Cover Image: Unraveling

Unraveling

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

I am a member of the American Library Association Reading List Award Committee. This title was suggested for the 2020 list. It was not nominated for the award. The complete list of winners and shortlisted titles is at 
Was this review helpful?
The hero of Karen Lord’s knotty, sometimes confounding fantasy thriller is Miranda, a therapist pulled out of time and into a labyrinthine netherworld to help solve a series of murders that baffles the gods themselves. The title of Lord’s novel is appropriate, the drawback being that the story unravels a bit too methodically and deliberately. The characters, human and god, are appealing. Miranda brings a surprising amount of consideration to her role in these events, even as she is unceremoniously hijacked into service. The Trickster, too, makes an interesting companion and foil. On the downside, we get way too deep into the book before a genuine antagonist shows up, and while the conclusion was satisfying enough, the trip there was too circuitous to fully captivate this reader.
Was this review helpful?
This book has very confusing moments for me, but I think it's because I'm not very knowledgeable on the myths it's based around, but I still really enjoyed what I did understand. Interesting storyline and I liked it enough to want a sequel so I may understand it better.
Was this review helpful?
Karen Lord’s Unraveling appealed to me both as a fantasy novel and as a mystery. Dr. Miranda Ecouvo is a forensic therapist of the City. She recently helped put a serial killer away, however, as she is about to find out, the situation may be much more complicated than that. Drawn into an otherworld through a near death experience, she is met by brothers Chance and Trickster. The more question they ask, the more memory threads she is asked to follow and the more labyrinths they have her walk, she begins to see a bigger, darker picture.

I wanted to like this one more. The premise is fascinating, but I found myself lost (disoriented even) a few times, especially in the beginning. I never really connected with any of the characters, feeling more like an observer. I cared enough to want to see how everything played out, especially for Miranda, however, so there was that. And I wanted to know more about Chance and Trickster. I found their backstory—creation—if you will, interesting. As well as Chance’s role in everything that took place in the novel. By the end, I had mixed feelings about the book. This was advertised as a standalone. I had not realized there were previous books set in the same world. Unlike romance and many mysteries series books, I find it harder to jump into a fantasy world without having read the earlier books, series or not. Would that have made a difference? I do not know. Unfortunately, my mixed feelings about this book do not have me eager to give an earlier book a try any time soon.
Was this review helpful?
If I had to recommend a book with unusual title and plot...this is it. 
I read it. 
I loved it. 
I recommend it to all!
Was this review helpful?
The beauty of Karen Lord’s Unraveling lies in her mastery of storytelling and the art of larger-than-life protagonists. The book starts pretty typically, showing a woman as she walks down the street. We get a bit of the scenery, we get some basic background on her story and the recent goings-on that have haunted her life for months. She’s walking and everything seems to be normal when WHAM. Out of nowhere, the story veers into uncharted territory, tearing our protagonist out of her seemingly normal life into an alternate reality where time, perception and aging all work differently. It’s quite jarring in the most wonderful way, forcing your mind to twist along with the ever-changing landscape of dreams, reality, and the strange workings of these half-god, half-human guides who are trying to get answers to a huge mystery.

Lord’s title perfectly sums up the brilliance of the novel. Her story begins in a seemingly normal moment with hints of fantasy and with a sudden, violent shove, the threads of the world begin to unravel. We run from alternate reality to a nightmarish maze to the inner-dreams of our protagonist. At another turn, we criss-cross in and out of real-time interactions, imagined nightmares, and the strange alternate rift in time that’s impossible to fully comprehend. I was constantly on edge, trying to stick with the path as it flew out of control. It was difficult at times, and that added to the suspense of it all. This is the perfect representation of spiraling down a rabbit hole, trying to keep up with supernatural figures in a world of their own making. 

Overall, Unraveling is a fascinating journey into worlds, times, and stories unknown. The real joy lies in experiencing the art itself, watching the demigods interact with a human in an attempt to form a coherent connection between the dark events plaguing this little piece of the universe. It’s always surprising, never dull, and infinitely entertaining from start to finish.
Was this review helpful?
Unraveling, the new novel from World Fantasy Award nominee Karen Lord, is on one level a mystery: a serial killer, Walther Grey, murdered people in a place known as the City, the later deaths escalating into mutilation, amputation, and strange, symbolic cruelties; before the book’s beginning, Grey was caught and convicted, partially with the help of forensic therapist Dr. Miranda Ecouvo, and the killings stopped.

Ritualistic murder is a standby of mysteries and thrillers: killers enacting bloody rites to appease or perform for whatever kitchen deity they imagine controls their fates. Here, Lord turns the trope on its head and shakes all the change out of its pockets: it is her detectives who are otherworldly, playing out the tropes of the procedural in an otherscape of time and memory, the potential and the possible.

Miranda is walking home on unsteady feet when she is startled by the appearance of her own double, then plucked out of her life by one of the undying and shunted into the labyrinths of memory and nightmare. There, she learns all: at the behest of the angel Uriel, the angel of death, the god Chance and his brother the Trickster are tasked to find the killer behind the killer—the supernatural entity behind Grey’s monstrous actions. Grey was being directed; his murders have the feel of the otherworldly about them. Chance in turn asks Miranda, with her detective’s briefcase and her intimate knowledge of both killer and the killed, to find this shadowy figure. She is human; she can walk where he can’t. (In this, she is like Grey, a mortal being used by inhuman forces, doing what they cannot: the opposite side of the cosmic coin.)

But although on some level it is a procedural, Unraveling does not present its characters, place, magic, or narrative with anything like the linearity of a solvable whodunnit. The story instead wends around itself like a labyrinth—or a spiderweb—catching and cocooning the reader and drawing us towards its center. The book is divided into three named sections: Nightmare, Memory, and Metanoia.

Nightmare and Memory are presented to Miranda by Chance in the guise of labyrinths: places she enters to see the shadows of things that have happened (or which might have happened). In these first two sections, Miranda visits the shadows of both the past and future, seeing what might have been or will be. (Remember: there is always a monster in a labyrinth.)

Siblings Chance and the Trickster join Miranda on her travels, as does their elder, Patience. We begin to see that, just as surely as they build mazes for Miranda to traverse, they too are being manipulated by Patience—and she, in turn, by other forces far more powerful.

As she walks in the shadow of the City in search of the monster, Miranda sees the worldly parallels to her otherworldly peregrinations. There are the people who live at the center of the Center, and those trapped in its periphery by the stickiness of poverty and red tape. There are people who have meaningful choices, and those who do not.

The last section is called Metanoia—the transformative change of heart through repentance or spiritual conversion. At the end of the first two acts, after walking the labyrinths, Miranda must decide whether to return to the world. She has been transformed, but what precisely that transformation means is up to her.

Unraveling defies category; it’s a winsome and engaging mix of mystery and fantasy, horror and folklore. The narrative can be challenging: it is like a procedural, but for its emphasis on the metaphysical. It follows a three-act structure, but for its bending, non-linear sense of time. It is a story of supernatural powers, but for the intense humanity at its center. What a lovely, twisty story it is.

Unraveling is available now.
Was this review helpful?
I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Do you love books that blend fantasy and the mundane? Are you a fan of African mythology? Or murder mysteries? How about a book that blends all of the above? Karen Lord's new novel has all these aspects and more. Unraveling by Karen Lord is creative blend of the fantastical and the mundane, with time travel and/or dream walking thrown in.

There is a mix of mythology and higher powers and yet it feels very grounded. I must admit I started the book in a slightly confused state. But I was so drawn into the writing and the possibility that I kept reading, much like Miranda keeps walking her labyrinths. Dr. Miranda Ecouvo is a brilliant woman. But perhaps even more impressive is her ability to persevere and keep moving forward even with devastating emotional trauma. Her strength is something to admire. I think even the immortals are impressed with her fortitude.

The route to uncover a murdered forces Miranda to travel a path through memory and dreams and ultimately choose her destiny after discovering where it leads. This book does requires some dedication and effort. As ti wanders through time and viewpoints, it can be tough to unravel. But it is worth it. This is one of those books that stayed with me after I finished reading it. And I was left wanting more from Chance and Miranda as their paths continue to wind and unwind over time. 

If you love the weird and quirky, if you enjoy seeing the Trickster about, do yourself a favor and pick up this new novel from Karen Lord. It's available everywhere from DAW Books on June 4, 2019.
Was this review helpful?
Aw dang, I wasn't able to finish this before the archive date. I really enjoyed the part I read, though! Great writing style.
Was this review helpful?
Unraveling is described as a standalone novel by Karen Lord. It's a novel where mystery and Caribbean lore meet in the middle. The end result is whimsical, dark, and thoroughly enchanting. The novel follows two immortals (Chance and Trickster) along with one forensic therapist and they attempt to unravel the truth behind a series of murders.
	I should clarify why I said that this is described as a standalone novel – instead of just saying that it is a standalone novel. You see, it can be read on it's own (I managed), but it uses characters and references from Redemption in Indigo – a novel written and published over ten years ago by Karen Lord. I enjoyed this novel quite a lot without having read the previous novel, though there were times where I found myself regretting my reading order. So I just want to mention it here.

	Warnings: This novel follows immortals and a serial killer that, well, he's driven to commit these murders for a reason. There are graphic murders and dismemberment, and not all of the victims are adults. So bear this in mind before diving in. 
	Unraveling is unlike any other novel that I have read. Though there were many elements that I found familiar and fascinating. The blend of so many different elements made it stand out, and I know it's one that I will remember for some time to come.
	For me, Unraveling felt like a cross between Caribbean lore and Good Omens. There were immortals – neither exactly good nor bad – directly interacting and meddling with humankind. The quirks of both novels shined through, making them humorous and somewhat absurd. Though I would argue that on the whole, Unraveling had a more somber and serious tone to it.
	The character writing and development for this novel was astonishing. The immortals, Chance, and Trickster were interesting, and I found myself trying to puzzle out as much about them as I could, while still thinking about the mystery at hand. And then there's Miranda. She's the human forensic therapist that found herself in the center of this mystery. 
	Her story and the delving into her mind were some of my favorite parts of this novel. Including her allowed for a stark contrast to be made – for the two immortals and how they behaved. It was a nice touch, and it gave us reasons to be afraid, curious, and concerned.
	The written in this novel was brilliant – delicate and flowing, yet powerful. It handled heavy subjects without the slightest hint of hesitation. And yet even when blending so many different things together, it all still felt organic and natural. If I could have, I would have dived head first into the words on these pages.
	I'll confess that I had never written anything by Karen Lord before. The cover art was what drew me in to begin with, and the description sold me. I still wish that I had read Redemption in Indigo first, despite the declaration that this is a standalone novel. But that really is my biggest complaint, which isn't really all that much of one.
Was this review helpful?
At times this book made me dizzy. I spent a large portion of the book trying to figure out exactly what was happening. I felt like I stepped in the middle of a story. That I wandered into the labyrinth and suddenly had to figure out a complex puzzle without being given all the pieces to do so.

This is a complex plot where Miranda has to help solve a crime that’s already been committed by delving inside the minds of people involved in the case. The goal is to stop the murderer on their path from becoming immortal while getting close enough to discover the real identity of the killer as well. 

I think.

I feel like part of the plot of this book is the reader trying to unravel it themselves as well. The timeline moves quickly and doesn’t follow a linear path. It loops back around to itself. I found myself both understanding and not understanding what was happening all at the same time. The book is more about the winding story as it moves around in time than it is about any of the characters.

Part of me wonders if I’d understand and comprehend more of the story if I read the book again. It was complex and interesting if at times challenging. The writing is strong and the pace is fast. If you enjoy a weird murder mystery that throws you right into it with time jumps, then this might be your book.
Was this review helpful?
It’s a diverting little mystery, with just one drawback: what happens if Lord realizes she can write mundane mysteries and so reach audiences much larger than speculative fiction could offer? Best if nobody mentions that possibility out loud or in print.
Was this review helpful?
I'm rating this just 4 stars for now, although a re-read might boost that to 5. I was confused through most of it, but that shouldn't be interpreted as anything more than my comprehension skills. I *think I know the answer to the riddle, but could be mistaken. A mesmerizing book, and recommended.
Was this review helpful?
Chance is a fickle thing as Mythical beings reshape the past, present, and future while we search for why a serial killer picked his victims. Mythology and philosophy also play a role trying to tease out answers to some of life's biggest questions. This is not a book to rush through and takes careful reading to absorb all that is going on. And there is a lot to ponder. This would make for a good book discussion.
Was this review helpful?
I loved this short but labyrinthine novel—part contemporary myth, part ancient story, part murder mystery. Dr. Miranda Ecouvo is the key to an otherworldly mystery and with the enigmatic and powerful twins Chance and Trickster she’ll help track down someone who thinks murder can when them immortality.
Was this review helpful?