Unwept, by Tracy and Laura Hickman

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Authors’ website | Publisher’s website
Publication date – July 1, 2014

Summary: (Taken from GoodReads) Gamin, Maine, is a remote seaside town where everyone seems to know Ellis Harkington better than she knows herself—but she doesn’t remember any of them.

Unknown events have robbed Ellis of her memory. Concerned individuals, who purport to be her friends and loved ones, insist that she simply needs to recuperate, that her memories may return in time, but refuse to divulge what has brought her to this state. For her own sake, so they say.

Ellis finds herself adrift in a town of ominous mysteries, cryptic hints, and disturbingly familiar strangers. The Nightbirds, a clique of fashionable young men and women, claim her as one of their own, but who among them can she truly trust? And what of the phantom suitor who visits her in her dreams? Is he a memory, a figment of her imagination, or a living nightmare beyond rational explanation?

Only her lost past hold the answers she seeks—if she can uncover its secrets before she fall prey to an unearthly killer.

Thoughts: For some reason, I lingered on the first few pages on this book for days before pushing on ward, in a bit of an apathetic mood when it came to reading, and not wanting to ruin what I was certain would be a good book by reading it when I just wasn’t in a receptive mood. After all, the back-of-the-book blurb had certainly caught my attention and had led me to believe that this was going to be a good one; no reason to sully it by my own bad timing. But when I did push past it and read more, I was kicking myself for putting it off. I was hooked by page 5, demanding more by page 10, and annoyed when I had to stop reading for a short time by having to board a plane (they couldn’t have waited another 20 minutes for me to finish?!).

The plot is so much more complex than it first appears. Hints are dropped all over the place that so many things are not what they seem, but unlike many novels that do that, it’s actually a challenge for the reader to put all of those hints together and arrive at the correct conclusion until the big reveal is actually made, as the book draws to a cliffhanger close. I had my suspicions about a great deal as the story advanced, and was proven right about many of them, but even when that happened I learned that my suspicions only brushed the surface of what was really happening. Tracy and Laura Hickman deserve a lot of praise for being able to pull off that kind of nuanced development.

As such, it’s actually quite difficult to discuss this novel without giving spoilers. Some things that were clear to me might not be to clear to another reader, and I don’t want to ruin somebody else’s enjoyment of having the plot unfold piece by tantalizing piece. Unwept is most certainly the kind of novel that will keep you reading; it has a huge dose of “what happens next” syndrome that compels readers to keep turning pages and discovering more. The ending and the sheer number of things left unresolved didn’t do anything to diminish that. If you’re not a fan of cliffhangers at the end of your novels, then this will probably annoy you a lot, since it practically ends in the middle of a tense scene, with the teaser that it’s going to continue in the next novel. I don’t mind unresolved issues in a series, but book endings that feel like chapter endings do bother me, since they’re often used as cheap hooks to encourage continuing. I always say that if you can’t make someone want to continue the series by the strength of the plot and writing alone, then ending a book with an obvious cliffhanger isn’t going to help you. It was very much as though an episode of a TV show had ended, not part of a novel series. It ramped up, then stopped.

My only other complaint  is nitpicky, and that is the fact that while my city of Saint John was mentioned, it was spelled incorrectly. The Saint is not ever abbreviated to St., as it was here, and is something that irritates so many SJers. This is something that could have been caught by Googling “St. John, New Brunswick” and watching all the results spelling out the full word instead of abbreviating it. In an objective sense, this is something that I likely wouldn’t have caught as an error without actually living here as I do, so it’s going to go over the heads of just about every other reader and nobody will think twice about it when all in said and done. But around here, it’s as big an oversight as spelling Chicago as Shicargo.

If you’re in the mood for a supernatural historical mystery with an interesting take on religion and spirituality, then do yourself a favour and get a copy of Unwept. Aside from the way the ending is written, it’s a fantastic novel, beautifully and perfectly paced, with a story that will keep you pushing onward to uncover the next piece of the puzzle, to peel back another layer so you can see what lies beneath the surface. The hints are deliciously frustrating, the mystery complex and impressive, the setting compelling and nicely self-contained. I’m already looking forward to the next installment of the series, and I can say for certainty that this one’s a keeper for my shelves. The Hickmans have sucked me in and I don’t want to be released.

(Received for review from the publisher.)

7 comments on “Unwept, by Tracy and Laura Hickman

  1. Iiiiiinteresting. I had been excited for when I first saw this one, then decided not to request it since I wasn’t sure it was perfect for me. I’m definitely one of those readers that despises crazy cliffhangers, so that will drive me batty, but this does sound like a lot of fun since I also love plots that reveal themselves beautifully and leave me guessing. Maybe I’ll try the library when Unwept comes out.

  2. I don’t mind cliffhangers when done well, but it drives me crazy when it seems like the author just stopped typing in the middle of a sentence or thought. However–cliffhanger ending and “girl with amnesia” trope aside–this does sound like an intriguing book. Great review!

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