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Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan
Book Name: Untold
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Publisher(s): Random House Books for Young Readers (US) Ember (UK)
Formatt: Hardcover / Paperback / Ebook
Genre(s): YA Fantasy
Release Date: September 24, 2013 (US) August 26, 2014 (UK)

Three, apparently, is a powerful number. Bad things are said to come in threes, and it has all sorts of mystical significances that could probably form a whole post of its own (or possibly a series of posts on the importance of numbers… but I digress). Most importantly for this review, three is a popular number of books to have in a series. There’s The Lord of the Rings, of course (assuming you don’t count The Hobbit or The Silmarillion or any of Tolkien’s other writings set in that universe) and, pushing the boundaries of fantasy, Star Wars (because the prequels don’t exist). More recently, there have been lots of YA fantasies, largely in the dystopian genre, from The Hunger Games to Divergent to Matched. If I were more of a literature nerd, I might be able to draw some comparison between these and the Gothic novels which were told in multiple volumes, but since I’m not, you’ll have to settle for them being mentioned.

Despite the popular saying mentioned above, trilogies are far from bad things. They are a concise way of telling an extended story, and a well-planned out trilogy strikes the perfect balance between a stand-alone novel and a long series. You get both the joy of having multiple books and knowing the story will last beyond only two pairs of covers and the satisfaction of knowing the series will come to a conclusion and not simply accumulate so many plot threads that any ending would be difficult to achieve.

This brings us to Untold, the second book in the Lynburn Legacy trilogy.

The second book in a trilogy is in a slightly awkward position. The first book has the easy job: It has to set up the world and get readers to care about what happens. The third book’s job, while at times hard to pull off, is just as straightforward: It has to bring everything to a conclusion that satisfies without making everything too neat and tidy, because we modern readers can be terribly picky at times. The second book’s job is harder to define. It has to carry the readers from the first book to the third, while keeping up the same pace and expanding the story enough to merit its own existence. In a series like The Hunger Games, where the first book had a definite ending (though still left room for the story to continue), the second book’s job is arguably easier. The Lynburn Legacy, however, is more like The Lord of the Rings; there’s no way the first book could stand alone, so the second book has to pick up at a certain point and has less leeway.

Now that all the talk about how trilogies work is out of the way, it’s time to look at how well this one works. The answer: very.

In my last review, I made no secret of the fact that I absolutely loved Unspoken, the first book in the series. I love Untold just as much, because it does exactly what the second book in a trilogy ought to do. It takes the characters from the first book and pushes them along further toward the final confrontation that we all know has to come in a series that involves sorcery and a family that could have stepped right out of Game of Thrones (seriously, they even have a family motto) while simultaneously giving them and their world enough depth that it’s more than simply a plot carrier.

Kami Glass, school newspaper founder and reporter, is just as strong-willed and capable as she was when we last saw her. She’s still running the paper, but this time, instead of looking for the big story that’s going to make her career (or as much of a career as a high school student can have in a small town like Sorry-in-the-Vale), she’s spreading the word about Rob Lynburn’s attempt to take over the town. After all, no one can really deny that magic is back.

Her relationship with Jared Lynburn, the boy who could formerly talk to her thoughts, has changed drastically now that she is no longer his source, but there’s still a definite spark between them, and it still feels very real rather than like something out of a guilty pleasure romance novel. My favorite moment between them and the one that I think perfectly defines their relationship isn’t a bit of stolen time together, though. It comes at the very beginning of the book, when the scarecrows all around Sorry-in-the-Vale have come to life and are attacking people. Kami does her best to fight them off, but she’s still just a normal teenage girl. It looks as though she’ll be forced, despite her best efforts, to be a damsel in distress, when Jared arrives, not to come to her rescue, but to give her a torch, which she then uses to save herself.

As before, Rusty Montgomery remains my favorite, even though he’s possibly the least fleshed-out of the secondary characters. We get more insight into both the Lynburn boys in this book, along with some glimpses into how Holly and Angela are developing, but Rusty remains the nap-obsessed, cheerful older brother of everyone. But it’s two particular scenes involving him that were my absolute favorite, not for anything they did for the plot but because they contributed to the general feeling I get from this series that it’s speaking to the whole genre of young adult fantasy, saying here, this is what you should be doing.

They’re two small scenes, really, and easily overlooked. The first, which really only involves Rusty because he’s in the same room, just made me laugh; Kami calls out one of the Lynburn boys for oversexualizing (albeit jokingly) the idea of two women kissing. The second, however, struck a powerful chord with me. It was only a few paragraphs in the middle of the book, and it’s really just Rusty pointing out that it’s totally possible to be attracted to both boys and girls, but as someone who’s tired of seeing the concept of bisexuality overlooked completely, it felt wonderful to have it pointed out.

You may have noticed by now that I haven’t really addressed the plot of Untold. That’s partly because I want to avoid giving any spoilers, even for the smallest of things, partly because there’s just so much else I want to say about it, and partly because it isn’t the plot that carries the story. It’s gripping, of course, from the scarecrow attack at the beginning to the last few pages, but it’s the characters who carry this series, and even more than that, the small things that make them actually feel fully fleshed-out. When you read this book (and you should), don’t get so swept up in the looming battle that you overlook the tiny details. They’re what make it worth reading.


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