It’s been a while since I’ve written about “The Unwritten” proper, so let’s fix that. After losing his friend/lover Lizzie Hexam in “The War of Words,” Tom Taylor finally gets a lead on where she wound up. Problem is that she’s now in Hades. Now getting there is the easy part for someone who can travel through stories, even when the fictional landscape they inhabit is such a mess that some of Jane Austen’s most notable characters are now whoring themselves out for food. The problem is that in getting there, Tom winds up drinking from the river Lethe and loses his memory and reason for making the journey in the first place. Meanwhile, back in the subjectively real world, Richie the Vampire gets mixed up in a recurring zombie story and Madame Rausch gets a dog in the fight for all of reality.
Told like that, you might think that this volume has a lot going on and provides a enough to keep your attention throughout. That’s only about half true as the main story here -- Tom’s journey to find Lizzie -- feels like it’s simply marking time than anything else. Oh, there’s plenty of well-utilized fanservice in this volume. Lots of familiar faces from the series reappear here in Hades, from “Tommy Taylor” superfans Cosi and Leon, to none other than Pullman himself in a very appropriate guise. Paulie Bruckner gets his largest role to date and shows that he’s a character best taken in small doses. There is at least one nice surprise regarding Mr. Bruckner’s “origin” and the surprising return of a certain character which is bound to lead to some very interesting scenes providing that he and Tom can get some time alone to talk. We also do get some narrative momentum going in the end when we, along with Tom, find out what’s at stake and witness his plan to find out just what makes his story tick.
In case you’ve forgotten, it involves “Fables.” I wish the rest of the book had been as compelling as its final moments, but it does set up the impending crossover quite well.