Hello my booksicles!
The Unspoken Name is one of my favourite books of this year with its sprawling, imaginative world and loveable characters. Therefore, I am honoured to bring you an interview I did with the author, A. K. Larkwood, where I asked her some questions about her debut novel.
Here’s a bit about the book which came out on the 20th February in the UK and the 11th February in the US:
A. K. Larkwood’s The Unspoken Name is a stunning debut fantasy about an orc priestess turned wizard’s assassin.
What if you knew how and when you will die?
Csorwe does–she will climb the mountain, enter the Shrine of the Unspoken, and gain the most honored title: sacrifice.
But on the day of her foretold death, a powerful mage offers her a new fate. Leave with him, and live. Turn away from her destiny and her god to become a thief, a spy, an assassin–the wizard’s loyal sword. Topple an empire, and help him reclaim his seat of power.
But Csorwe will soon learn–gods remember, and if you live long enough, all debts come due.
Hello and thank you doing this interview with me!
Thank you for reading!
What would you say the initial inspiration for The Unspoken Name was? And why did you think Csorwe’s story needed to be told?
In some ways The Unspoken Name is quite a conventional fantasy story – there are wizards, gods, mysterious missing artefacts, and lots of swordfights. But I’m interested in coming at this kind of material from unexpected perspectives. Given that she works for this highly ambitious larger-than-life wizard, Csorwe could have been the sidekick character. She doesn’t have world-shaking ambitions and she’s largely motivated by saving herself and her friends, rather than by saving the world. I wanted to write a fantasy book in which we get to learn what characters on the periphery are up to.
The book was filled with lots of exciting places, people, cultures, deities and worlds- all connected by the Maze of Echoes. Which world building aspects were the most fun to create?
Early in the book Csorwe spends some time infiltrating a fortress ruled over by an infamous mercenary general. Creating that little world with all its layers and factions and secret ways was a lot of fun, and I got to introduce my favourite character, the giant snake.
Which character in the novel would you say you relate to the most?
All of them to an extent – I expect you get this answer from a lot of writers, but it’s hard to write a character without trying to relate to them. Even High Inquisitor Qanwa, who is pretty diabolical, only came into focus for me as a character when I had to write scenes from her point of view and had to figure out what she thought about what she was doing.
Did you always know how you wanted The Unspoken Name to end? Or did it take a few tries to figure out the best conclusion?
Without risking too many spoilers, I always knew where Csorwe was going to end up by the end of the book, but it took a lot of rewriting to realise how she was going to get there. In the first draft of the novel Csorwe was much older and more embittered, there was no romance subplot, and Tal and Shuthmili were fairly minor characters who bore no resemblance to their current incarnations. Revising is a process of discovery as much as writing the first draft!
Csorwe, Sethennai and Tal are tasked with destroying the One Ring in Mordor… what happens?
Such a bad idea to let Sethennai anywhere near that thing! He would instantly just put it on and that would be the end of the book.
Which books would you recommend to fans of The Unspoken Name?
I recently really loved Shelley Parker-Chan’s She Who Became The Sun. It’s a queer fantasy reimagining of the life of the first Emperor of the Ming dynasty – it’s beautifully written, full of twists and turns, funny and heart-wrenching. And as in The Unspoken Name, the main character’s early life is spent in a strict religious community, haunted by the dead. Sadly, it’s not out until next year – but keep your eyes out!
Can you give us any hints as to what to expect from the sequel?
It’s hard to give a lot of detail without spoiling the first book, but it’s like Sethennai says towards the end of The Unspoken Name: “Things cannot be put back the way they were.”
About the author:
A. K. Larkwood studied English at St John’s College, Cambridge. Since then, she has worked in higher education & media relations, and is now studying law. She lives in Oxford, England, with her wife and a cat. Her debut novel, The Unspoken Name, will be published by Tor in 2020.
Thank you again to A. K. Larkwood for taking the time to answer my questions!