The Unbroken by C. L. Clark
Published Date: March 23rd 2021
I received an advance copy via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
Synopsis: Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
The Unbroken is an epic fantasy that follows two characters: Touraine, a soldier who was kidnapped as a child from her home country and raised to be loyal to the empire, and Luca, a princess who is trying to secure her throne by proving to be a competent ruler in the colony of her empire. The book seems to be based on France and a French-invaded North-African country, which is incredibly interesting! This book definitely shone to me for its exploration of colonization, not shying away from giving Touraine a difficult relationship with both countries, one which kidnapped but also raised her, and the other where she is from but is entirely foreign to her. I was not sure what to think of Luca most of the time, and her position of the princess of the empire puts her in an interesting position of being an anti-hero or villain, even as she has good intentions and always tries to do the right thing. I love it when authors write characters who could easily be a villain but make you see the story through their eyes, understand them, even if you can’t agree with their actions.
I had a hard time getting into the writing style, though, and that made me consider giving this 3 stars. It’s not particularly bad or anything, but it’s simple and direct and I was constantly wishing it had had a beautiful, descriptive, lush writing instead. I felt disconnected from the characters also partly due to the writing. I had also issues with the pacing: some parts of the book were so incredibly slow, and I don’t particularly mind slow-paced books, but this was not consistently done so the effect was that I got bored around half-way through, which is not idea with a book as long as this one.
Otherwise, I loved the way so many of the characters are queer and how queerness was entirely normal in that society. I love seeing fantasies doing that more often nowadays! No reason why fantasy worlds have to apply real world prejudices. It had also very interesting magic, which is based on faith and gods, and gives us hints that perhaps in the next books we might get more about how that works, and enter the forbidden city – there is so much in this world to explore, I’m curious to see what direction the next book will take.
I thought this was generally a very entertaining book with lots of interesting and relevant conversations, a very unique world building with lots of potential to be explored, and despite its flaws I was very impressed. I think this would be more of a 3.5 stars but I rounded it up to four!