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.
I see a lot of people are going to fall in love with this harsh, queernorm, absolutely wonderfully built world.
I just, it can be hard to get into. It could drag at times. There is so much tragedy and unfairness and sadness… and I have plenty of that in the real world. I wanted escapism, but I got grounded real quick. But that is on me–this book explores colonialism in multiple facets, giving us a very deep and detailed view of the unfairness of the world, the damage colonialism has through the generations, and how hard it is to break the chains that bind. Set in a rich setting, with multiple queer characters (in fact, sexuality and identity is a non issue and very fluid I would say with the entire cast), there is a lot to love.
As I read it I thought The Unbroken reminded me of The Winner’s Curse, only for adults. It has some romance, but not a lot. The romance is full of tension, and it is uncomfortable to read at times because of the power difference between the characters (it feels intentional though, it fits well within the narrative). The Unbroken tackled colonialism and what it does to everybody involved, internalized racism as well as just racism in general, cultural appropriation, the melding of two cultures, religion and the lack of… I really think it does so in a wonderful way. Just be in the correct state of mind before you throw yourself head deep.
I did find some of the side character’s behavior (mainly Pruett’s) to be questionable and off putting (overall I hated Pruett’s character–she was not a very good friend). I felt the MC had a lot of responsibilities on her shoulders, and nobody really got her struggles. Not her friends, not the person she is supposedly falling for her. Touraine makes a ton of mistakes throughout the novel, ones she is able to come back from, others not so much… Her relationship with her mother is also one full of struggles and heartache. Her relationship with Luca is very slow burning, and I felt like we needed a few more scenes with them giving into their emotions in order for us to really be shipping them. Then again, this is just the first book in the series so there is room to grow.
Touraine has to fall again and again in order to learn–she was taken by her colonizers from a young age, and indoctrinated into their way of life. She struggles with coming to terms that maybe her way of looking at the world is just flawed and puts her people down. It makes me ache for her, as she feels like she doesn’t really belong in either group.
On the other hand sympathizing with Luca is hard, even though inherently she is not a bad character–she is the future queen of the country that colonized Touraine’s home land. Luca both wants to have her cake and eat it too–she wants to rule this foreign land, while at the same time have them thank her for it. She does work towards helping the citizens by addressing worker’s laws, compensation, and overall trying to give them better circumstances, but she also wants to take that last part of them they hold close to their hearts and identities, their magic. Luca’s home land is often hit with plagues and she thinks the only way to help her people is to learn magic. Luca is complicated–she is also a character that deals with chronic pain, as when she was a young girl she suffered a very bad fall and her legs were compromised. She can still walk, but always with a cane. C. L. Clark does a fantastic job of building the character in a realistic way, not once using rose tinted glasses while portraying the greed that drives the conquerors, even if Luca’s intentions at the base are mostly to protect her people.
The Unbroken is complicated, and harsh. You need to be in the right state of mind to dive deep into it, but at the end of the day it is a rewarding experience. I am looking forward to the sequel.
PS; I was provided a review copy in exchange for an honest review. Thanks go to the publisher!