Speculative Fiction Reviews, Interviews, Art and Whatever Else!
Please note that this review is based on the Author's Definitive Edition, to be released on 7th of April 2015. I haven't read the original, so I can't comment on the whys and wherefores of that particular release.
Narrative: Third person, subjective.
-'If you get the words right, you can go anywhere - Author proverb, taken as an expression of fancy.'
The Unremembered, in essence, is a book that breathes new life into the classic fantasy of yore. Break it down quickly and there is a desperate journey, some battles, a chosen one, a grumpy old wizard, a pixie lust chick and some corny joke cracking teenagers. However, what makes it break away from the norm, is that it is given a sense of keenness and emotional intelligence that creates a more relatable narrative. Everything has consequences, everybody is emotionally vulnerable and the good vs. evil isn't all that clear cut. The whole novel feels like a romp through your favourites; Belgariad, Riftwar etc, but it is richer in personality, feels more complex in it's expression of vulnerability. It's almost like wrapping yourself in the narratation, rather than simply reading it. I would say, immersive is the word I'm looking for.
I believe a lot of it comes from the depth of psychology Orullian was able to cram into the book. It sound strange to say it, but I enjoyed how emotionally painful some of this book was. There was no throw away lines to express despair and anguish, it was written so you feel it and understand it, just as you might experience it. As an example, Wendra is a singer that can express her emotional pain through song, and subsequently that pain becomes a source of magic. I did choke back ugly sobs at some points, because the imagery used to describe the way her pain rips from her and is melded into music and magic, is incredibly potent. It tugs at your soul, as do many other characters and plot points throughout the book. (Note: I found out after reading this, that Orullian is actually a singer/musician, so he has an unfair advantage in pulling our strings!).
The characters are classical fantasy tropers on the surface, but get a few pages in and that changes dramatically as the reality of the adventure starts to sink in. Tahn is a classic amnesiac chosen farmboy, until the backlash of his past becomes his present. Sutter is the classic jovial companion, until an event literally rips at his soul. And so it goes for all of them. Gorgeous character development in nearly all cases. There are also some little throw in scenes that add to that depth, just by creating a diversion from the journey and letting us into the characters mindset on how they deal with situations away from the main plot. Braethan with the burned widow was a little touch of beauty.
The magic systems of the various wielders (there are a few types in here!) is really nicely structured. I adored the Sheason's gifts. I know, having to give away chunks of your own life force to wield isn't exactly an adorable idea per se, but that sense of sacrifice to give life to power is really stunning. I was able to empathize with the magic wielders in The Unremembered, because they aren't just token magical tanks that pluck power out of the ether at will. In some ways, they are literally killing or purging themselves for whatever cause they set themselves to. That's dedication! And the Authors, creating magic through writing? Very cool.
The world building on the ground level was pretty classical. It isn't really a piece of grand architecture, but it is a limited narrative, so you can only rely on the experience of the characters to see the picture, rather than having information thrown at you in an omnipotent way. I have no objection to this type of building, but if you are looking for every type of meteorological and tidal phenomena explained in detail or every back story of the noble families told in minutia, it might be a sticking point.
The battle scenes were sufficiently brutal, but worded in a way that made them gritty yet beautiful at the same time, They weren't altogether technical, but it wasn't necessary to make them such.
I will admit it took a few chapters for this The Unremembered to settle for me. The introduction felt slightly off kilter, as you are thrown into the book after the adventure had started. I did feel somewhat adrift until everything started to come into focus a few chapters later, when the party is broken up and we get to meet the characters on an individual level. It also seemed to leave a gap in the relationship between the characters for a while, because you aren't privy to how or why they have met up until further along. It was the weakest part in my opinion, but quickly forgiven once it started to gather it's strengths.
Honestly, as I get older, The Unremembered is the type of fantasy I want to read. It has all the groundwork of my favorites before I got into the 'over 25's' age bracket, but with the emotional investment of a novel not all that often seen in this genre. So, if you love your epic fantasy adventure canon, but just need that extra something to make it a bit more D&M, this is really worth checking out! I'd suggest it for WoT fans that are looking for a bit more grit and edge (and don't want to reread the whole skyscraping series again!).
Harcopy Worthy? My giddy Aunt, yes!