Book Review: Unthinkable by Nancy Werlin
Unthinkable takes place in the same world as Nancy Werlin’s previous novels Impossible and Extraordinary. Given how much I loved those two books, I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised to have enjoyed Unthinkable as much as I did.
In Impossible, we meet Lucy, the latest in a long line of women in the Scarborough family, doomed by a faerie curse that’s been passed down over the generations for four hundred years. The Scarborough curse binds each daughter of the family to a cruel faerie lord, Padraig, and each generation repeats the cycle of bearing a daughter, abandoning the daughter in the human world as she is condemned to Faerie, and then witnessing the enslavement of that daughter 18 years later. The curse can be broken only by the completion of three impossible tasks. Is Lucy the one who finally stands a chance at ending her family’s curse?
In Unthinkable, the focus of the story shifts to Fenella, the first of the Scarborough women to be ensnared by the faerie curse. We learn of the curse’s origins, and how the Scarborough women first fell under Padraig’s power. Now, Fenella has yet another challenge in front of her, and in order to succeed and finally eliminate Padraig’s influence for good, she may have to destroy what she values most: her own family.
Fenella is a strong but vulnerable main character. Having lived in Faerie for 400 years, she is human but sensitive to magic, and fated to live in limbo, neither fully a part of the human world nor able to die a normal, mortal death. As Fenella finds her way back to her family, she has to decide what she is willing to do in order to accomplish her goals, and just how much of a sacrifice she’s willing to make. She’s a fascinating character: The author doesn’t portray her as perfect, and we see her struggles with fear, selfishness and doubt battling with her growing urge to protect her family and shield them from pain. The more she experiences life among her human family, the more she realizes that the bargain that she’s made may have been her biggest mistake yet.
Meanwhile, Fenella’s story intersects with Lucy and the other characters we met in Impossible. I’m trying to avoid spoilers for all three books, so I won’t say much about the how or why of Fenella’s involvement with Lucy and her family. Suffice it to say, Fenella has choices to make, and her choices may impact Lucy and the rest of her family — forever.
Short version of a review? I loved Impossible and Extraordinary (which is only obliquely related, but does influence parts of this story), and I definitely was not disappointed by Unthinkable. The plot is emotionally involving and fast-moving, and I was kept guessing throughout as Fenella faces a series of obstacles and tasks to complete. Overall, I’d say Unthinkable is a terrific addition to this loosely-connected series, as well as just a really great young adult book that’s sure to appeal to readers who like a bit of magic and other-worldliness in their family dramas and love stories.
Do you need to read Impossible and Extraordinary before reading Unthinkable? This is one of those rare occasions where I think you could jump right into the most recent book and still have it make sense… but why would you want to? Impossible always makes my lists of most recommended YA fiction, and I’m happy to say that Extraordinary and Unthinkable belong on that list too. For a haunting, compelling, and magical read, don’t miss any of these three books by Nancy Werlin.
Author: Nancy Werlin
Publication date: 2013
Genre: Young adult