In the first chapter of Untold, THIS IS HOW YOU OPEN A BOOK. Intrigued? Then it’s time for Mark to start reading Untold.
Chapter One: The Scarecrow Trials
OH MY GOD THE DAY IS FINALLY HERE.
Before we get into this, let’s talk about a few rules for any newbies who have stumbled upon this community and my ridiculous writing:
1) Please do not spoil me or anyone else. If you’ve never experienced a Mark Reads review series, I am approaching this book without any spoilers. I didn’t read any of the excerpts, I have the series name blocked on Tumblr, and I am eager to read this without knowing one single thing about it that wasn’t revealed in Unspoken. Please take great care when commenting if you have read this book.
2) Use rot13.com to cypher spoilery comments and thoughts. You are allowed to talk about spoilers and generally sob about how I said that one thing and will be destroyed later. That’s what all the gibberish is in the comments. Firefox and Chrome also have plug-ins that allow you to cypher without going to the site!
3) Please read the Site Rules about commenting conduct. My moderators and I do our best to make this a safe, inclusive community. You may be warned about using certain language or slurs, so please take care to think about what you’re posting. Spoiling or excessively inappropriate behavior will get you banned. The only exception to posting slurs that may be considered ableist is when you are quoting the text. You’ll notice that I will also warn about those words before the video readings, too! I recently changed my policy to read the words aloud so that I wasn’t making myself anxious about trying to change or leave out words when recording videos, so if you are triggered by such words, please read the warning before the commissions.
4) Have fun discussing the book! Share opinions! Non-spoilery fan-art! Songs! Music videos! Your opinions, positive and negative! This is as much a critical analysis space as it is a fandom space. Our intent here at Mark Reads is to make this safe for you to celebrate and analyze this book as you feel you want to, so please nerd out, geek out, or analyze to your heart’s content! I do read the comments, and may often reply to things! This is my IntenseDebate profile so DO NOT ACCEPT IMPOSTORS. Well, no one’s actually tried to be me around here before, but you never know. It’s the Internet, and we’ve seen our fair share of weirdness in this community, right?
LET’S DO IT.
I actually spent the last 2-3 days prior to picking up Untold revisiting Unspoken. And it was such a radically different experience than… well, the way I read things for this site. Granted, I didn’t do commissions for every chapter of the book, but large parts of it were broken up and scattered, so getting to sit down and breeze through Unspoken was lovely. It’s such a fast-paced novel, which isn’t something that I picked up on the first time through. Plus, I really felt like I needed to fully re-visit Sorry-in-the-Vale to give this set of reviews the attention they deserve.
I’ve dedicated a lot of time lately at conventions and on tour talking about Sarah Rees Brennan’s books (including The Demon’s Lexicon trilogy) because of reasons. Some of those reasons involve her ability to shock me out of my chair or feel a deep and unending sense of despair. I mentioned at FenCon 2013 on a YA panel that Sarah makes me sad while reading her novels because she is able to create characters that I deeply care about. That’s not an easy thing to do. Plus, I grew up on Edgar Allan Poe and the Brontë sisters and Mary Shelley, so this who neo-Gothic setting hits all the right buttons for me.
However, these things – the story, the respect for the characters, the shocking twists – aren’t the main reason I’m drawn to these books. Brennan is able to capture teenage angst and drama in a way that isn’t condescending to our experiences. And while their angst might be because of demons and magic, it’s also because being a teenager is incredibly fucking hard. And she respects that! Kami’s struggles in Unspoken are rooted in privacy, in identity, and in self-worth, and those are things that I deeply care about and empathize with.
Given how Unspoken ended, I wanted to see how Kami Glass was going to deal with her loneliness. If you’ve been following my writing for a while, you know that themes of loneliness are actually like puppies to me. I LIVE FOR STORIES THAT EXAMINE LONELINESS. And Kami has literally never been alone in her life! How is she going to deal with that? What about Angela? Will her sudden revelation of her sexuality alienate her from her friends? How’s Jared going to treat Kami (and himself) now that he thinks she’s not special anymore? (AHHHH JARED WHY DID YOU SAY THAT YOU BROKE ME AHHHHHH)
However, there’s one aspect to this loneliness that I never considered, and that part of the first chapter of Untold is the very best thing.
There are a lot of awesome things here, though! Brennan opens the book with another article from Kami, though this one is hardly the cheeky and playful piece that opened the last book. As I mentioned in the commission video, it actually serves as a fascinating summary of the events in Unspoken without being condescending to the reader. It’s a reminder of how absolutely terrifying Sorry-in-the-Vale is now that Rob Lynburn has revealed his plans to rule the place. I don’t know if Kami’s actually going to publish it, but I love the idea of her putting everything out in the open. Hell, given what happens in “The Scarecrow Trials,” it’s not like the residents of Sorry-in-the-Vale are going to have the luxury of ignoring the oncoming war, you know?
Hold on, I’m jumping ahead. Let’s talk about this:
Kami knew it was due to her that Angela had almost died in the woods two weeks ago.
ONLY TWO WEEKS PASSED SINCE THE END OF THE LAST NOVEL. Oh gods, this is so great. Seriously! I already appreciate how this picks up so closely to where Unspoken left off because… well, doesn’t it have to? Rob’s declaration at the end of that novel was a declaration of war, as far as I was concerned, because it was about controlling the whole town. So, as Angela and Kami walked the streets, cataloguing the town’s scarecrows, I didn’t exactly feel like they were safe, you know? There are over twenty sorcerer’s hiding in plain sight. Like, okay, if there had been one mystery sorcerer, maybe this wouldn’t be so bad. BUT TWENTY-FIVE? (If you’re not counting Sergeant Kenn, since we know his identity.) That’s… oh my god, that’s so many. And it’s not like Sorry-in-the-Vale has thousands upon thousands of residents, so this can’t be good.
On top of that, Brennan doesn’t ignore the emotional ramifications of what happened in the last book. Kami is alone, and it’s a disjointed, jarring experience for her. It’s a strange thing to consider because most of us are used to the experience of only having our own voice inside of our heads, but this is the first time Kami has had to live like this. Granted, Kami knew that there would be benefits to retaining her identity within herself, instead of always sharing it with Jared, but I think this would be easier for her to deal with if Jared hadn’t decided that Kami wasn’t worth his time now that she’d severed the connection between them.
And then we’ve got Angela, my PRECIOUS ANGELA, who hasn’t spoken to Holly after trying to kiss her. I just want to sweep her up into my arms and hug the fear and uncertainty out of her because this little queer has been in the exact same place. Navigating your own sexuality is bad enough on your own in this world, but doing it after misjudging someone’s interest in you is a disaster. I made the mistake of doing exactly that with someone who was once my best friend, and it was heartbreaking. Granted, he was a much bigger asshole than Holly could ever be. Coping with unrequited love is certainly challenging, and I’m hoping that Holly and Angela can come to terms with one another and become friends.
Of course, there’s a problem with that, and it’s that they can’t have a conversation while they’re being ATTACKED BY MAGICALLY SENTIENT SCARECROWS. This whole sequence has a strong The X-Files feeling to me, which means I UNEQUIVOCALLY LOVE IT. Initially, it’s kind of cheesy, and then Brennan describes the eyes and –
The light from the Kenns’ windows gleamed in their scarecrow’s eyes, and Kami saw they were marbles that had transformed into something that glistened as if they were made of the same stuff as human eyes but stayed small, swirling colors at their center.
YEAH, NOPE. NO, THANK YOU, TAKE THAT BACK, I DID NOT NEED THAT IMAGE.
Actually, there’s something more pervasively creepy about this aside from… well, animated scarecrows trying to kill everyone. That idea in and of itself isn’t necessarily terrifying. It’s the scope of all of this that unnerves me. It’s such a brazen display of power, one that other people in Sorry-in-the-Vale witness. As I mentioned in the video for this chapter, this is not merely confined to the main characters. It affects the whole town:
It was horrible that there were lights on in the Kenns’ house. She wondered how many people were awake in the other houses along this lane, knowing nothing or hiding in fear, or standing at the windows watching the chaos they had created.
It’s in the not knowing that I’m disturbed. Who is behind this? Who isn’t behind this? Who is going to be collateral damage in this fight? What happens to a town when a war like this is started? These are the questions this first chapter leads me to ask. This is not about Kami and Jared versus Rob and his mystery sorcerers. It’s about a small town plunged into chaos, and the chaos starts in the very first chapter.
Jared and Ash arrive to help out, leading to some awesome scenes where Jared uses fire to burn the scarecrows out of existence, but there’s no hint as to how these people are going to fight against Rob and his miniature army. Plus, now they’ve got to include Rusty in all this nonsense, and I bet that is going to be a fun conversation. And what about the Lynburns opposed to Rob? What are they going to do, and will Kami ever be allowed back in Aurimere House? What about Kami’s family? How long until they’re all wrapped up in this nightmare as well?
I’M SO EXCITED FOR THIS BOOK, Y’ALL. Bring it on.
Please note that the original text and the videos contain the words “idiot,” “lunatic,” “mad,” and “insane.”
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