I am very glad I didn’t pay for The Unremembered (I received a review copy from NetGalley). It’s slightly terrifying that this incoherent mess of a novel is Peter Orullian’s revised version, prepared for the publication of the second in the series. I made it just over half-way through before abandoning the book, and already feel much better for having stopped reading it.
It’s a real shame, as the world-building is clearly the result of a tremendous amount of hard work , albeit that aspects of it lack credibility (why do farmers have so much cash and good riding horses?!). The opening chapter about the outcast God is excellent and promises much. But then it falls apart.
The characters are unbelievable and unremarkable. There is a clutch of interchangeable adolescent boys, obsessed with scatological humour. Given their general immaturity it’s a wonder they’ve managed to survive their trudge through the wilderness. Wendra, one of two token women in the core group, shows a remarkable lack of trauma from being a rape victim and having a stillborn child from the pregnancy that occurred as a result of that rape. (And how depressing is it that yet again sexual violence is resorted to as a way of giving a female character depth. Worryingly, the threat of sexual violence is also used to move the plot along at times.) The other female characters are adolescent male fantasies – all boob armour and sexual come-ons. Yet they are all strangely obsessed with having babies, which is presented as the only fulfilling destiny for a woman. Otherwise, with the exception of a deeply ineffective regent who seems to be the tool of her council of Important Men, women are remarkably absent from the book. The women in the background are all victims: slaves, prostitutes or disabled children. This is both deeply problematic and very unrealistic.
Quite why any of them are trudging through the wilderness remains terrifyingly unclear. What passes for a plot seems to be a derivative sub-Robert Jordan story about hidden destinies and a vague doom threatening the world. But it never hangs together well enough to work out what’s going on. The novel is composed of a series of random events that appear to bear no relation to each other. For example, we jump straight from Tahn saving his sister from a monster to a bunch of people travelling, with nothing to explain what happens in between.
And the writing style is immature and unpolished. When you start noticing the clunky prose between the even clunkier dialogue it’s never a good sign. Orullian has fallen into the trap of coming up with names for seems to have named things by pulling random letters from the Scrabble bag and throwing in the odd apostrophe for good measure. Concepts and characters are introduced but never explained before we jump off into something else. The contrived cliffhangers at the end of chapters followed by jumping from one character’s story to another destroys any dramatic tension rather than encouraging someone to read on.
I’m sure this is the kind of book that will appeal in the main to Robert Jordan fanboys. I’m clearly not its target audience. Well executed, there’s a place for this type of story within genre. But this isn’t it. At absolute minimum it needs a hefty edit and some significant reworking. As it stands, it has highly problematic aspects and is the kind of book that gives genre fiction a bad name.
The Unremembered is a poorly executed, highly derivative, hot mess of a novel. Don’t bother.
GoodReads rating: 1*