Book Review: The Unbroken by CL Clark

Good morning! Today I’m here sharing my experience reading one of the most anticipated books of the year by so many! I hope you have a nice cup of coffee with you to read. I’m drinking one as I’m typing this. We can virtually have a cup together. ☕

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Title: The Unbroken
Author: CL Clark
Publisher: Orbit
Publication date: March 23, 2021

At a glance: A compelling, North African inspired high fantasy about resisting colonialism told from the perspective of two strong female leads in very different positions.

  • Military fantasy
  • Magic
  • Slow burn

Read this if… you’re looking for strong female leads in a fantasy that isn’t a loosely veiled medieval England.

Diversity Representation: Lesbian, bi rep, BIPOC, disability rep, African inspired setting, BIPOC author

Content Warnings: Violence, colonialism, death, gore, racism, torture, blood, murder, slavery, genocide, gun violence, institutionalization, confinement, hate crime, abuse, rape, police brutality, kidnapping, grief, religious bigotry, body horror, emotional abuse, medical content, ableism, child abuse, suicidal thoughts, animal death, bullying, chronic illness, infidelity, trafficking

Compelling, challenging, political, complex, heart wrenching

The Unbroken is a book about colonization. It’s a political fantasy that explores the small and large effects that colonization has on the very real, and very human people that are involved. It has a bunch of politics and intrigue to keep you interested, and it highlights the complex relationships of lost children.

Brief summary: The Unbroken follows Touraine, a lieutenant who was stolen from her homeland as a child to fight in an army that wasn’t hers. She was raised to serve the empire that stole her, Until she is sent back to her homeland to help suppress a rebellion, and Touraine must confront where her loyalties lie.

I feel like this book was one of the most anticipated of the year for so many people. Rightfully so. The topics are incredible. The complex look into colonialism and how that affects literally everyone involved was unmatched. The way that lost children look for a place of belonging, and not finding it anywhere. The way that it is written for us to really understand just how complex that relationship is was amazing. I found myself questioning with Touraine at every turn, and sympathizing with the confusing identity and loyalty. Absolutely fantastic.

Unfortunately, this book didn’t grip me in the way I was hoping. The worst part is that I couldn’t even tell you exactly why. I thought the relationship that Touraine had with Luca vs Cantic vs the Sands was absolutely wonderful. I thought the topics were so important and I was very interested in learning about them and hearing them be explored. But I just kept spacing out. I only have good things to say about this book, but I was still not drawn in as much as I could have been. I wouldn’t let that count you out at all, though! It is probably just me.

I think that the world is a little heavy to be reading a book with themes so heavily tied into colonialism for me right now. As I’m sure it might be for a lot of other people too. I am left wishing I read it at a different time. I absolutely know that this book will work for others, and perhaps it would have worked better for me reading it at a different time.

The Unbroken tackles colonialism in a way that I have never read in a book before. It explores the small and large effects that it has on all the people involved. It dives into deep relationships and loyalty questions that has us grappling with questions of loyalty along with Touraine.

I usually write fantasy and science fiction. If you like: cities under occupation, anti-colonial magic, colonial linguistics lite, fire, and queer folks, I’ve got stories for you. You can check them out here.

I’m also working on a flintlock fantasy novel that was a finalist in the Speculative Literature Foundation’s Diverse Worlds/Writers contest. A juror called it “a densely plotted thriller with genuine stakes…a great hook…a depiction of colonialism that’s so insidious…. I love the sense of consequences, large and small, and the complexity of the characters.”

Have you read the Unbroken yet? Did your soul ache at the complex relationship of colonialism like mine did? Are you adding it to your TBR? Let me know!

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*I received this book for free and am leaving this review voluntarily*

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