Title: The Unbroken
Author: C. L. Clark
Series: Magic of the Lost #1
Release Date: 25/1/2021
E.S.C.A.P.E Score: 52
(see below for breakdown)
I received a free eARC copy from ,via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.
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.
This is an epic military fantasy that explores colonialism in a impactful way. It is covered in every story arc of the book. While based in a fantasy world with its own magics and histories, it is clear that it is based around the French Empire within Africa. Taurine our forcibly conscripted soldier must overthrow the imperial thinking that was imposed on her as a child and readdress who how she identifies herself, the people she was forced to leave behind and those that she served with, changing her own actions, thoughts and feelings. The lost magic system addresses the cultural suppression and destabilisation imposed by colonization, the various magics being tied to the religious and cultural practices oppressed by the empire. Are just two of multiple examples of how this book explore these themes.
This book is jam packed with strong, beautiful women of all shapes, sizes, with disability rep, chronic pain rep, gay, bi, pan and non-binary rep. The characters are flawed and some are unlikeable and they are allowed to be. They are allowed to make mistakes and learn from them, make mistakes and pay for them, be unashamedly human. This is mostly down to the writing, particularly the dialogue. The conversations feel natural. There is no instant love or hate, every relationship we encounter has layers and emotions attached to it. There is hurt and pain, suffering and anger but also love, compassion and understanding woven into every plotline and subplot that just makes this complex and beautiful.
The pace is slower that most, even within the action scenes, but for me it was far from boring. It allowed the reader to see the political machinations, watch the moves across the board, it had great build up into when things went right or went horribly wrong. For me it pulled you into the characters and there thoughts and feelings more. I found I had great empathy for both the main characters are they wrestled with the world around them, there own decisions, addressing their own faults and learning from what they experienced. It is an extremely character driven story.
My only gripe is the romance, while it is angst filled and plays out beautifully on the page it is a problematic relationship to say the least and that is not addressed sufficiently. It is between a coloniser and their subjugate. There is a complete imbalance of power and even when written beautifully it is still disappointing that that imbalance is not addressed. there are healthy and loving relationships within the side characters stories but no mirror is held up to the main relationship.
Overall I really enjoyed this book. I think it is really deserving of praise. The worldbuilding is fantastic, the characters nuanced and an impactful plot filled with twisting and turning political machinations.