Theres a secret no one tells
Valley quiet, water still
Lynburns watching on the hill
Apples red, corn gold
Almost everyone grows old.
Sarah Rees Brennan's follow-up to The Demon's Lexicon, another young adult Urban Fantasy trilogy involving sorcerers in modern-day England, but with a quite different approach. The three books are Unspoken, Untold, and Unmade.
The tiny burg of Sorry-in-the-Vale spent centuries under the thumb of the mysterious Lynburn family, until a generation ago when they left for America. But now they've returned, and no one is sure quite what that means. But one girl is determined to uncover the truth: budding Intrepid Reporter Kami Glass, who gave her school a newspaper just so she could write for it, and sees this as simply the opportunity for the scoop of a lifetime. But soon she finds a much more personal reason to get invested: she's spent her whole life hearing a voice in her head, claiming to be a boy named Jared. And one of the younger Lynburns just happens to have that name...
This series provides examples of:
- Abusive Parents: Jared's father was a physically abusive drunk to both him and his mother, until the night he fell down the stairs and broke his neck. And then his mother responded by telling the police Jared pushed him. She was actually telling the truth, but the poor kid had no way of knowing that at the time.
- Holly's parents also emotionally abuse her, telling her that she is unintelligent and that her only value lies in her looks.
- Affably Evil: The revelation that Rob Lynburn is the murderer comes as such a shock largely because he's so pleasant and likable
- All Girls Want Bad Boys: Kami prefers bad boy Jared to gentlemanly Ash.
- All of the Other Reindeer: Kami grew up ostracized from her peer groups because of the voice she heard in her head and refused to stop talking to.
- Apathetic Citizens: Because when there seems to be nothing you can do anyway, why bother to get involved?
- Arcadia: Sorry-in-the-Vale was specifically founded with this in mind. Of course, that quaint rural perfection comes at a price.
- Arranged Marriage: Lillian and Rosalinds parents brought Rob to live with them with the intention of marrying him to one of their daughters to breed more sorcerers. Or so Rob claims. Its more likely that they took pity on Rob and wanted to atone for killing his parents.
- Badass Bookworm: Don't let Jared's hooligan looks fool you; he's quite the avid reader.
- Badass Family: The Lynburns. It's genetic.
- Big Fancy House: Aurimere House.
- Blessed with Suck: The imaginary friend you grew up knowing your whole life is real. You've never had to suffer loneliness or insecurity, because they were present in your mind to ease that all away; you've always had a source of comfort. But you're also never alone, they can know your every casually cruel thought, it's difficult to distinguish between your feelings and theirs, your negative feelings feed off each other to grow stronger and stronger, and you're so emotionally entwined that it's unhealthy. That's how Kami and Jared are.
- Blood Magic: Sorcerers draw a steady stream of power from life and nature, but they can receive a tremendous boost from shedding blood or even ending someone's life.
- Break the Haughty: Lillian gets it big time in the last few chapters of Untold.
- Burn the Witch!: The Lynburn family motto, Haud Igneus, Haud Unda ("we neither drown nor burn"), is a reference to this.
- Dangerous Forbidden Technique: A sorcerer bonding with a source is seen as this by other sorcerers. It puts the sorcerer completely at the source's mercy, builds a link between their minds that can affect their emotions and thoughts, and if the source dies, the sorcerer dies too.
- Defrosting Ice Queen: Angela
- Don't Go in the Woods: Once it becomes apparent whos making use of the woods, Kami no longer feels safe in them.
- Drives Like Crazy: Kami refuses to ride on Jared's motorcycle because he drives like "a rabid chicken that has hijacked a tractor."
- Dysfunction Junction: The Lynburns. All the inbreeding doesn't help.
- Epigraph: One at the beginning of each part.
- Evil Sorcerer: Rob Lynburn
- Fair-Play Whodunnit: Certain narrative clues might help the reader figure out who the murderer is before Kami gets there, but you still only know what she (and Jared) know.
- Female Gaze: Kami very much appreciates having the Lynburn boys around.
- Foregone Conclusion: It's obvious from the start that Jared is a real person.
- For Doom the Bell Tolls: Long ago Elinor Lynburn sunk the great gilded bells of Aurimere in the river to keep any passing armies from stripping it of its gold. Legend has it that when Sorry-in-the-Vale is in danger, the bells beneath the river will ring in warning.
- Friendless Background: Jared has never actually had anyone besides Kami, which explains why hes the more dependent one.
- From Bad to Worse: So not only have Kami and friends not been able to discover the identities of all of Robs sorcerers, but theyre terribly outnumbered, Lillian refuses to work together with them, and the rest of the town is willing to sit on their hands and let the sorcerers work their own problems out. Then in the space of a few chapters Lillian abducts Kamis brother, sacrifices her entire meagre army in a dangerous ritual to get more power, and gets herself and Kamis brother captured by Rob. Jared manages to get them out .only to be taken prisoner himself and is now presumed dead.
- Genre Throwback: To the old Victorian gothic horror genre.
- Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: Deliciously and beautifully subverted. When Ash picks up on the tension between Angela and Holly and expresses the trope's sentiment, Kami lashes back and puts him in his place epically.Kami: "Excuse me, what is wrong with you? Other people's sexuality is not your spectator sport.
Ash: It's not an insult.
Kami: Oh, okay. In that case, youre going to give me a minute. Im picturing you and Jared. Naked. Entwined.
Jared: You realize he is probably my half-brother.
Kami: I don't care. All you are to me are sex objects that I choose to imagine bashing together at random. Oh, there you go again, look at that, nothing but Lynburn skin as far as the eye can see.
- Good Is Not Nice: Lillian is the primary rival to Big Bad Rob, but sees anyone without magic as nothing but annoyances. Basically, the world is one big Escort Mission as far as she's concerned.
- Half-Human Hybrids: At one point Jared is referred to by the other Lynburns as a half-breed because his father wasnt a sorcerer.
- Heroic Bastard: Jared is Rob's illegitimate son.
- Heroic Sacrifice: Considering this seems to be one of the main themes of the series, it should not be surprised that Untold is full of these. Notably:
- Kami gives into desperation and forges a link with Ash, allowing him into her mind as she'd insisted she never would. And it's just as awful as she thought it would be.
- Following Lillian's monumental loss and capture, Jared sneaks into the occupied Aurimere House to rescue Lillian and Kami's little brother, getting captured by Rob in the process.
- Unmade opens with the mayor becoming a willing sacrifice for Rob to spare the rest of the town. Rusty eventually follows his lead so Kami's brothers will be safe.
- Hidden Depths: A recurring theme. Delinquent Jared loves to read. Holly, who many assume to be a Brainless Beauty is actually quite intelligent. Kami, who seems to be a well-behaved overachiever, can be quite reckless and impulsive.
- Huge Guy, Tiny Girl: SRB seems to be a fan of this trope. Kami is quite petite, and jokes that Jared is unnaturally tall.
- Human Sacrifice: The sorcerers of Sorry-in-the-Vale used to perform one once a year to bring prosperity to the village. Rob wants to bring this tradition back.
- Idiosyncratic Episode Naming: The books' titles are all One Word Titles that start with "un": Unspoken, Untold, and Unmade
- Incendiary Exponent: Sure, you could just quietly undo the spells animating all the town scarecrows into attacking people, but why do that when you can light them on fire instead?
- Incompatible Orientation: Kami worries about Angela when she stops showing up to meetings, but it turns out she's just embarrassed after making a move on Holly and being rebuffed. Though Holly does later realize she has feelings back.
- Intrepid Reporter: Kami personifies it. The rest of her crew not so much, which is often quite frustrating to her.
- Iron Lady: Lillian Lynburn.
- It Was Here, I Swear!: Awesomely subverted, as Kami not only takes a picture of an animal sacrifice, but publishes it in her paper.
- Jumped at the Call: Well, Kami, you were so excited to uncover your towns dark secret
- Beethoven Was an Alien Spy: King Arthur Was a Magical Source: Who the sorcerer was is a matter of scholarly debate.
- The Leader: Rob is the leader of most of the town's sorcerers, who flock to his rule when he returns.
- Lighter and Softer: Not that this would be hard after The Demon's Lexicon, and the story still goes to some pretty nasty places.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: Rob is Jareds real father. Probably.
- The Magocracy: Sorry-in-the-Vale was founded by sorcerers and has been ruled by them since the beginning.
- A Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read: Kamis link with Jared has some significant drawbacks once theyre physically a part of each others life. Even worse when Kami becomes Ash's source, since he's is completely unaccustomed to such a connection, and doesn't have the mental walls Kami and Jared both constructed when they were bound.
- Mistaken Identity: Played for laughs and then for drama in Untold. Kami makes out with who she believes is Jared in a dark hallway, only to realize it was probably Ash since Jared now hates her and Ash has taken to dressing like Jared. Except it really was Jared after all.
- Mixed Ancestry: Kami is a quarter Asian, and a common subtext is the subtle racism she and her father face over this, like a nurse who seems surprised that her father speaks English.
- Not-So-Imaginary Friend: Jared is real after all.
- Old, Dark House: Aurimere, again.
- The Only One I Trust: Jared towards Kami. Kami, who wants them to be more emotionally healthy about things, is not assured.
- Open Secret: Everyone knows magic is real and the Lynburns are sorcerers. The only reason Kami was on the outside was because her mother kept their family ignorant.
- Poor Communication Kills: As implied by the books' titles, this plays a large role as poor Kami has everyone telling her not to get involved with the Lynburns, but refusing to explain why. Luckily, when the truth does come out, it turns out there were good reasons for this, so it's not as annoying as the trope usually is.
- Rags to Riches: Jared lived the entirety of his childhood in a succession of run-down apartments and rental homes, and even half a year alone on the streets. Aurimere House is a stark change from what hes used to.
- Running Gag: Jon Glass refuses to say Lillian's name properly.
- Sleepy Head: Few things can keep Angela away from nap time.
- Stalker with a Crush: Jared, to Kami. Or at least, he appears this way to those who don't know their history together.
- Switching P.O.V.: Kami, Jared, Ash, and Holly all get to narrate the story at different times. This is in stark contrast to The Demon's Lexicon, where each book was kept anchored to a single point of view (and occasionally had to strain to get all the plot beats across, which is likely why Brennan abandoned the technique here).
- Villainous Lineage: A good portion of Jared's self-loathing is based in the fact that he believes violence is in his.
- What Happened to the Mouse?: Unmade mostly does a very nice job of wrapping up the myriad plot threads, but we're left hanging on Holly's relationship with her family after Rob's defeat. They chose the right side in the end, but took long enough about it that the bad blood will likely linger for quite a while.
- World of Snark: The series cements this as a Brennan trademark.