Review of Unthinkable, by Nancy Werlin


by Nancy Werlin

Dial Books, 2013. 392 pages.
Starred Review

After I read Impossible, by Nancy Werlin, on the way to vacation in Oregon, I made sure I went to Powell’s books to find copies of Extraordinary and Unthinkable to read as well. So together they gave my vacation a memory of some Extraordinary reading time!

Unthinkable is billed as a “Companion” to Impossible. And though technically you can read it without having read the others, it pulls together some threads from both Impossible and Extraordinary, so I’m happy with my choice to read them in order.

In Impossible, we learned about the family curse on Lucy Scarborough and all of her female line right back to her ancestor, Fenella Scarborough, who rejected an Elfin Knight and then was cursed. Fenella also has been unable to die for all those centuries, having to watch each of her daughters and granddaughters be tormented in turn.

When Lucy broke the family curse, she didn’t break the enchantment placed on Fenella. Now, Fenella just wants to be allowed to die.

Fenella goes to the faerie queen, begging to be allowed to die. But it’s not so simple. There’s a spell upon her, cast by Padraig, the one who cursed her family. The queen figures out that to break the spell, Fenella needs to complete three tasks of deliberate destruction in the mortal realm. She warns Fenella that this will involve terrible choices, but Fenella doesn’t care. She commits herself to the tasks.

And then Fenella learns that if she completes the tasks, not only will she again be mortal, but Padraig will die. If she fails? She will once again be Padraig’s slave.

And there’s more. The queen sends her brother Ryland along in the form of a cat to help Fenella, and then reveals more about the quest:

The queen nodded. “I am glad you mention your daughters. You will go to the two that survive, Lucy and her mother, Miranda. Tell them you have been freed and are coming to them for help to restart your life.”

“No,” Fenella was firm. “I will do this destruction my own way. I will keep Lucy and her family entirely out of it.”

The queen continued as if Fenella had not spoken. “They will want to love you and take care of you. They will not be suspicious.”

“I don’t wish to go to them,” Fenella repeated. “I would rather simply begin on the first task of destruction. Tell me. What must I destroy first?”

The cat butted his soft head against Fenella’s ankles. He did not make a sound, but Fenella heard his mocking voice in her head.

“No,” she said sharply. “No, you’re wrong.” She looked at the queen. “Isn’t he wrong?”

“He directed his thoughts to you, not to me. What did he say?”

“He told me –“ Fenella broke off. “He said that my family must be the target of each act of destruction. He said it would not be human destruction if there was no pain for me. For people I care about.” Her eyes were hot flame. “Tell me it’s not true,” she demanded.

The queen said, “Your first task is the destruction of your family’s safety.”

“No,” said Fenella.

“Yes,” said the queen, steadily. “You have agreed. You must go forward toward the death you desire, sowing destruction about you, or you will belong again to the Mud Creature.”

Fenella does join her living family. And she does come to love them. There is even a man she feels connected to. If she commits these acts of destruction, surely they will hate her. But if she doesn’t, starting the family’s curse again is truly unthinkable.

I won’t give any details, but I was surprised by what a beautiful ending Nancy Werlin pulled off out of this terrible situation.

As with the other books, the author did a marvelous job with the characters and relationships in this book. These people love one another, but they are caught up in an extraordinary and difficult situation. There’s even a hint of ways Fenella can work with the faerie realm in the future – I hope this means more books to come.

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Source: This review is based on a copy I purchased at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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