Book Review: Unwept by Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman

UnweptUnwept by Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman

Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Series: Book 1 of The Nightbirds

Publisher: Tor (July 1, 2014)

Author Information: Website | Twitter

Mogsy’s Rating: 3 of 5 stars

Some books start off with a shaky opening but then end up getting better as the story gains momentum, but other times there are books like Unwept that go the opposite way. These books manage to capture my attention right off the bat and get me invested with an interesting premise, but then they stumble and lose me about halfway through. The magic fizzles out and I can’t get it back.

I have my inklings as to why this might have been the case with Unwept. Thing is, I love being teased with a bit of mystery. And this book did that very well, starting off by painting a baffling yet very intriguing picture. A girl named Ellis Harkington comes to herself in the middle of a train ride accompanied by a nurse and baby, but has no memory of how she got there or any of her life before this moment. She arrives at a remote seaside town named Gamin where everyone seems to know her better than she knows herself, but she can’t even recognize any of their faces. A group of young men and women called the Nightbirds — who claims to be a literary society – welcome her back into the fold with open arms, and yet for a literary society they don’t seem all that interested in books…

Then there are the nightmares. Ellis dreams of clouds of moths and visitations from a strange soldier with a paisley-shaped mark on his face. There’s also talk of terrible things happening all over town, like a devastating fire, missing people, and the discovery of mutilated bodies pointing to a ruthless killer on the loose. And why are there no children in town? There this real sense of unease and foreboding. The atmosphere is practically humming with anticipation. The stage is set for something great, and you know deep down in your gut that this book has got to be building up to something huge.

Well. It didn’t really happen. At least, not for me. You must understand, this book had me wrapped around its finger and I was completely under its control and prepared to fall head over heels in love with it. I cannot give enough praise to the first half of this novel; it was fantastically well written and constructed to give the reader a perfect foundation. I simply adored the first 150 pages or so. But not long after that, the plot started fraying at the edges.

Unfortunately, being plied with all that escalation with ultimately not much payoff has a way of making me feel a bit grumpy. I’m also disheartened by the lost potential of this story. The book could only maintain the suspense for so long before I started questioning where it was trying to go and what it was trying to say. I had the sneaking suspicion that I was being led on a wild goose chase. Not long after that, I finally had to admit to myself that I really had no idea what was going on. By the time some answers were forthcoming, I don’t know if I felt as invested or engaged in the outcome anymore. The revelations were certainly eye-opening, but it’s a classic case of “too little too late.” I just can’t decide if the disappointment hurt more or less because the story had such a strong and promising start.

Unwept is also the first book of a series, and – unsurprisingly, perhaps – it has the stamp of a “Book One” all over it. Don’t expect any satisfying or clear-cut answers. Instead of growing and expanding, the story seemed to shrink back in on itself. There is mystery at the beginning, and there will still be mystery at the end, and probably more blanks and question marks than you started out with. It’s hard to tell now, but I think I might have had a more positive reaction to the book if I had known to rein in my expectations a little.

In the end, I don’t think Unwept is a bad book. The sheer enjoyment I got out of the first part of it is a testament to that. It’s also such a quick read that if you’re even remotely interested in the description, I would say it is well worth your time, as the average reader can probably knock it out in one or two sittings. It has a fascinating premise, and I have no doubt it’ll work for a lot of readers. I just personally wish I been better prepared for its peculiar pacing.


A review copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My thanks to Tor Books!

17 Comments on “Book Review: Unwept by Tracy Hickman and Laura Hickman”

  1. Ok I had to stop at the fraying of the edges part because I’m about to read this any day but at least your overall reading gives me a ray of hope.

    I hate it when I start completely in love with a book to fall out if it halfway thru. Argh


    • Yeah, it’s nice when you don’t feel a book so much but start to fall in love with it halfway though…not so much when it’s the opposite. :\


  2. I’m sorry that after a good start it changed for you. I can understand the second part is really different and I was surprised by the idea but it was ok for me. I’m curious to see how book 2 will be.


    • Yeah, I remember seeing your reaction in your review. I’m curious about book two as well, I think we’ll get way more answers there.


    • Same Hickman, I think. I never read those Dragonlance books, but I believe I saw somewhere on another reviewer’s blog that it’s the same author.


  3. Yeah, this one didn’t work for me. The ending, really just … urghh. But the premise was intriguing, I felt like there was a great book in there somewhere/somehow if it had just been executed differently.


  4. That sense of unease and foreboding you described? That’s how I feel about this book now…you’re not the first person to say that the second half of this book was a disappointment. Maybe book 2 will be an improvement; I won’t be jumping into this series unless the second volume gets some better reviews when it comes out. Sorry that this was such a let-down, Mogsy!


    • I’ll definitely give the second book a try. I have a feeling what was missing in this one is going to be in the next. This book just felt a bit incomplete, which might account for how short it was, it seemed cut off for the sake of the sequel.


  5. This is one I skimmed, b/c I have to read it soon myself. I’m already skeptical, but I’m trying to go into it at least a little bit open-minded. *grimaces* And who know? Maybe I’ll love it . . . it could happen . . .


    • Maybe you will! I know I read some things that made me wary before I tackled this book, and I definitely tried to keep an open mind as well. And hey, it turned out I adored the beginning! Some of the worrisome things about the second half which others have brought up, I find to be spot on, however.


  6. Well that’s a damn fine shame. It sounded so promising at the start of your review! Like you say, maybe if you had less expectations in the beginning although probably loving the start and then having a slow fizzle out isn’t really good either.
    Lynn 😀


    • It definitely is a promising series! If I had to base it on the first half of this novel, I’d say some amazing things are coming. It just didn’t happen by the end of this book. Who knows, maybe the next? I’ll likely check out book two to see if I’m right!


  7. Pingback: Lootz: Mogsy’s Book Haul | The BiblioSanctum

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