**Disclaimer: I was given a free e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.**
Title The Unnamed Bears Favor
Author J. Lyon Layden
Description from Amazon
Mythical China, 9000 B.C.E. Summoned by the village priestess, a nameless outcast must undergo initiation into the Rik-Sika, a band of hunter-assassins. To earn his place, he must travel with them to the ruins of his people’s stronghold, which sits on a plateau near the roof of the world. On the perilous journey, he encounters restless ghosts, monstrous devil-bears, and the dreaded ogres who rule the mountains. Faced with unimaginable odds, the unnamed boy discovers his true name and with it, a powerful secret buried by his ancestors long ago.
Armed with a dark and powerful knowledge but burdened by its weight, the boy must choose between his own life and the fate of the tribe.
I have been reading a lot of books set in Asia recently so “Mythical China” seemed super on theme for me. I was also intrigued by the fact that this book is classified as a “novelette”. I do like a good short story.
Since I have an e-book of this, the cover is not super relevant to my review, but I wanted to touch on it a bit. I don’t love the artwork. I’m not 100% sure what it is. It might be some kind of animal skeleton with antlers but it’s too ambiguous for my taste.
Some Things I Liked
I liked the tribes and the inter-tribe politics described in this book. There were numerous detailed traditions that were both interesting and significant to the story.
I also thought the length of the story was perfect. Not too short where there were not enough details but not to long that it felt dragged out.
Something I Wasn’t Crazy About
Relationships – I get the idea that our nameless main character constantly struggles with isolation and loneliness, but he did seem to have some relationships with the other characters. I wanted to see more of his interactions with them, especially Esrin.
China – I know that it’s 9000 BCE but why bother to mention specifically China in the dust jacket? Personally, I didn’t feel like anything in particular felt like China. The story would have been the same if that detail had been left out. I actually think I would have enjoyed it more if the world was entirely fictional.
This story was different from anything else I have read. It had an interesting premise and was very to the point. I didn’t dislike it, but I also didn’t love it. However, that being said, I could easily see myself loving more stories about these characters in this setting. I think there is a lot of potential here.
Recommendations for Further Reading
- Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean – this story also takes place in an Asian-inspired setting with mythological creatures and traditions. There are similar feelings of leadership, justice, and a lack of romance that made me think of this book after reading The Unnamed Bears Favor.
- The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson – this is another story of a main character who feels like an invisible outcast and struggles to find their place in the world. Both are stories of survival and leadership.