Legends Untold: A Blast of Nostalgia
Growing up, I had a weird obsession with American folk tales. My family had a book that retold the fictions of Pecos Bill, Paul Bunyan, and John Henry, and I read it way too often. So when I picked up Legends Untold, for the first few chapters, I was thrust back into my childhood, revisiting characters previously loved years ago.
As the story continued, that magic held on. E Gubbins succeeds in re-envisioning these fantastical characters in a new way; though at a price I’m not sure was necessary to pay.
The central plot follows Annie Oakley as she searches for her husband, Frank, who’s gone missing in the New York mountains. She quickly encounters “Pecos Bill,” a snake-medicine dealing swindler who spins tall tales. He quickly wraps her up into a tale in her pursuit of her husband, but it turns out this time, he’s got a bit more truth to his words.
The narrative moves along quickly, but I actually think it’s bogged down by the choice to inject multiple point of views and the occasional bout of third person omniscience. Annie Oakley was a fun POV through which to see these larger than life heroes (quite a few make an appearance, but I won’t spoil their names). But by shifting into the minds of other characters, we lost the opportunity to see true character growth and immediacy of experience through Annie’s eyes. While I’m not opposed to multiple POV books, I think this one was a bit too short to work in more than one POV.
The story’s dialogue and twisting world-building, however, makes up for the occasional problems I had with its writing. And as I said; this story runs on nostalgia! Was it my favorite book ever? No. But was it fun? Absolutely.
Onto the scores!
Writing: 6/10. The book lacked a consistent POV (some chapters were third person limited, others were third person omniscient), and certain climactic scenes lacked the emotional gut punch I would have hoped for, rather sticking to cursory explanations.
Character: 6/10. As much as I loved revisiting my favorite tall tales, I felt Legends Untold relied a bit too much on readers recognizing the names of the characters going into the story. Nostalgia is a blessing and a curse.
Setting: 8/10. While the characters themselves lacked force, the author did an incredible job of tying together these tall tales into a intricate web of truths and lies.
Plot: 7/10. The plot was creative and compelling up until the climax, which I felt lacked the tension necessary to make it land on two feet. And the principle antagonist wasn’t a character from a Tall Tale, at least one I recognized, so his primary motivation wasn’t clear to me. Though the creepy world building behind the antagonist was a fun piece of exposition!
Overall: 6.75/10. A blast of nostalgia for those who love tall tales! Though without that background knowledge, I think the book loses its flare. Legends Untold earns just shy of 3.5 stars.