The Unnamed Bears Favor by J. Lyon Layden


**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.

Initial Thoughts

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.

Cover Art

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.

Final Thoughts

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.


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