Unwept (The Nightbirds #1)
By Tracy Hickman & Laura Hickman
Published July 1st, 2014
Source: received from Tor Books/Macmillan in exchange for an unbiased review (THANK YOU!)
About the book:
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.
Tracy Hickman is the brilliant mind behind years and years of fantasy novels and many Dungeons and Dragons games. He and his high school sweetheart-wife have realized their dream of writing together and have written three books so far, Unwept being the third. Honestly, I didn’t know any of this when I downloaded the book to read it. I had never even heard of Tracy Hickman before. I just read the first sentence of the synopsis and promptly clicked “Download”. Throw in a mysterious cover and I was intrigued. I’m so easy sometimes…
Setting / World Building
I’ve admitted it several times in my reviews before but it bears repeating: I’m a complete sucker for any book set in an area of the country where I’ve lived. As soon as I saw the words “Maine” and “seaside” I knew I had to read this. The story is set in a fictional town located approximately halfway “down” the coast of Maine. I can vividly picture the craggy coast with the house sitting out on the point where our heroine is taken to when she arrives in town. But in the off chance you’ve never lived on the coast of Maine, the Hickmans will make sure you know what the area looks like. The writing style in this book is quite verbose.
Ellis, the main character and voice of the story, explains in great detail what she sees when she goes anywhere, often down to every piece of furniture in a room or what every character is doing. And that’s how the world is built in the book. Gamin, Maine is described in great detail but it’s never clear whether this place actually exists or what time period it would exist in.
Story / Tempo
So while Ellis is observing the “new” world around her, she’s left to rely on her friends to fill in the blanks. But are they really doing that? Or are they only telling Ellis what they think she should know? We realize how dependent a person can be on others to be truthful, or to at least to give ANY information when asked. Ellis is at the mercy of the town folk and supposed friends. Ellis doesn’t even know what her personality type is. She doesn’t know if she would normally be questioning her friends or just “going with the flow” and believing what everyone is telling her.
With all the world building in the beginning of the book (talking about the furniture in the room and the color of the sky), I became frustrated not knowing anything about what happened to Ellis. All the talk about who is doing what with who, storm clouds in the sky, blah, blah, blah just seemed superficial and superfluous to me. Get to the point and give me some meat to the story sooner! I just needed more bread crumbs, know what I mean?
On top of that, it just seemed to take Ellis forever to start standing up for herself. Or to at least start thinking for herself and not let someone else do it for her. But that’s the crux of the story, in my opinion. Who were you before and what should you question? I gave a pass on Ellis’ personality. If she annoyed me at all during my reading, it was intentional on the writers part (maybe?).
Because of the slow start, not much time was spent on the supporting characters so I never had a chance of connecting or bonding with them. Was there a love interest? I’m not quite sure… There might have been a love triangle but apparently we’ll have to wait until the next book to find out.
I just couldn’t quite believe the ending came quite where it did with so few questions answered. I guess I need my answers to be a little more concrete. If anyone can explain to me in what world Gamin is in, I’d be forever grateful. Even the mother and boy at the lighthouse… I’d take an explanation of that and call it a day 🙂
About the Authors:
TRACY HICKMAN and LAURA HICKMAN have been publishing game designs, books, and stories for over thirty-five years. In addition, Tracy is a New York Times bestselling coauthor of many novels, including the original Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragonlance Legends, Rose of the Prophet, and Darksword trilogies as well as the seven-book Deathgate Cycle. Tracy and Laura live in Utah.