Review: Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan


September 9, 2014 by Heidi

In 2012 my heart was ripped out of my chest when I read Sarah Rees Brennan’s, Unspoken.  Which lead to some very Ranty Pants on my part.  I felt betrayed.  I felt angry.  And the worst part was, I knew that SRB loved torturing me.  So I decided to take the Eleanor Roosevelt route and not let her get to me.  Well, a passive aggressive version of that route that involved not reading Untold until Unmade was in my hands.  Not even her dangled little snippets on Tumblr.  And then I got it!  Finally!  So here we are, the day has finally come, and I devoured Untold.


Title: Untold [Goodreads]
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan [Twitter|Website|Facebook]
Standing: Book 2 in The Lynburn Legacy
Genre: Young Adult, Gothic, Paranormal
Published: September 24th, 2013 by Random House BFYR
Format: Hardcover; 367 pgs.
Source: Borrowed from my local library.
Spoilers!: This review contains unavoidable spoilers for the first book in the series, Unspokenso go read that first!

On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?

A darkly humorous take on Gothic romance, Sarah Rees Brennan’s Lynburn Legacy weaves together the tale of a heroine desperate to protect those she loves, two boys hoping to be saved, and the magical forces that will shape their destiny.

Oh Sarah Rees Brennan, you wily little fox you.  Here I thought reading Untold would be safe.  Because I had waited.  Waited until I also had Unmade in my hands and could reasonably expect to forgo the emotional torture that was sure to come at the end of such a book if I had to wait for the third, but nooooo.  No, you couldn’t let me have that solace.  Instead you had to wring my heart out like the emotional equivalent of a Brawny paper towel throughout the entirety of Untold.  It’s a miracle my heart’s not full of holes yet.  The truly frightening thing is that you still have plenty of time to torture me further.

Metaphorical thumb screws aside, the fact of the matter is, as deliciously full of angsty teen torture as Untold was, I couldn’t help but feel that SRB was hiding a bit behind lots of (excellent) kissing scenes and Kami/Jared drama.  Untold lacked that extra spark of hilarity, wit, and charm that so captivated me in Unspoken, and I want it back.  Was this a bit of second book slump?  Will the awesomeness return in Unmade?  Or has that initial flair of emotion died and left me still very much wanting to go on, but still perfectly able to sleep at night?  Needless to say, there was no false advertising from SRB about what to expect here:


If you left Unspoken completely wrecked over the emotional turmoil of having Jared and Kami’s most unimaginably intimate relations completely sundered and cauterized with cruel words (and let’s face it, we all did), Untold will be filled with angst driven tidbits to keep you burning through the pages.  As a whole, that’s what Untold is about, Jared and Kami coming to terms with who they are as people without the other.  Or at least it’s about Kami.  SRB cleverly locks us away from Jared’s perspective that we were previously privy to, creating a heart achingly accurate reflection of what it is like for Kami to be locked away from the mind that has always been there to lend her support and comfort.

For the first time in her life, Kami truly feels those emotions the rest of us have learned to cope with from the time we were babes.  Uncertainty, loneliness, and the unbearable weight of loss.  She wrestles with the idea that the one person who she knew without a doubt loved her unconditionally could now despise her, and has to work out how she really feels about him in return.

As an emotional petri dish, Untold is fascinating.  SRB explores intimacy in a way none of us could truly grasp or imagine but to look on it with horror.  And for Kami and Jared, their connection was both wonderful and terrible.  A relationship that was previously unimaginable suddenly becomes possible (if still frightening and far-fetched), but it also becomes increasingly clear that these two teens are really FUBAR when it comes to the ability to have ‘normal’ relations with anyone.  They are a category unto themselves and that will be their own victory as well as their demise.

So yes, SRB completely won in the emotional torture of her readers department with Untold, something we all know she takes absolute glee in (along with eating babies and ritual animal sacrifice I’m sure), but as stated, the book was sorely lacking in other areas.  The emotional eccentricities of Kami and Jared that were so charming and subtle in Unspoken are now all encompassing, and the rest of the cast suffers as a result.

Those girlfriends who didn’t just disappear when the boys showed up, Angela and Holly, are still there, but have definitely been pushed to the background along with the rest of Kami’s family.  The charming Rusty (who, let’s face it, I still think is the best and healthiest relationship option open to Kami even if she doesn’t see it at all) remains present, as does the cowardly Lynburn cousin, Ash, but it’s clear they’ve all become props rather than continued to be major players.  We are given new perspectives through the eyes of Ash and Holly, though this seems to perform the function of showing us what is happening when Kami isn’t present rather than really roping our hearts in to care about other characters.  And the emotional potential for us to care about Holly and Ash is really there–I mean just look at their family lives–and yet SRB fails to really grab us here.

On the same token, while the plot isn’t precisely what I would call boring (I mean, I tore through this book like it was a bag of Red Vines and the diet starts tomorrow), it’s also not the strange and beautifully alluring world that drew us into Unspoken.  We always know a second book won’t hold the same magic of being introduced to a world, but Untold seemed to have far too much planning for action and too little taking it.   I love that the threat of Rob Lynburn and his sorcerers is utterly real and so far beyond the grasp of this rag-tag bunch of ambitious teens, but I wanted more utter fear from the townspeople and kids alike.  I wanted more from Kami’s mother (though I have hopes for more in Unmade).   I missed the feeling of a town and wood that were truly alive, the only hint of this we received being glimpses of Jared.

Sarah Rees Brennan is a master when it comes to playing the mamba on a reader’s heartstrings, but Untold suffered from too much emotional turmoil and not enough get up and go.  I’m frightened for and oh so anticipating what she will do to us in Unmade, but my mind isn’t embroiled in emotional wreckage like it was after Unspoken as I just don’t feel the former connection to that cast that I loved.  I hope she brings it back.  I hope she gives us Jared back (even if I totally understand why we weren’t allowed to have him in Untold).  I hope she brings the pain in a serious way, because Sorry-in-the-Vale needs some serious badassery at the moment, and I think Kami can deliver.

Likelihood that I’ll be back for more: Honestly? By the time this goes up, I’ll likely have plowed through Unmade.  Then it’s about time to pick up The Demon’s Lexicon!

Recommended for: Those who love girl sleuths ala Nancy Drew or Veronica Mars, Gothic reads, or Hot Fuzz.

I’ve also reviewed:

Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Spring Before I Met You by Sarah Rees Brennan
The Summer Before I Met You by Sarah Rees Brennan
Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan and Justine Larbalestier


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  1. I tried reading Unspoken when it was first released, but I had a really hard time getting into it. And then a library patron told me that she was bawling at the end, which made me want to read it even less. But I have been hearing mostly good things, and I LOVE the covers. I’m not sure I can handle it though.

    Yay for having the third one on hand, though :)

    • Heidi says:

      Eh, I really liked it, but it grabbed me from the beginning. I always say if it’s not for you it’s just not for you, and this one might not be. Don’t force yourself to read something just because everyone else is! (Case in point: I just DNF’ed Isla.)

  2. Angie says:

    Wait, wait, wait.

    You haven’t read THE DEMON’S LEXICON yet?!?!?!


  3. I haven’t read anything by this author at all! I watched everyone fangirl over the first book when it was being buzzed and first-released, but honestly I just never picked it up. I have to tell you that WOW you have me interested here. And it’s mostly in how angsty you got over the first book and how you have devoured this one and probably the third one. I am SO INTRIGUED and it is really exciting that the series is complete because I can read straight thru! Hmmm maybe I will.

    • Heidi says:

      She’s really fantastic in that she’s gripping and witty and can somehow rip out your heart while you’re laughing about it. I like the whole covering up awkward situations with humor thing because for me that’s pretty realistic. It’s funny the things I’m willing to angst over, and the things I’m not (mostly contemps). I do think people like the Demon’s Lexicon series more than this one if you just want to try SRB.

  4. Chachic says:

    I’m putting Untold on hold until I also have a copy of Unmade because like you, I want to read the two books together. I really enjoyed reading Unspoken and it makes me a little sad to hear that Untold wasn’t as good. I’m still curious about it though! Sarah Rees Brennan is hilarious and is a fellow MWT fan so I want to keep reading her books to support her.

    • Heidi says:

      Yes, it’s def worth waiting till you have both! I really liked this series as a whole, but neither of the last two books had the same emotional impact or even fun of the first one. Still a solid series though and well worth reading.

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While the source for each book I review is posted within its review, please assume unless otherwise stated that books reviewed on Bunbury in the Stacks were received free from the author or publisher in exchange for an honest review.