ARC REVIEW: UNWRITTEN BY ALICIA J. NOVO

Title: UNWRITTEN
Series: THE ZWEESHEN CHRONICLES #1
Author: ALICIA J. NOVO
Publication Date: MAY 8, 2021
Rating: 4/5

synopsis

Books whisper to Beatrix Alba. But they aren’t the reason she has never fit in. Bullied at home and school, she keeps a secret—a power of violence and darkness.

When the spell that keeps her hidden fails, she’s catapulted into the Zweeshen, a realm where all tales live, and her dream of meeting her favorite characters comes true. But wishes are tricky, and behind its wonder and whimsy, the Zweeshen is under attack. A character is burning bookworlds in pursuit of a weapon to rule both stories and storytellers. To succeed, he needs a riddle in Beatrix’s possession.

Now he’s hunting her down.

Joining forces with William, a cursed conjurer, Beatrix must face an enemy who knows her every weakness in a realm where witches play with time, Egyptian gods roam, and Regency heroines lead covert operations. And with her darkness as the only weapon, she may have to sacrifice everything to save a world that rejects her.

This book basically shows a dream of every bookworms. Imagine being able to get into a book world and become a character in the said world. Imagine being able to travel to many book worlds, and being able to communicate and meet with other book characters from many book worlds. Imagine being able to meet your favorite characters from your favorite books. Just imagine it all, what a great life that is.

I liked how this book shows the good and bad things of being a character living in a book world. This book is the journey of Beatrix Alba, and from her point of view I get to see what it was like being a book character living in a book world. At first I was really enjoying it but then I was angry on Beatrix’s behalf because it was unfair how she was treated there, and then there was an accusation about her that was already proven false and yet the council of the book world she’s in didn’t want to believe it.

This book shows the good side of the book worlds that exist in the story and also the bad side of it. I’m not fond of the bad side, I hated it. Even in book worlds, nothing is perfect. There are many great lessons that I and many readers can learn from this book regarding fictional worlds and fictional characters. We as readers always see fictional worlds and fictional characters as perfect. But truthfully, both have flaws and both can be kind and evil. This book explains everything clearly and I liked how the author approached this subject.

As for the world-building, I find it really exquisite and it does looks like it actually exist in our world. The author did great in describing and explaining how the world of this book looks like. The story takes place mainly in Zweeshen which is one of the book worlds that exist in this story and is probably the biggest book world. This world is like sci-fi meets urban fantasy with a little bit of victorian era. I wasn’t sure about liking the bits of sci-fi elements that appeared in the story since I’m not a fan of sci-fi at all. Maybe when the sequel comes out I would get used to it.

The author also made a clear explanation regarding the magic system in Zweeshen and how it differs from the magic system in the other book worlds. In Zweeshen, there’s a council that giving out rules about what the characters should and shouldn’t do while living or staying there. I get the council wants what’s best for everyone hence why they are so strict but I also find them to be untrustworthy, and how they treated Beatrix was so unfair. She’s innocent in all of this and literally had no idea what she is and how the world of books works, and yet they already condemned her to death without wanting to hear her explanation first. It wasn’t her fault for trying to defend herself while she was being attacked for being a unique newcomer.

The council of Zweeshen has full control of the entirety of book worlds. That can makes them dangerous too. What I find really interesting about it is that, how the characters from the book world of Zweeshen behaved. They behaved exactly like how the author—who  writes the books they came from—written them, and they also behaved exactly like their age and the genre they came from. For example: Emma behaved exactly like a 12-year-old would when it comes to going on a quest. She was so giddy and always excited. After all, she is a character from a middle-grade genre. Another example is William and Beatrix. Both of them are in their late teens and since they are both from a young adult-fantasy genre, it make sense for them to have magical abilities and powers, and why they are both in their late teens.

There are also characters who doesn’t have magic or any sort of powers like the characters from a historical fiction genre or the thriller genre. Not everyone in Zweeshen possessed a magical abilities or born with powers, it all depends on which genre they came from. The easiest way to identify which genre and sub-genre the characters are from is by looking at their wristband. Each of them wear a wristband that showed which genre they belonged to including the sub-genre. Like William, his wristband proved that he is from the fantasy genre but the sub-genre he specifically came from is high fantasy which makes him one of the most powerful characters to exist.

I liked that the author made it like this, so that it was easy to understand how the world of Zweeshen works. Another thing I want to include is the Eisid Naraid which is another book world that exist in this story but it was sealed by the Zweeshen council due to how dangerous the characters from there are. It was also a forbidden land and the characters that appeared in this story always talked about how no one should go there and if there is anybody who dared to go there, they never came back. That alone made me curious about this forbidden land.

I imagined it to be a scary world with a gothic setting, well how wrong I was. It wasn’t like anything I thought it would be. Nothing scary about how it looks except for the people who hunted Beatrix because of her mother’s mistake. It was basically a medieval land, that’s just how I pictured it by the way. I hope the sequel will takes place in the Eisid Naraid for the some of it since this book mainly took place in the Zweeshen already.

When it comes to a story like this, of course a villain would exist to prevent the protagonist of the story from reaching victory. The villain of this book is what made the story even more mind-blowing than it already is. I didn’t expect who the villain was, from the beginning it has been said that the Charmancer is the villain but no one knows his true identity, as in his name. Charmancer is what the people in Zweeshen called him, it was simply a title. I’m not going spoil the name of the Charmancer, let’s just say he was a two-face guy that no one suspect have a hidden agenda. I asked myself this, “why is it always the one who is kind that is actually the big bad?”

He was so kind when he was first introduced in the story and when Beatrix first met him. He even helped her a few times but then again that was a typical fictional villain, always be the one to get close to the main protagonist and offering help whenever they can, only for them to betray the protagonist later on. What he did was scary, the fact that he knew how to destroy many book worlds which eventually killed many book characters by using the most simple way made him out to be a dangerous villain, and one who shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not to mention that he also can steal powers from characters with magical abilities and powers. As a reader, I feel threatened by him.

His motivation was strong enough to drive him into doing such things. He had his own reasons why he did what he did. It’s sad how wanting to become the most powerful being can corrupt a person’s mind. Not only the people he befriended felt betrayed by him, I am too. No one suspected him at all, not even me who can see which character has good or kind intentions and which character has bad or evil intentions. The author really written the villain in an intricate way.

As much as I hate villains, I admit that the Charmancer is a great villain. He was so menacing, knew how to blend in with the good characters, managed to hide who he truly was, did something so evil that it left everyone shaken and shocked, he beaten up Beatrix badly enough to the point she died (but she came back to life, after all this is predictable because there’s no way the author would kill the main protagonist in the first book), and he wasn’t even scared when he was defeated. He was defeated rather easily, and the final fight with him and Beatrix was underwhelming. William told Beatrix at one point in the story that the Charmancer isn’t easily defeated because he’s so strong and powerful, and yet in the final fight it was easy to killed him off. Makes me wonder if he’s truly dead, there’s a chance he can easily come back even if he’s dead, after all this is fiction but then again I hope he stays dead.

It’s time for the sequel to focus on a different villain, perhaps the council since the chairman of the council and even the librarian who is a council member are both shady people who wanted to see Beatrix burn. That would be interesting to see if the author choose them to be the next big bad, but I doubt it.

There are a few amazing action sequences that just involved Beatrix using her power. Her magic was unlike anybody’s magic. Hers was unique, dark, and terrifyingly powerful. It reminds me of Jean Grey’s phoenix force (that one character from X-Men). Whenever Beatrix used her magic, it annihilate and burns her attackers. That’s how powerful her power actually is, especially when she let it take control instead of her controlling it. I would love to see more of Beatrix using her power in the sequel.

The storyline and the plot are both great and easy to follow. Both are very consistent from the beginning until the end which made this book more enjoyable to read. Despite how complex the story was written, it was still easy to understand many parts. I admit that I felt a bit lost in the beginning because everything happened so fast and there wasn’t many clear explanations regarding Beatrix’s situation. I had a hard time catching up but I managed later on.

As for the ending, it wasn’t my favorite. I get the risk but I would’ve preferred for Beatrix to stay. Now I’m still puzzled with the epilogue. I get the ‘he’ she mentioned is William, but is he really there visiting her on Earth? What did she meant by the whole cold or ice thing? I need the sequel like right now, I need to know if William and Beatrix reunite or not. I hope they do, my heart can’t take it if they don’t.

Now let’s talk about the characters…

Beatrix Alba is the main protagonist of this story. This is her journey to learn the truth about what she really is and who her mother truly is. She has a lot of things to do, especially finding the answers to the riddles her mother left for her. It was the hardest riddles to solve, took the entire book to get the full answer.

Her character is easy to relate to, and I get why some readers might find her annoying and irritating because of how she acted. Some might even say she was childish. But listen, if I try to put myself in her shoes, I would act like how she did too except for trying to get the dagger that holds the soul of a Goddess (I’m still conflicted about this one).

So back to Beatrix’s situation. Again, try to understand her in a situation which she is very much clueless about everything and is really innocent. Her life on Earth wasn’t as delightful as her life in Zweeshen. On Earth, her father disliked her and she was bullied at school. In Zweeshen, she literally had no idea that she is actually an unwritten character and belongs to the bookworld (this is how it was written in the book). She thought she was just a normal teenager who happens to possessed magic but she was a lot more than that.

Imagine being her, got plucked out of your old life and transported to a new world you had no idea actually exist. And then you found out the truth about yourself, of course you would asked questions to the people who knew more about the new world because you were clueless and didn’t know where to start. So you tried your best by asking more questions to learn and understand more about the new world. You didn’t know the danger that will come to you, only that you have to solve a complicated riddles your mother left for you. So you did your job trying to solve the riddles and even befriended some people who wanted to help you. And then out of nowhere, someone tried to attack you and take your power. After that, you were accused of burning down other bookworlds and killing off characters that lived there, and you were also accused of betraying your new world because of who your mother is and your power, and mainly because you’re the unwritten character—a character who shouldn’t exist because you didn’t belong to any bookworlds and any stories since no authors write your character and your story. Imagine that you’re the innocent soul, the outcast, and the unwanted girl.

Being Beatrix is really tough. I sympathized with her situation. She had a rough life on Earth and thought Zweeshen would be her new and permanent home but even in the bookworld she was rejected. This is why I can’t be mad at her for asking too many questions and for being impatient most of the times. She just wanted to understand the world of Zweeshen and to solve the riddles in hopes of getting to reunite with her mother. She acted like a child even though she’s 18 but that is understandable to me after reading and seeing the situation she was in.

There was a part which I’m still on the fence with, it has something to do with the dagger that holds a powerful power. If she gets the dagger and return it to her mother’s homeland, the Eisid Naraid, the consequences will not be wholly good. The same if she didn’t get the dagger, the chaos will become greater. I’m still conflicted regarding the whole dagger thing and what will come with it. The council warned her but of course in a typical Beatrix way she didn’t listen because she wanted to follow her mother’s instructions from the riddles. I’m not on the council side or on her mother’s side. I haven’t decide which side is good, right now it feels like both sides can’t be trusted. Guess I just have to wait and see for everything to unfold in the sequel.

Aside from all of that, Beatrix also have a little bit of cleverness in her. She might be someone who possessed one of the most powerful magic, and someone who exist without a story and a world, but she is also someone who can figure things out on her own (not all but some) therefore she is clever. There was a few scenes that proved it and I’m not going to spoil what the scenes are. I was impressed by how quick she found the right answers.

Overall, as a character or a person, Beatrix is a very relatable protagonist and it was easier to connect with her. She’s a fast-learner, easy to make friends with other people, approachable, smart, can detect which person is trustworthy and which one is not (except for the Charmancer, she really had no clue who it was until near the end of the book), and most importantly she is a determined person. Once she set her sights on doing something, nobody and nothing can stop her. Her determination to solve the riddles and reunite with her mother and to save the bookworlds are stronger that it eventually boost her already powerful power to become a lot more powerful.

It was shown that what happened to her near the end changed something inside of her, as in she possessed a new power that she has yet to understand. I hope that will be explored more in the sequel and that she will need to have a proper magic training in order for her to be able to control not only her existing power but also her new power. Her new power is still unknown so no one knows whether it’s dangerous or not. I hope it’s the latter. Anyway, I’m excited to see a proper development for her character in the sequel. She has a strong personality but she definitely need an improvement regarding her attitude. As much as I liked her character, I admit that she did have a lot of flaws and to me that opens up a door for a lot of improvements.

William Threshborne is the hero of the story and was tasked to protect Beatrix. He made an oath to guide and help her which he did a very good job at, even though at first he fought so hard to stay away from her for a reason. His character came off as a bit of a jerk, he was rude but later his character improved a lot. He has the best character development in this book.

He was said to be the most powerful conjurer, I’m not even surprised because the male lead of any books are usually a powerful person. Sadly I didn’t see him using his power a lot in this book which was a bit of a disappointment. I can count on a few occasions when he used his power which was like in 2 to 3 scenes only. I get that this book is to showcase Beatrix’s ability and power, so hopefully the sequel will balance it out by not only showing Beatrix’s full potential but also William’s too. I want to see more of him using his power as a conjurer in the next book especially when it was said on a couple of times how powerful he is and since he came from the high fantasy sub-genre then I expect him to be a lot more powerful without overshadowing Beatrix, and maybe he can help train her too.

Overall, his character was amazing despite him being grumpy in like the first 10 chapters. There was still an air of mysteriousness a little bit about him, especially when it comes to his curse. I understand why he was wary to let anyone get close to him because of it but I hope he gets the solution to end his curse. Maybe the sequel will show him on his journey to end it once and for all as a flashback scene. Anyway, aside from all of that he was also charming, intriguing and quite talented. He’s a selfless character who’d rather put himself in danger if that means he can prevent the enemy from attacking the people he cares about. I wonder what will happen to him next and I’m still wondering if he was really there on Earth in the epilogue chapter. I can’t wait to see more of him in the next book.

This book has a large cast of characters. Most of the characters are amazing and likable except for Becca and Evenzaar which is the librarian. It was obvious that Becca is jealous of Beatrix, probably because Beatrix is an unwritten character meaning she has a lot of freedom and doesn’t have an ending since she doesn’t have an author whereas the other characters doesn’t have many freedom because the authors who created their characters are the ones who chose and decided their endings. Becca never specify the reason why she hated Beatrix but I have a suspicion that it was jealousy either because Beatrix is the unwritten or because Paul—who I assumed Becca had a crush on—admired Beatrix. All I know is that Becca is untrustworthy.

As for Evenzaar, this man holds a lot of power and as part of the Zweeshen council member that makes him a lot more intimidating. I have a strong feeling that he is dangerous because of what he can do to Beatrix. He wanted to help her but he also lied to her and is playing the good and bad sides. He’s old, wise, and a lot more experienced which makes it easy for him to move one step ahead of Beatrix and her friends. I can’t trust him, and I wonder what will he do in the next book. Is he going to lean more toward the good side or will he switch to the opposite side? I just have to wait and see.

I want to give a shoutout to the amazing characters who became Beatrix’s friends, are loyal to her and even willing to help her even if what they are doing is unacceptable in the eyes of the council. These are a bunch of great characters who aren’t afraid to break the rules and stand for what’s right. Shoutout to Emma, Jane, Lucy, Cassandra, and Neradola for standing with Beatrix throughout her journey in this book. These awesome ladies really rocking it in the story. I wanted to add Trelius but since he doesn’t appeared much and after the revelation about his character, I don’t feel bad for leaving him out. As for Dyøt, I have a soft spot for his character but it was sad that he didn’t get to appear in many parts. He won’t be forgotten.

There was also a bit of romance going on between William and Beatrix in this book. It was an enemies-to-friends-to-lovers slow-burn kind of romance. They went from arguing with each other and avoiding one another to becoming friends to slowly developing strong romantic feelings for each other. I admit that they argued a lot mainly due to William always feel irritated by Beatrix because she can’t fully control her power and accidentally started a chaos. He avoided her whenever he can but it was nice to see a bit of his soft side when he felt she was attacked by their enemy which is the villain of this book.

I liked how their bond grew stronger the more they spend their time together. It started when they are discussing important matters and finding answers to most of Beatrix’s questions. It was also really nice to see them warming up to one another instead of continuing to yell at each other because of how much they didn’t want to spend time together. William acted as her guide and also protector because of how important she is as an unwritten. He even willing to sacrifice his life for her and I find it sweet. He was selfless and never once did I see him being selfish. He helped her whenever he can meaning whenever he wasn’t busy with other stuff. Even when he was busy, he tried to find time to help her out.

It was obvious that Beatrix would get into a romantic relationship with William. Ever since they first met I can already feel it. Plus, she doesn’t even have other potential love interest beside him. It was always meant to be the two of them since the beginning. She wanted to get close to him just for the sake of getting answers but she didn’t realize that the more time she spend with him, the more she felt something strong. I liked how he encouraged her to go on a dangerous mission to find her mother’s world and never tried to stop her from doing it because he knew what she’s capable of. Also, I liked how he never doubt that she can face whatever challenges will come her way. He was so supportive of her decision and even stood by her side in case things are going awry. I was actually afraid that he might left her to go on a mission with her friends, but I was glad when he said he’ll come with her.

These two had a precious relationship, and I hope to see more of it in the sequel. I wanted to see more development of their romance. It was great to see the one in this book but it wasn’t much since they only started like in the final 10 or 15 chapters. There was a build up to their romance obviously, it wasn’t rush or happening out of nowhere. It was hinted that they would get together. I liked the relationship they have and how it slowly evolved from small to big. They do have an explosive chemistry and strong connection nobody can deny. It make sense for them to be together. The ending wasn’t my liking, especially when they had to separate due to the dangers that are coming to them respectively but I do understand why they had to do that. I hope the epilogue indicates that William actually came to Beatrix. I’m still puzzled by that but let me believe that they are reunited at last.

The book was simply fantastic, and since the world of Zweeshen is a lot bigger than I imagined then I hope the sequel will explore the other book worlds more. It was a very terrific story and it has a very strong adventurous vibe which makes it more interesting and more enjoyable. I’m looking forward to read more about Beatrix, William and their friends’ journey in exploring the world of Zweeshen. I highly recommend this book to all bookworms in the world. This is the book that many readers who loves to read and have a strong love for exploring the world of many stories in a lot of books can easily relate to. This story is basically a dream come true for every bookworms.

3 thoughts on “ARC REVIEW: UNWRITTEN BY ALICIA J. NOVO

  1. itsKoo says:

    This is one of my anticipated reads this year. It’s good to know you enjoyed it! Knowing it’s a bookworm’s dream makes me even more excited to get my hands on it.

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