All That’s Gold Does Not Glitter: Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan

First up, let me warn you that it’s impossible to talk about Sarah Rees Brennan’s Unmade without revealing some of what went down in the two previous books of The Lynburn Legacy. Consider yourself warned for SPOILERS.

We zoom in on Sorry-in-the-Vale after the cliffhanger of Untold with Jared buried alive in his priest hole and everyone but Kami convinced he’s dead. Repeated forays to the Lynburn evil layer result in rescues, deadly plans, ritual sacrifice, and of course some great quips. Kami and the gang have a modicum of time available to save their town, or to convince the town to save themselves, before Rob Lynburn’s nefarious plotting can be put into action. Can they do it before their hormones take control?

Unmade is rife with broken hearts, broken homes, and a few broken bones, and Sarah Rees Brennan delivers fist pumping moments of awesomeness in a series ending that’ll keep readers glued to the page.

Sarah Rees Brennan strikes a wonderful balance between some dark paranormal activity, real world emotional fallout, and a laugh out loud humor. While the levity strikes down a bit of Unmade’s impact and memorability, it also makes it a much more enjoyable read overall. The villains are basically painted as a clan of sorcerous Lannisters—We are creatures of red and gold, We do not forgive, We do not need hearts, Our family motto is ‘Hot blond death’—which seems funny until you think about all of the torture, murder, and inbreeding involved. We see Kami repeatedly horrified by the actions of Rob Lynburn and co., though at the same time she is willing to do some seriously dark magic in defense of what she’s labeled as good.

The strong presence of family—an aspect of SRB’s storytelling that I loved in Unspoken—remains, but in a sadly realistic reflection of families snapping under strain. Kami’s family, along with Ash and Jared’s, and Holly’s, are all greatly impacted in Unmade, making Rusty and Angela’s parental absenteeism seem a pleasant emotional alternative. I love that Unmade shines light upon the unconditional love of children for their parents. It’s so realistic about the damage that can be done and doesn’t pretend that everything can be alright once the danger has passed. Despite Kami’s acknowledgement that tragic orphans have life a lot easier when it comes to having adventures, it’s quite refreshing to read a YA novel where siblings and parents are so present and important.

Kami remains as headstrong as always, a perpetual thorn in the side of the adults who both love and hate her. The antithesis of a damsel in distress, Kami insists on doing the rescuing in these pages and is unarguably the hero of her own story. She’s brave, hilarious, full of heart, and sports a great wardrobe—what’s a reader not to love? It’s a bit of a shame that Kami’s most obvious flaw of a lack of self confidence (you know, besides consistently flying headlong into danger without consulting her allies or even her own common sense) is completely negated by every eligible boy in Sorry-in-the-Vale panting after her.

I love that Kami is different than the traditional beauty of either Holly the blonde bombshell or Angela the dark and sultry. She represents some diversity in her Japanese heritage and is very aware of her ‘differentness’, but the unending parade of love confessions nearly forces her into the cliché ‘exotic’ camp, despite my being certain SRB intentionally avoided such labeling. I’m sure the love-fest has more to do with her intrepid spirit and witty commentary, but it induces more than a few eye rolls by the end of Unmade.

Despite the contorted love geometry, SRB’s portrayal of teenage romance in The Lynburn Legacy is laudable and diverse. She takes the time to form each character as a unique individual rather than half of a couple, highlighting the fact that we don’t have to be defined by those we love. The Lynburn Legacy is LGBT friendly with the potential between Angela and Holly, a hard-edged girl who hates showing emotion, and the girl who is brave enough to try even when she’s certain of failure. SRB allows them to struggle with their emotions in the same way that we see from Kami and Jared, and Rusty and Ash show us how love can manifest in alternate forms.

Yes, Kami and Jared are partners in one of the most mind-bogglingly messed up relationships in YA history, but it does work for them. We get small glimpses of Jared’s point of view in Unmade, and despite his selfishness potentially outweighing his actual care for Kami, we see he ultimately has her best interests at heart. Sure, their relationship is miles from healthy, but it’s what they’ve always known and ‘normal’ would probably be impossible for either of them. As long as Kami retains her sense of self—which she needs the separation from Jared to do, I’m cool with it.

She had not only worried that he did not love her the way she wanted to. She had not only loved and longed. She had spent so much time worrying that accepting love, becoming part of all the love stories, would trap her in some way, change her into someone weak, someone she did not want to be. But she realized now that she had been narrow-minded, considering a love story as a lesser story, a story that might make her lesser to be part of. She had always thought she needed to be in control, but now she found she did not want to put any limits on herself at all. She wanted to be the person she was, and not the person anyone, including herself, had ever thought she should be. She had thought a lot lately about making all the love stories her own, of telling them her own way.

Unmade had definite flaws, such as the inclusion of characters purely as cannon fodder, but overall it was a very solid ending to The Lynburn Legacy. Kami is a stand up role model for the YA crowd—she pushes others to think for themselves, puts what’s right over what’s safe, and invests in the ideal of the greater good over personal desires. I’m pretty sure Dumbledore would take a shine to her if she were a witch rather than a Source (Kami would take no crap from Snape, I’ll tell you that). Ultimately, Unmade is a series conclusion that will leave readers satisfied. No, it doesn’t stand up to Unspoken, but I dare anyone out there to read book one of The Lynburn Legacy without needing to read the rest. Brava, Sarah Rees Brennan, I hope our tears were delicious.

Gideon Smith amazon buy linkUnmade is available September 23rd from Random House.

 


Heidi Frederick probably wouldn’t trade shared telepathy and humiliation for magical powers. Unless he were really cute. Read more at her blog, Bunbury in the Stacks or follow her on Twitter.

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