows him to only kill those who deserve it, in accordance with the Will. He struggles to know who he is, why he must always utter these phrases.

Tahn is very close to his sister, Wendra, who when we first meet her, has given birth to the baby she had after being raped. This baby, who is stillborn, is immediately taken away by the Bar-dyn, one of the races of the Quietgiven who end up causing Tahn and Wendra to leave their homes.

They are taken away by a Sheason, Vendanj, and a Far, Mira, and meet some great characters on the way as they go from one dangerous adventure to the next and as they attempt to fulfill their destinies. Whether those are actually destinies or selfishly played pawns remains to be seen.

Why Read The Unremembered?

If you like coming-of-age tales with a different twist and plenty of action, you'll enjoy The Unremembered immensely. It's an epic tale with deep history and plenty of potential to become a very satisfying series ... possibly even the successor to The Wheel of Time.

After saying that, I also think that some might be disappointed because of the hype-machine that's been working on 11 (Spinal Tap reference) for the past few months. Sadly, I think that might kill the book for quite a few people. It was good, it has tons of potential, but it's not quite the next The Name of the Wind.

In this respect, I'd have to say that The Unremembered earned its beautiful cover, but only by the skin of its teeth.

4 out of 5 Stars

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher


Unknown said...

You and I have similar tastes so I am hoping I enjoy it. Not sure if I am being sent a ARC. I was told I was and then because I am in Korea they were thinking about it and may just send me a finished copy. I don't know. Still want to read it.

Bibliotropic said...

I've been seeing more reviews for this across the blogosphere and I have to say that it's certainly caught my attention. I sincerely doubt I'll end up getting a review copy of it, but I'm 99.99% sure I'll be buying a copy as soon as I see it in stores and I've got the spare cash! It really does look like it'll be interesting!

Alec said...

I have to be honest here. I made it 120 pages in and just couldn't stay interested. A few things which very much annoyed me.

- The constant and unrelenting teasing between the two young heroes.
- The deliberate holding back of information: "I can't tell you this yet". "You are not ready for the truth". "telling you now would doom us" type things which just seemed incessant.
- I just didn't get the sense of excitement I typically do from the action sequences. The first chase just seemed to drag on forever, and as the characters split up I felt the narrative just became too fragmented.
- Another archer... really?
- Bleh

It wasn't bad, but it also just wasn't interesting to me, sadly.

Bryce L. said...

@Tyson - Korea always throws a wrench in it doesn't it. :D I think you'll like it, but you definitely have to give it a chance...of a couple hundred pages.

@Biblio - It's good, just don't be lead astray by the hype!

@Alec - I can really see that happening. The first couple hundred pages were tough to get into...and Tahn and Sutter never stop their banter...ever. It does get a lot better after halfway and when you finally start getting some answers. It's a long book, so probably won't be worth it for a lot of people.

Anonymous said...

Great review.

I am going to post my review of this one on Friday. I totally agree that the media machine will kill this book for a lot of people. - I could go on, but I won't. Don't want to ruin anything for any potential readers.

Anyway, once again, great review. I think you discussed the positives and negatives very well.

Bryce L. said...

Thanks Sarah, that means a lot coming from you. I look forward to your thoughts. I find that I keep thinking about the book even a week so later and that's good, it was just so hard to get into.

Kat Hooper said...

Good to see your opinion, Bryce. I will probably wait for book 2 before deciding whether to read it.

Bryce L. said...

Not the worst decision there. I really hope it lives up to the potential. I hear a lot more of the continent will be used for the next book and that should be pretty awesome.

mathias said...

4 out of 5 is fairly strong for a book with such strong reservations (although it still gets a hype-bonus). This makes it hard to assess the valuation system on this blog.

Bryce L. said...

Ouch, Felix, you're giving me a hard time here on the blog. :D

I did have quite a few reservations on this book, but I still felt Orullian did a good job with the world as a whole, I was quite immersed, and the characters were pretty good. I couldn't help but compare his work to others as it's pretty traditional, but I really like a good traditional tale.