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Unwept: Book One of The Nightbirds    by Tracy Hickman & Laura Hickman order for
by Tracy Hickman
Order:  USA  Can
Tor, 2014 (2014)
Hardcover, e-Book
*   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

Unwept by Tracy and Laura Hickman is the first in a new, rather unusual fantasy trilogy, The Nightbirds, set in the remote seaside town of Gamin, Maine. Amnesiac Ellis Harkington is escorted there by a forbidding nurse. On the journey, she reads in the newspaper about 'a string of murders in Halifax.'

Once arrived, she discovers that everyone in Gamin appears to know her, but no-one will tell her anything about her past and how she got there in the first place. Ellis stays in a mansion with her cousin Jenny. Merrick Bacchus, whom Jenny claims as her beau, seems to run things in Gamin and lives in the enormous Norembega. Jenny blows hot and cold, often seeming jealous of Merrick's obvious interest in Ellis. And Ellis dreams of being buried alive, of moths, thorns and roses - and of a soldier with a marred face, Jonas, who claims her.

Jenny's hands were badly deformed in an incident involving Ellis, but Jenny also has problems recapturing her memories. They are both under the care of Dr. Carmichael, but is he really a physician? Jenny takes Ellis to the Nightbirds Literary Society House, telling her cousin she will be among friends there. Merrick attends and enquires about Ellis's book. He tells Ellis that the two of them 'were something great once', but he makes her very uneasy.

The story meanders from one puzzle to another but Ellis eventually learns of 'a war in heaven' and of the exile to which the 'doubly damned' who did not choose were sent. A monster stalks her, but who is he? Though I found the story in Unwept rather disconnected, it does make an intriguing opening to The Nightbirds trilogy.

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