Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan: I Promise I Won't Spoil the Ending

Sarah Rees Brennan is really good at endings. The conclusions of her Demon’s Lexicon books were good, with big reveals and thrilling battles. But she really perfected the art in Unspoken, the first Lynburn Legacy book, aka the novel with an ending that turned the internet into one giant shocked, crying animated gif. The ending of Untold is another doozy. But since I can’t talk about it here without majorly ruining the reading experience of those who have not yet read it, let’s discuss some other things that Sarah Rees Brennan is really good at: writing awesome dialogue and confounding narrative expectations.

You expect conversations to go a certain way: statement, response, question, answer, etc. And, for the most part, a Brennan-scripted conversation follows these patterns. But the words and concepts careen around like flights of fancy gone wild. Your first encounter with conversation in a Brennan novel can leave you feeling like Mr. Banks after first meeting Mary Poppins: I’m very pleased with myself for hiring that wom—wait, what just happened?

For example:
“‘I hear in the big city, girls dress up like sexy witches and sexy vampires and sexy Easter bunnies, and go to parties where they do all sorts of scandalous things,’ Kami said. ‘Lucky you and me, we walk around our town looking at our neighbors’ gardens and remarking “My, that’s a good-looking scarecrow” to each other. I guess this is why our natures are so beautiful and unspoiled.’”

Or this exchange:
“‘Right,’ said Rusty. ‘So you don’t have, ah, magic powers anymore.’
‘Can you stop prefixing magic powers with “ah”?’
‘I’m not ready to drop the prefix,’ Rusty told her. ‘If you like, I can switch prefixes. I’m happy to go with “um, magic powers” or “er … magic powers.” Whichever works best for you ladies.’”

These characters are playful and nimble with their words, a delightful combination.

Brennan also refuses to be boxed into standard conventions of love triangles. In Unspoken, Ash was initially introduced as the love interest. But as soon as Jared showed up, Kami didn’t care about Ash anymore. The same dynamic persists in Untold. Kami knows that Ash likes her, but he doesn’t compare to Jared, even though Jared currently hates her. However, Ash is still woven into Kami’s future in a surprising way. (That’s pretty much all I can say about it). Meanwhile, Kami races around Sorry-In-The-Vale, far too busy to wallow or pine. (Much.) She’s a far cry from a mopey, directionless girl caught between two equally enticing suitors.

Untold, like Unspoken, is fresh, surprising, and pleasurable at every turn. And that ending. Oh, that ending. When you finish it, call me. We’ll talk.

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