The Unbroken by C.L. Clark, ARC Review

Every Empire Demands Revolution.

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.

My Review

The Unbroken is an undeniable beautiful tale that depicts colonization and its heartbreaking and horrifying impact on people in a real, authentic, and unapologetic way that gets under your skin and never leaves.

That is what I love the most about this book. How unapologetic it is. It speaks the truth and all its ugliness without mincing its words.

It is told in two perspectives, of Touraine and of Luca. It is a wonder how the author told the story using two characters from opposite sides: the colonized, and the colonizer. To be honest, I found Luca hard to like a lot of times. She sees the impact she and her country inflict on Qazāl, yet it’s almost as if she lives in a utopic world, where once she ascends the throne, she’ll be able to make things better by giving them more freedom. As if they didn’t already live in their own land. But the beauty of storytelling comes in, and the author makes Luca not likeable but understandable. Don’t we all think that we’ll do this and that once we gain power? Don’t we think that everything is going to be fine as soon as we get control? We do. However, power and control and Luca’s morality don’t negate the fact that they are in Qazāl illegally. Luca understands that, and that’s what made me not dislike her. She knows that it’s wrong. Yet, she is the heir for the Balladairan throne, and when loyalties are tested, ultimately, everyone chooses their country. Moral, not, but understandable *to a degree* yes.

Touraine has my soul. She is definitely one of my all-time favorite characters. There were times she made me, Now darling why would you do that?, but everyone makes mistakes. We all mess up, sometimes more royally than others. But Touraine gets up. Every single time. No matter how bad things are and how they get, Touraine gets up. She is the ultimate survivor, and my respect for her has no bounds. It’s quite easy to tell her how she should be, how she should act, whose side she should be on. But that’s what everyone has ever done. They stripped her off her will and her identity. They stole her life and her freedom, her country and her language. And once someone takes everything from you, and then they start giving back you snippets, you may feel anger but you also may feel gratitude. A spark of hope. And that can take you far. That can help you survive, and faulting someone for surviving, no no. Touraine feels torn between countries and sides, yet her loyalty for her soldiers never falters. Because they’re like her. I loved her for this. Her loyalty made her mess things up *quite epically* but it’s her people, it’s her family, and at the end of the day, family comes first.

And as if the amazing characters, spectacular world-building, and excellent plot weren’t enough, The Unbroken is also queernormative, with sapphic main romance. Not to give away any spoilers, but there was a scene where a character could choose a wife or a husband, and both options were portrayed as valid and possible, with no judgment or anything. You marry whom you want, no problem. That scene made me sniffle, because I haven’t seen enough queernormative fantasy books that clearly indicate that bi- and pan-sexual people are valid.

This is adult fantasy at its very best.

The Unbroken is undeniable. Compelling. Enthralling. Captivating. It is a work of art, and I wish everyone could read it. The author’s voice is unapologetic and grips your heart in a vice. The quality of storytelling is astounding, and I cannot believe this is a debut. It depicts the raw brutality of colonization and shows authentic, realistic characters whom you either hate, love, or respect.

The Unbroken is needed. And frankly, it’s exceptional. One of the best books I’ve ever read.

A big thank you to Little Brown Book Group UK and Orbit Books for allowing me to read this in advance. It is as amazing as the bloggers of color said it was on Twitter. I already ordered the hardcover, and cannot wait to read the final version and be encompassed by this story once more.

Read the first two chapters here on Orbitbooks!

Add it to your TBR on GoodReads

Amazon | Amazon UK |Indiebound | Bookshop | Bookshop UK | B&N | Google Play | Apple Books | Kobo

Praise for The Unbroken

“Clark’s precise, thorough worldbuilding allows this remarkable novel to dive deep into the intricate workings of colonialism, exposing how power structures are maintained through social conditioning and exploring the emotional toll of political conflict. The result is a captivating story that works both as high fantasy and skillful cultural commentary.” PUBLISHER’S WEEKLY Starred Review

“A perfect military fantasy: brutal, complex, human, and impossible to put down.” —Tasha Suri, author of EMPIRE OF SAND

“Get ready to fall in love with Touraine and Luca in one of the best fantasy debuts I have ever read!” —Matt Wallace, Hugo-award winning author of SAVAGE LEGION

“A compelling and persuasive reimagining of both heroism and heroics.” —Evan Winter, author of RAGE OF DRAGONS and FIRES OF VENGEANCE

“C. L. Clark’s epic fantasy debut reveals all the ugly, painful, deeply personal complexities of revolution against empire, captured in shimmering pointillist detail. I’m in awe!” —Shelley Parker-Chan, author of SHE WHO BECAME THE SUN

“An unflinching story of colonialism and revolution and the people caught between. The Unbroken grabs you by the collar, breaks your heart over its knee, and mends it. An astonishing debut.” —Andrea Stewart, author of THE BONE SHARD DAUGHTER

“High adventure on a human scale—don’t miss it.” —Alix E. Harrow, Hugo award-winning author of THE ONCE AND FUTURE WITCHES

“A bold and exciting work that helps steer the evolution of the genre into the next decade.” —Marshall Ryan Maresca, author of THE MARADAINE SAGA

“A riveting epic fantasy about a city on the knife’s edge of rebellion.” —K. A. Doore, author of THE CHRONICLES OF GHADID

“The Unbroken is something special. I’m going to need book two ASAP.” —David Dalglish, author of SOULKEEPER

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