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by Karen Lord

Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted May 7, 2019

I received an e-book ARC of this title from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review. Unraveling, Karen Lord's fourth novel, will be published in less than a month, June 4, 2019. I have seen it referred to as a stand-alone story, although it could also be considered a sequel to her first book, Redemption in Indigo. At the end of my review for that I mentioned the possibility Paama had been given something physical rather than just spiritual. The beginning of this novel shows that Paama has two sons, who are both human and undying. They are apparently reincarnations of Chance, whom she names Yao, and the Trickster Anansi, whose human name is Ajit. Then again, this may be only peripherally related to the earlier book, since in that one the undying were called djombi, but here they are djiena. Perhaps the same entities, maybe referenced from a different culture.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, even while being confused through most of it. Paama is in only a couple of scenes, in the first of which Chance tells her about the human woman he is trying to help, or rather whom he hopes will help him in unraveling clues to a mystery. Dr. Miranda Ecouvo is a forensic therapist, sort of a cross between a psychiatrist and a legal representative for The City. She tells one of her interviewees that she is the kind of doctor "that separates memory from nightmare." Her strong intuition helps her unravel the truth from sometimes unreliable testimony. She has recently completed (or so she thought) a case against a serial killer, who has been convicted. Chance believes there is more to the story, someone behind the scenes who directed the man to do the killings, which also involved dismemberment. Was the killer, or whomever directed his actions, hoping to create a new being to be animated by an undying, and is another undying the controlling hand of the crimes? I think I know who or what the culprit is, but I may be mistaken. I won't reveal that since if I'm only partially right it would be a spoiler.

Most of my confusion stems from the fact that very few scenes are set in the "real" world. The majority of the action takes place within fabricated spaces, labyrinths created by Chance, the Trickster, or Patience. Another difference between the two books: in Redemption I had thought Patience was another undying, on the same level as Chance, but here she is described as possibly the ultimate creator of all of the spiritual (maybe even physical?) world. I'll concede I may have misinterpreted her stature in the first book, and I'll admit I may have missed many clues as to what's going on here. I should probably reread both books right away, but with so many others to get to that will have to wait. The events within the labyrinths involve both past incidents as well as future possibilities. In the past Chance is trying to observe the murders, with the future being mere probabilities. There are repetitions and time loops for many of the scenarios, with slight variations between them. What Chance can't seem to do is get close enough to the deaths of the serial killer's victims to identify who or what is controlling the situation. That suggests another undying, quite possibly one closely related to Chance.

This is recommended. Don't let any of my uncertainties dissuade you from reading it, or think I'm implying it's not well written and interesting. It only points to the possibility I misinterpreted some things or failed to read between the lines. At this time I'm only rating this 4 stars on Goodreads and Net Galley, but it's closer to 4.5, and I wouldn't doubt a re-read might boost that to 5.


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Karen Lord

June 4, 2019

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