Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.
But all that changes when the Lynburns return.
The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. [X]
Actually, there are several other titles I could have gone with:
- The Lynburn Legacy: Yet Another Reason Why Sarah Rees Brennan Is Awesome
- The Lynburn Legacy: For Once Yash Did Not Skim Over The Romance-y Bits Of A Fantasy Series
- The Lynburn Legacy: Yash May Be Asked To Stop Because This Approximately The Billionth Time She Is Raving About Sarah Rees Brennan
- The Lynburn Legacy: Just Read It So We Can Take Our Friendship To A New Level
- The Lynburn Legacy: Who Even Let Yash Do A Blog Post For Valentine’s Day*?!
But I thought the excited, near-delirious, keyboard smash worked best.
Just to be clear, this is not a review for Unspoken or Untold. Not exactly. If you are looking for a proper review, please check out Elizabeth’s glowing recommendation here. It was her post that got me started on this series.
As for what I am going to do here … well, for one thing, I am going to try to structure my fangirling into a coherent post about romance. For another, I wanted to write a post that proves that I am not always a grump about romantic stuff. If the writer is good (and trust me, Brennan is good) you may actually catch me grinning and swooning and sighing along with the characters.
Be warned- I will be talking about some EXTREMELY SPOILERIFIC stuff from Unspoken and Untold. Ugh, I can not wait until September for Unmade. Brennan keeps trolling on Tumblr about how heartbreaking it will be, but I am not deterred! Like, at all! Untold is one of my all time favourite sequels. Basically, there is a pattern and that pattern is that The Lynburn Legacy will continue to blow my mind with each new instalment.
Anyway, where was I? Oh. Right. Not being a grump about romance-y stuff. You know what? Just … get ready for an essay, kids!
Here is a guide to writing a brilliant series wherein the romance is not just tacked on to the larger fantastical plot and thus designed to make everyone fall in love with the writer:
1. Strong Lead Character(s) / Everyone Needs Developing
Kami Glass does not start out perfect. She is funny. She takes martial arts classes from her best friend’s brother. But she is not perfect. She is insecure and, often, impulsive. And sometimes, her friends and family pay the price for it, *cough-Untold-cough*. BUT! Her insecurities do not stop her from being good friends with the people around her. This shows in the way she constantly thinks about Angela, her best friend, as the most beautiful girl in town but never begrudges her for it. She even makes friend with another hottie- Holly Prescott. As for the impulsive bit … well, it is a side-effect of how lovely and headstrong she is. Right from the start, no guy gets in her way, no matter how charming and blonde!
“But I think you and Angela should leave this to the police from now on.”
“What an interesting thought,” Kami said. “Thank you for sharing it with me. Let me share a thought with you: Actually, I can walk myself to class. And I can also handle myself, so I’ll be doing what I want” (Unspoken, 30).
She starts off feeling uncomfortable about meeting the boy who had always been a voice in her head, a boy who she half-believed was a figment of her crazy imagination. But eventually, it becomes a comfort to her. Until … (and yeah, kind of a big spoiler here) she decides, at the end of Unspoken to stop being a source of magic. I know I should have been sad that Kami and Jared were hurting because of this, but strategically, it was such a good move for Brennan to have made!
“She had wondered who she was without Jared, stripped of all her supports and forced to stand on her own” (Untold, Chapter 11).
And we spend the rest of the sequel figuring out exactly that! Who is Kami without Jared? Who is Kami when she is not a source for magic? Well, apart from being the best (only?) journalist in Sorry-in-the-Vale, she is a girl who is pretty damned good at handling herself.
Even Jared Lynburn has to admit that Kami is a capable person. Jared, who really does win the best award for dramatic entrance, is the resident Bad Boy. But one, who is aware that he is putting this persona on. As the series moves along, we see him shift from a guy who picks fights with the cricket team to someone who can laugh at how ridiculous his situation is. Granted, he does a fair bit of angry brooding, but hey, who doesn’t when you are crushing on the girl whose voice was in your head all your life until- *dun-dun-dun* That Day.
I was worried that Jared and Kami precarious love story may kill my interest in Untold but NO! Jared, like Kami, gets to really figure out who he is. He gets to be his own person. He gets to try and make amends and oh my gosh, it is so freaking sexy when he is respectful of Kami’s strengths. I mean, in the beginning, he is still upset about the whole breaking of the link between Kami and himself and yet when they are attacked by scarecrows (as it happens in these things) he swoops in to intervene …
“I thought you would like a weapon better than a rescue” (Untold, Chapter 3).
… just not in the way you would expect.
I think the smartest thing that Brennan did with this character was making his separation from Kami a legitimate way for Jared to figure out how he can be better:
“I just wish I had the questions,” he said. “I’ve never felt any need to talk to someone about things that counted, to find out what was wrong. You were the only one who ever mattered, and I always knew … You’re still the only one who matters. And I have to learn to ask you.” (Untold, Chapter 18).
2. Strong (Romantic) Rival / Even This Guy Needs A Character Arc
Ash Lynburn. The one time traitor. The sometimes romantic rival. He’s almost like an accidental love triangle, but I feel like I am using that phrase very loosely here. I mean, Kami is pretty constant in her affections for Jared, but with the magic (or lack of it), things get complicated. I can believe that when you are scared and lonely, all it takes is for someone who is also scared and lonely to notice you. And so, Sarah Rees Brennan creates a perfect web of romantic drama that I am willing to relish in. Also, he starts out as a charming villain and ends up as yet another character who is figuring out who he really is. He has some pretty great moments of self-discovery. The most fun for me are when he is surprisingly insightful about Jared but woefully ignorant about himself and Kami. Like when he asks her to be his source:
“I wouldn’t be like Jared … This would be a partnership, a good partnership. We would respect each other, and trust each other, and together we could do so much” (Untold, Chapter 20).
It is kind of true, but also kind of not, and rather embarrassing for everyone involved.
3. Strong Supporting Cast / No, Really, Everyone Gets An Arc
Angela Montgomery of Unspoken is a bad-ass, who doesn’t care for guys, and loves naps. Angela of Untold is a whole new level of bad-ass, who loves naps, and (spoiler!) who finally comes out to her bestie:
“Let me make myself clear,” Angela said. “I am a lesbian who hates people. I don’t want to go anywhere hoping to meet someone, because the idea of mixing with a bunch of strangers makes me want to be sick. We live in a small town. My parents are awful. I just don’t want to deal with the hassle of any of it. I thought, once I left Sorry-in-the-Vale and went to college, I’d meet someone and then I’d tell you. When it was worth telling you. I didn’t expect to meet anyone I’d like here” (Untold, Chapter 5).
I just love the way Brennan writes Angela. Angela just … makes sense, you know? She knows who she is, but doesn’t really care if other people do. (Unless those people are Rusty, her brother, and Kami.) In any case, once she is out of the closet, she does not compromise her identity as a queer girl for anyone, including Holly who (she thought?) she loved:
“I don’t want to say I’m sorry, as if a guy hitting on a girl is a compliment and a girl hitting on a girl is an insult that should be apologized for. I won’t try anything again. I obviously picked up on cues that were not there …” (Untold, Chapter 9).
Holly Prescott herself is a fantastically written character. Not just a pretty girl to those who know her- which, un/fortunately, excludes her awful family. She has been hiding in plain sight for so long that being seen, really seen, frightens her so much …
“She was desperate to be hurt or used or anything, as long as she wanted it, as long as she could prove it was only this she wanted” (Untold, Chapter 15).
Which, of course, means that when the girl does decide to be brave she is a badass to rival Angela. (Also, points to Brennan for not making her a hateful pretty girl. There is basically no girl-on-girl hate in this series. Just really, really good friendships. It’s quite perfect.)
4. Even The Adults, Okay?
Yup. Even the adults have untold (ha!) depths. My two favourite grown-up characters are Lilian Lynburn (Ash’s mother) and Jon Glass (Kami’s father). Lilian is basically a reversal of the warm mother figure. She is an iron woman and I would like to put forth the suggestion that just because she is not a great mother, it does not make her a bad person. And character-wise, she is simply magnetic. I mean, she actually goes around saying stuff like:
“Before I surrender Sorry-in-the-Vale, I will die” (Untold, Chapter 24).
And people just take her seriously.
There is no other way to take her, really. And yet, she loves her family like she has never loved anything else. She’s just not that great at showing her affections. (I’m sure she’s working on it, right? RIGHT? *sigh* Poor Ash.)
Jon Glass, on the other hand, is the reverse of the stoic father figure. He is warm and hilarious (Kami gets it from him) and when he realizes how little he knew about his family and his town, he is considerate enough to not scare his children away with his feelings of betrayal. But Kami, being the excellent observer that she is, notices how different her father is. How un-father-like he is. And how weird that is. I like these observations of, “Wow, adults have … feelings? They … mess up sometimes? Huh.”
Actually, there might be a third adult character I love. Rosalind Lynburn. Jared’s mother. It was actually Kami’s observations that made Rosalind’s character important to me:
“She saw how Rosalind might have chosen a violent man to take her away, because men who hurt her were the only ones she knew how to love” (Unspoken, 361).
I mean, if Kami has the sense to notice this, you know she’s not going to be pig-headed about her own romantic life. It’s those little details, those sparks of empathy, that just make this series. So, obviously, that will be my last section …
5. Paying Attention To The Tiny Things / (Because Those Tiny Things Are Not All That Small)
Such as, the issue of consent: Nafiza wrote that awesome post about rape culture in YA novels, and can I just say that my favourite part of Untold was a make-out session during which Jared asks Kami if she was alright and she responds with a “Don’t stop”, but also clarifies with, “I’m glad you asked, though,” she said. “Asking’s sexy” (Untold, Chapter 20).
Another favourite part of Untold is when Ash finds out about Holly and Angela’s almost-relationship and …
“Wow, Angela and Holly,” Ash said, sounding awed. “Hot.”
“Excuse me, what is wrong with you?” Kami demanded. “Other people’s sexuality is not your spectator sport” (Untold, Chapter 12).
This here, is good writing. It is an author taking a stance against the objectification of queer people.
I could go on about this series forever, but the word count says I am past 2000 words, and who am I kidding it’s a Friday- Valentine’s Friday- I should spare you. (Like, all six of you who got this far!)
Basically, read this series now, fall in love, and then fight the urge to ask Sarah Rees Brennan to be your Valentine.
*Happy Valentine’s Day, BTW! 😀