Review |The Mark of Things Unwanted – Alex Clifford

About the Book

Cinn will never die. 

It should have made him powerful. 

It didn’t. 

On the run, being hunted by a cruel princess trying to discover the secrets of his immortality, and chased by wild beasts who want to feast on him for eternity, Cinn would do anything to be safe. Including allying himself with a band of dangerous witches.

Touched by a death that lingers on his skin, a danger to the people he loves and abandoned by his community, Eaon is slowly losing himself to the dark power within. 

In the depths of a whispering forest, a family is forged and, together, they will change the world.

Published January 5, 2021
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The Mark of Things Unwanted is the debut book by author Alex Clifford, and wow, is it one hell of a debut. I finished this book a while ago, but I felt like I needed to let it simmer a bit before I wrote a review of it. You see, there’s a lot going on here, and Clifford both weaves a fantastic tale with all of these events, and knows just how to keep readers engaged. 

The Mark of Things Unwanted took a little bit of time to really gel for me, but I will say I’m an epic fantasy reader, and taking time for books to really gel for me is something I’m pretty accustomed to. The start of the book is where the author is building their world, and setting their story up. For readers who aren’t really used to this time needed, it might feel like the book is starting slow, but I honestly do feel like, with the complexities in this story, the author genuinely needed this time to set her players on the board, and establish the parameters of the world in which they live. 

As a result, I felt the world was extremely well built, and very vivid, and the story had some strong legs to stand on as events really got rolling. The world here is sort of European-esque, with royalty and princesses and the like, but there is enough thrown in that is distinctly Clifford’s to keep any of it from feeling stale. There are witches and immortals as well, which was interesting. Steeped in magic and danger, I found the world to be both exceptionally balanced, but also crafted in such a believable way, it really made the book come alive. 

There are a lot of characters, places, and names, and in that beginning bit of the book, you might feel a bit overwhelmed by it all. There’s a map which helped a lot, and once the story reached that point where everything sort of clicked, the names and characters fell into place easily enough. My one regret with this novel is I felt like, perhaps, there was so much going on at the start, some of the events that mattered may not have been given the time and space they needed to breathe, and really solidify in my mind. 

The characters were interesting as well. The book starts with the escape of Cinn, who is a kinner, or an immortal being hunted for his immortality. On the other hand, we have the witches Eoan and Eavha, recently excommunicated from their home land, having to learn to navigate the complexities of the outside world. Then we have Aisling, a princess of a city to the south, and her second, Nora. There are numerous side characters and while there are three different major plotlines, it’s interesting to see how they all slowly entwine and impact each other as the book progresses. Nothing happens in a vacuum, and unexpected events and peoples impact the larger whole in surprising ways. 

Perhaps my one regret with the characters is, I would have enjoyed more background to understand them better. 

I loved the representation in this book, not just of LGBTQAI+ characters, but of disabilities as well, which is near and dear to my heart. The representation was done really well, and was part of the characters but did not define who they were. Furthermore, I loved how this book explored numerous kinds of relationships, from friendship, to family, kinship, and romantic. Without pigeonholing anyone, the characters all stayed unique and complex, lifelike. 

The writing was beautiful, very polished and descriptive, which I love. There was so much happening, I did feel as though the plot got a little frenzied at times, but other than that, the prose were great at bringing the world, characters, and plot to life in my mind as I read, and made this book a joy to read not just to enjoy the prose, but for the story itself. The ending was a perfect setup for the next book in the series. 

All in all, The Mark of Things Unwanted was a great start to a unique new series. Powerful storytelling, diverse characters, and a fantastically built word work together to make this an unforgettable book. 

4/5 stars