Hi everyone! Welcome to my tour stop for The Unbroken by C.L. Clark, which is hosted by the amazing Caffeine Book Tours! Be sure to check out the our tour stops today as well as the rest of the tour here!
Author: C.L. Clark
Publication Date: 23 March 2021
Genre: Adult Fiction – Fantasy
Length: 464 pages
Publisher: Orbit Books
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.
When I tell y’all that I was NOT ready for C.L. Clark to go this hard. I’m typically a fast reader and will a 500 page book in a day or two. This book took me almost a week to get through because it was so utterly visceral and gut punching. So much of the dialogue made me pause and just stare at the wall. I was not expecting this story to be so painful, but it was worth every single page.
C.L. Clark’s debut novel is a North African inspired fantasy novel that is chock full of political intrigue. Clark unapologetically examines the consequences of colonialism, which ranges from land occupation to the erasure of language and culture. This is something that I haven’t done to this level of detail in fantasy, and I absolutely loved it (even though my heart was definitely stomped on several times).
So let’s get into our POVs.
The story alternates between two POVs. Touraine is the Lieutenant who commands her platoon of fellow “Sands” soldiers that are there to carry out the orders of behalf of Balladairan Empire. Mind you, Touraine was stolen as a child and was raised to serve said empire without a chose. Princess Luca is the heir to the Balladairan Empire, but she’s currently embroiled in a battle with her uncle to win back her rightful place on the throne. These two women are POLAR opposites, but it works so well in the story because it allows the reader to experience the colonialism from two vastly different lenses.
As far as our mains go, I LOVED Touraine. So much of her experiences and pain (especially when acknowledging internalized racism) were so relatable for me as a Black woman. While I came to appreciate Luca, so much of what came out of her mouth made me want to throw the book at her. I just…Luca’s character reminds me so much of the white people that “mean well” but still manage to insult you with their ignorance nonetheless.
This book is so queer! This is a queer normative world, and the sexuality of characters are not used as plot points. Touraine is lesbian and Luca is bisexual. This is a slow burn sapphic romance, and when I saw slow burn, I mean literal snail pace. While the jury (aka me) is still out on this ship, I definitely appreciated the normalized queerness of this book.
When it comes to side characters, and there’s quite a few, I was amazed at how fleshed out and complex they all were. Every single one of them contributes to the story is a meaningful manner, and at no point did I think that any of the side characters were fillers.
In terms of pacing, there were moments in the middle where the action of the plot slows down a bit, but that’s really when Clark digs into the visceral annihilation of her dialogue. I don’t want to give anything away but know that these conversations are painful to say the least.
Overall, The Unbroken is an incredible, must read for those who are looking for fantasy that really pushes boundaries and doesn’t take into consideration your feelings while doing it.
Thank you to Orbit Books for providing a copy for review. This did not influence my review. All opinions are my own.
Grab your copy of The Unbroken here!
Cherae has been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages or reading about war and post-colonial history. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. The Unbroken is her debut novel.