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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 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.


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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 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.

30 review for The Unbroken

  1. 4 out of 5

    chai ♡

    me, gazing tenderly at the cover: oh to be held in the gentle embrace of this woman's powerfully ripped arms This is a sapphic North-Africa inspired military-political fantasy in which an imperial princess fights for her throne and a conscript fights for her freedom, and I'm so excited! me, gazing tenderly at the cover: oh to be held in the gentle embrace of this woman's powerfully ripped arms This is a sapphic North-Africa inspired military-political fantasy in which an imperial princess fights for her throne and a conscript fights for her freedom, and I'm so excited!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lisa

    My thanks to Orbit books, C.L. Clark and Netgalley. I hated this story. Actually despised it! Yet, I kept thinking that as bleak as it was, maybe somewhere? Well, that somewhere took me to the 55% mark. Up until then? Hints. Maybe, just a few promises of what may come. I would usually quit a book at 30%. That's my bullshit line. This story took way too long to come into its own. Still, I realize that it's Fantasy. That's the only genre I'll spend this much time getting to know. Just because it's My thanks to Orbit books, C.L. Clark and Netgalley. I hated this story. Actually despised it! Yet, I kept thinking that as bleak as it was, maybe somewhere? Well, that somewhere took me to the 55% mark. Up until then? Hints. Maybe, just a few promises of what may come. I would usually quit a book at 30%. That's my bullshit line. This story took way too long to come into its own. Still, I realize that it's Fantasy. That's the only genre I'll spend this much time getting to know. Just because it's not just one book, but at least 3. However C.L. Clark and his or her editor's should get a move on. Most people aren't going to stick around this long! I'll admit that I spent half of this book tense. I mean, really tense! I didn't like it! But, I still had to keep reading. I was finally happy when things went haywire! It is what I wanted. I do wish that there were a few lighthearted moment's. Humor does tend to loosen up the butt clenching parts. Seriously. Humor should always be a given. Much as I've moaned, I will say that I eventually loved this book. Touraine and the rebels own me. 3 1/2 stars because of the beginning. 4* because of the end! I wouldn't have said this 24 hours ago, but now? I'm ready to read the next book!

  3. 4 out of 5

    may ➹

    a book about colonialism with a big-muscled sapphic is exactly my jam!! // buddy read with cath and fanna! (tag later)

  4. 4 out of 5

    Dave

    Clark's "The Unbroken" is an epic fantasy about loyalty and picking sides. The main character Tourraine is a soldier off to help the Queen-to-be put down a rebellious colony. Like many other "Sands," Tourraine is returning to her birthplace from whence she was stolen as a child and trained to be a so,diet for the Empire. Here, her loyalties are tested as she struggles with whether her loyalty lies with the Empire, her fellow indentured soldiers, or her birth people who she barely remembers. Her Clark's "The Unbroken" is an epic fantasy about loyalty and picking sides. The main character Tourraine is a soldier off to help the Queen-to-be put down a rebellious colony. Like many other "Sands," Tourraine is returning to her birthplace from whence she was stolen as a child and trained to be a so,diet for the Empire. Here, her loyalties are tested as she struggles with whether her loyalty lies with the Empire, her fellow indentured soldiers, or her birth people who she barely remembers. Her loyalties are further tested as she becomes the Princess' assistant, confidant, and lover. In this novel, their tragic romance seems natural as part of the story. Is her loyalty to the rebels, to her former fellow soldiers, or to the Princess? The Empire feels like the French Empire, particularly the names and the manner of address. The colony feels much like North Africa, particularly the desert climate and the Magic practiced by an unknown culture in the hills. But it is no more France he Morroco than Robert Howard's Stygia was Egypt or Aquilonia was medieval England. This is a novel that becomes more intense as it goes on with the stakes becoming higher and higher. And, there is at least a sequel in the works.

  5. 4 out of 5

    anna (½ of readsrainbow)

    this cover said sun's out, guns out!! & if that isn't enough to make u wanna read a sapphic political fantasy centering a soldier and a princess, i don't know what will this cover said sun's out, guns out!! & if that isn't enough to make u wanna read a sapphic political fantasy centering a soldier and a princess, i don't know what will

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ellie (faerieontheshelf)

    2020 has been a year of revelations, one of them being that I'd do pretty much anything for queer women with great biceps 2020 has been a year of revelations, one of them being that I'd do pretty much anything for queer women with great biceps

  7. 5 out of 5

    JulesGP

    I’m going to start by saying that the content of The Unbroken is incredibly rich and in-depth. The first half reads like a non-fictional account of the climate, politics, art, history, etc of Qazāl which is a plus for world building but a heavy weight to carry for pacing. Just when scenes seem to be taking off with dialogue and character interaction, the author breaks in with 3x as many details of, for example, the courtyard they are entering or fabrics that went into the making of their clothin I’m going to start by saying that the content of The Unbroken is incredibly rich and in-depth. The first half reads like a non-fictional account of the climate, politics, art, history, etc of Qazāl which is a plus for world building but a heavy weight to carry for pacing. Just when scenes seem to be taking off with dialogue and character interaction, the author breaks in with 3x as many details of, for example, the courtyard they are entering or fabrics that went into the making of their clothing. In the end, I think most of us read fiction for characters or action and that is lacking in the first half. The second half is better. There are battles, intrigue, magic, the story moves faster from one point to the next. I’m not saying it is lightening quick, just explaining that it picks up. Now here’s the part that frustrated me the most, I did not like the two main characters very much. Balladairan Princess Luca Ancier is young and hopes to take her place at the throne very soon. Her uncle believes that sending her to Qazāl, a nation that they hold under subjugation, will give her the necessary experience to rule or maybe kill her off which would make him the king. She’s an okay character but I wanted so much more, not just the fact that she uses crutches due to her permanent injuries. There’s a person there and I wanted to know her but that’s what happens when we get so much architectural information rather than character defining scenes. Finally, Touraine, who I badly wanted to hero worship because one look at the cover and I was won over. She is a Lieutenant with the slave soldiers who were stolen as children from Qazāl and raised to be fighters for Balladaire. Of course, it’s a bitter homecoming. They’re viewed as traitors by the locals and yet are slaves to the Balladairians. It’s a powder keg that’s due to set off, not only because of the “Sand’s” return but also because revolution is in the air. Back to Touraine. She’s confused, not the brightest, oftentimes weak, and worst of all, cannot make up her mind which causes much turmoil. Not the stuff of heroes but maybe that is the author’s aim. Luca and Touraine have an interesting dynamic together which is still hazy at this stage but I’m looking forward to see how their relationship evolves. Interestingly, I found many of the secondary characters to be much more impactful even though their appearances are brief. Let me end by saying the writing is top notch and the author’s turn of phrase is magical. I intend to keep reading this series because it’s worth it and I still recommend because the author unabashedly went all out to create something special. There are shortcomings but I have no doubt, they will be straightened out and there will be amazing works in the future. Read an Arc courtesy of Netgalley in exchange for a review.

  8. 5 out of 5

    mishi

    This was a thrilling read, full of diverse and queer characters. I love the entire world-building element of The Unbroken. It was vivid and skilfully constructed. The Unbroken explores the concepts of colonialism and racism. The story is told from the POV of two characters that couldn't be more different. Luca, the heir apparent to the throne and Touraine, a conscript soldier. I enjoyed the politics and the unexpected twists and the search for magic. But the romance, which was the whole reason I This was a thrilling read, full of diverse and queer characters. I love the entire world-building element of The Unbroken. It was vivid and skilfully constructed. The Unbroken explores the concepts of colonialism and racism. The story is told from the POV of two characters that couldn't be more different. Luca, the heir apparent to the throne and Touraine, a conscript soldier. I enjoyed the politics and the unexpected twists and the search for magic. But the romance, which was the whole reason I wanted to read the book, felt underdeveloped to me. I would've liked more interaction between Touraine and Luca before they go around yearning and crying for each other. (view spoiler)[I can't believe Luca forgave Touraine so easily. I was really hoping for a big angsty blow up there. Also, something that bugged me was that Luca is protecting and saving Touraine at every turn and Touraine didn't even worry about Luca catching the death plague. (hide spoiler)] Between Touraine's good intentions, dumb decisions and terrible luck she made a very interesting protagonist that I wanted to hug her, punch her or both sometimes. (view spoiler)[First she was loyal to the sands, then after becoming assistant to the princess she betrays the princess and the rebels to save the sands causing a war, then she joins the rebels but is forced to make them surrender to protect the lives of the sands. Plus she was the whole reason they took Aranen. So yeah she is a little flaky and a lot dumb but still is impossible not to like and makes the read very engrossing due to her unpredictable actions. I really loved her near the end when she refused Luca's help and choose to die with her people. The one scene is enough of a reason to read the book. Crack skulls, magic healing and of course ARANEN! (hide spoiler)] Where Touraine is lead by her heart and emotions, Luca follows her head, and is supposedly shrewd and clever. She is driven by the desire to take her rightful throne from her uncle. For the most powerful character of the book, she didn't utilize her power well enough till that end speech of hers.. Luca's character has a lot more potential and I hope it will be utilized in the next installment. The side characters were all well developed and interesting. I especially liked Jaghotai, Djasha and most of all Aranen. The General, I just can't decide if I hate or not. Overall, this was an enjoyable read. The last 100 pages were the best of the book and I would give anything to read Luca's letter. I can't wait to read the next book in the series. ARC copy provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 4 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    read it for the mother-daughter relationship Rep: Black lesbian mc, bi mc with physical disability due to injury, Black side characters, wlw side characters, mlm side character, nonbinary side character CWs: violence, gore, past attempted rape, threats of rape, torture

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tammie

    Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! 4 stars for now, with the potential for a higher rating on reread. I have a lot of thoughts about this book that I think I'll need to reread to be able to fully process, but on first read, I liked this book a lot. I think the way that CL Clark explores the effects of colonization, both at the macro and micro level, is really well done and nuanced, and sparks a lot of discussion. For me, the way that Thank you to Netgalley and Orbit for providing me with an e-ARC in exchange for an honest review! 4 stars for now, with the potential for a higher rating on reread. I have a lot of thoughts about this book that I think I'll need to reread to be able to fully process, but on first read, I liked this book a lot. I think the way that CL Clark explores the effects of colonization, both at the macro and micro level, is really well done and nuanced, and sparks a lot of discussion. For me, the way that Clark explores this central theme and all the themes that stem from this, is definitely the standout element of this book. Clark dives into internalized racism, white privilege, and cultural appropriation, among other themes, and I just felt like it was all woven into the narrative so seamlessly. The character work for both Luca and Touraine is also fantastic. I would definitely have liked to know some our side characters a little more, but the two main characters were very well fleshed out, and most importantly, they felt so real. I love Touraine. I would die for Touraine (and her biceps). She deserves the world and I found her growth throughout this book so satisfying, and I cannot wait to see where Clark decides to take her character. Luca, on the other hand, is one of the most unlikable and frustrating characters I have read in a long time. That being said, she is SO incredibly well-written. I can't really speak to how well her disability was represented (she uses a walking stick due to an injury and experiences chronic pain), but I did feel like Clark did a good job of making Luca way more than just her disability, and she felt like a very nuanced character to me. I think the only thing that really fell a bit short for me was the romance - I definitely felt like their relationship was underdeveloped, and was more there as a way to explore the themes, rather than a relationship that I could genuinely root for. The worldbuilding and politics in this book was top notch. If you are a fan of political fantasies, this is a must-read. I'd also consider it a military fantasy, but definitely heavier on the politics and strategy than actual fighting. The magic in this book is on the lighter side, and definitely very vague - I'm excited to see it get explained a bit more as the series continues, as it leaves off on a very interesting note. One thing that I really personally appreciate about the world that Clark has created is that it is a queer-normative world. I think this is really refreshing to see in a fantasy world, especially one that deals with heavier themes like colonization where characters are already experiencing other forms of oppression. Overall, I highly recommend this book. This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year, and it certainly did not disappoint.

  11. 5 out of 5

    AnnaLuce

    DNF p. 150 I really really really wanted to love this but this just is not 'clicking' with me. I'm sure more patient readers who love military fantasy or tales of political intrigue will be able to appreciate The Unbroken more than I was. The writing was okay but the characters, pacing, and world-building did very little for me. Not only could I not picture Touraine nor Luca but their personalities seemed very one-note. Most of the secondary characters seemed very stereotypical of the genre (Ca DNF p. 150 I really really really wanted to love this but this just is not 'clicking' with me. I'm sure more patient readers who love military fantasy or tales of political intrigue will be able to appreciate The Unbroken more than I was. The writing was okay but the characters, pacing, and world-building did very little for me. Not only could I not picture Touraine nor Luca but their personalities seemed very one-note. Most of the secondary characters seemed very stereotypical of the genre (Cantic with who is as hard and cold as her 'blue eyes', Rogan is the classic villainous bully, Touraine's lover, Pruett, and Tibeau, seemed to exist merely as fodder to Touraine's temperament). While I 100% agree with N.K. Jemisin when she said that creating fantasy worlds is challenging as you are inevitably influenced by "real (if bygone) cultures" I was hoping for a more unique setting. We have the colonialist evil empire Balladaire that is basically France while Briga and Qazal seem to be heavily inspired by Morocco and Algeria. Maybe later in the novel the author expands on this world a bit more but so far the only 'innovative' thing about it is that there seems to be no gender inequality and that same-sex relationships are viewed in the same way as heterosexual ones. These two things are wins in my books given that I am a queer woman and I am tired of reading fantasy novels in which women and LGBTQ+ folx are oppressed. What did not sit well with me was the choice to address female characters in positions of power with male titles (Touraine and Cantic are addressed as 'Sir' while the governor of Qazal City, who is a woman, is addressed as 'Lord Governor'). This might have worked if there were no female titles but they are also used only not when describing those who have authoritative positions. This leads me to speculate that even in this world female equivalents of 'Sir' and 'Lord' are not seen as conveying the same authority as the male ones. But why would that be the case given that in this world where there seems to be no gender inequality? Sure, in our world, 'Master' has connotations of power and control whereas 'Mistress' is used to describe teachers and women who engage in relationships with married individuals. But in the world of The Unbroken men and women are seen as the same (I am not including other genders because up to the point I have read there were no enby characters), why would women in positions of power have to be addressed with male titles? It would have been more interesting if the author could have created titles that could have been applied to all genders. My third issue was the pacing which kind of dragged. There were a few scenes that seem very reminiscent of other fantasy books (such as Luca getting her rapier) or Touraine being recognized by an old man. While the story might in the long run develop the characters more and or provide a more detailed world-building I don't feel compelled to continue. If you are thinking of reading this I recommend you check out some more positive reviews. ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

  12. 4 out of 5

    theresa

    this book has me excited for a number of reasons: - North-Africa inspired - 'it's gay. real gay' (author's twitter) - the author calling it 'Touraine's Arms' (just LOOK at those arms, that cover) - this quote from i09's article (which includes an excerpt of the book): 'The destinies of two women—one, a soldier; the other, a princess—become intertwined...' - politics - assassinations - LISTEN, two women's destinies becoming 'INTERTWINED' in a 'REAL GAY' book is all i could ever want I also talk about boo this book has me excited for a number of reasons: - North-Africa inspired - 'it's gay. real gay' (author's twitter) - the author calling it 'Touraine's Arms' (just LOOK at those arms, that cover) - this quote from i09's article (which includes an excerpt of the book): 'The destinies of two women—one, a soldier; the other, a princess—become intertwined...' - politics - assassinations - LISTEN, two women's destinies becoming 'INTERTWINED' in a 'REAL GAY' book is all i could ever want I also talk about books here: youtube | instagram | twitter

  13. 4 out of 5

    C.L. Clark

    Here's an excerpt of the first two chapters: https://www.orbitbooks.net/orbit-exce... Here's an excerpt of the first two chapters: https://www.orbitbooks.net/orbit-exce...

  14. 4 out of 5

    sol

    this is going to be the best thing that ever happened to me I cAn fEeL iT.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Lea | That_Bookdragon

    Excuse me while I go scream about this book. THE COVER THE DESCRIPTION AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH also, it's gay AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH Excuse me while I go scream about this book. THE COVER THE DESCRIPTION AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH also, it's gay AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH

  16. 4 out of 5

    fang

    3.5 ish stars The unbroken is brutal and painful and has some of the best character arcs I've ever read, I honestly wish I hadn't noticed some flaws because of how amazingly written this book is. At it's heart the book is about colonialism, how it tears apart people, how generational trauma affects people and the hollow feeling that your home has been stolen from you. The premise: Touraine was kidnapped from Qazāl as a child and trained as a soldier for their colonizer, Balladaire and now has to n 3.5 ish stars The unbroken is brutal and painful and has some of the best character arcs I've ever read, I honestly wish I hadn't noticed some flaws because of how amazingly written this book is. At it's heart the book is about colonialism, how it tears apart people, how generational trauma affects people and the hollow feeling that your home has been stolen from you. The premise: Touraine was kidnapped from Qazāl as a child and trained as a soldier for their colonizer, Balladaire and now has to navigate suppressing the revolution that aims to overthrow the colonial powers, deal with growing feelings for the balladairian princess and the ties to the family she was stolen from. some of my favourite things about this book: ● it's gorgeously written, the writing is lovely without any purple prose or pacing issues, so much so that I read it in one session for 4 hours. It feels engaging and the dialogue is just *chef's kiss* ● an actual complex mother-daughter relationship which made me almost tear up ● the women in this book are allowed to be messy and loud and unlikable, never one dimensional or shallow ● touraine's muscles ● this line: “Have they seen you bleed? Have they seen you kill anyone? Does she know your voice when you’re scared? Could she pick your laugh out of a crowd?” ● the characters: touraine's arc is one of the best i've read in a long time, she has to unlearn so much internalized racism ● is there a feeling more wonderful than unexpectedly having a character who uses they/them pronouns in a fantasy? is there?? ● sometimes a family is older married lesbians and their angry best friend who calls herself 'jackal' ● every time djasha and aranen call each other their wife, my life span increases like 10 times ● there are amazing lines. so many she did that moments, we love to see it “We try this my way first. If it doesn’t work, there will be plenty of time to go murdering my innocent subjects at your leisure.” the not so good parts: ● the main relationship: the book's main relationship is a white colonizer/black colonized subject, which almost made me dnf this multiple times. I genuinely would never have picked this up had I been aware of the constituents of the romance. The goodreads description made me think there was going to be a political struggle and maybe Touraine was going to be a spy for Luca, and it would suffice to say I didnt like it. It's not a huge part of the book so I thought maybe I could get past it, but I am personally not a fan. ● a minor complaint, but Touraine mistakenly kills [redacted] who's supposedly very important to her but she never has any feelings about it unless it's convenient for the plot. rep: black lesbian mc, bi/pan disabled mc, black side characters, wlw side characters and relationships, non binary sc, side characters with chronic pain content warnings: torture, implied past attempted rape, death by hanging, abelist slurs, discussions of colonialism, arson, plague, racism, internalized racism(a lot at the beginning), loss of limbs, relationship between a white colonizer and a black colonized subject Thank you to the publisher and netgalley for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This did not affect my opinion in any way. All quotes are from an advanced copy and may differ in final publication

  17. 5 out of 5

    Emmett

    *I received a free ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Is January too early to declare my favorite book of 2021? Because GOD. DAMN. this was good. Like snap my neck and call me Sally, yee-haw! kind of good, if ya feel me. I am relatively certain The Unbroken was tailor-made for me, having everything I like in fantasy and leaving out everything I don’t like. I was immediately roped in by the story and invested in the main characters within just the first tenth of the nov *I received a free ARC of this book by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. Is January too early to declare my favorite book of 2021? Because GOD. DAMN. this was good. Like snap my neck and call me Sally, yee-haw! kind of good, if ya feel me. I am relatively certain The Unbroken was tailor-made for me, having everything I like in fantasy and leaving out everything I don’t like. I was immediately roped in by the story and invested in the main characters within just the first tenth of the novel. I found it to be so well-written, even down to the inventive cursing. It’s rare to read something where it feels like not a sentence is wasted. It's a tightly woven tale told at a galloping pace with so many themes dashed in, you could be forgiven for overlooking a handful. That is not to say that this book is messy or doesn’t know what it wants to be- far from it. This is a flintlock fantasy with mysterious magic, likable characters, and tension/drama galore. Identity takes front and center in this story, both main characters walking a tightrope between classes and cultures, making devastating choices in an attempt to do what they think is right. I could write more, but really I don’t have the words to express how much I loved this book. It is right up there with The Fifth Season and Django Wexler’s The Shadow Campaigns series; it is definitely one of the best fantasy novels I have read. I loved it so much that after finishing it, I actually went to Amazon to buy copies for some of my friends [unfortunately have to wait until the release date to gift it on Kindle!]. I cannot wait for the next book in the series and I am excited to see what else comes from C. L. Clark in the future.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Bob/Sally

    If you're expecting this to be a typical fantasy where the heroine miraculously brings together opposing sides through the love of friends and family, then you're in for a rude awakening. The Unbroken is a brutally honest look at all the ugliness of colonialism, rebellion, racism. It's a story about not even knowing which side you're supposed to be on, much less which side to choose. It's so good, so unexpectedly tragic in every way, that I was left speechless as I turned the final page. C.L. Cla If you're expecting this to be a typical fantasy where the heroine miraculously brings together opposing sides through the love of friends and family, then you're in for a rude awakening. The Unbroken is a brutally honest look at all the ugliness of colonialism, rebellion, racism. It's a story about not even knowing which side you're supposed to be on, much less which side to choose. It's so good, so unexpectedly tragic in every way, that I was left speechless as I turned the final page. C.L. Clark explores the clash of cultures and empires through Touraine, a soldier taken from her home so long ago she no longer recognizes it as home. She's come to identify with the Balladairan captors who erased her culture and trained and educated her to like them even though she'll never be accepted as one of them. She's loyal to the Empire, but her love is for the Sands, her fellow conscripts from the conquered desert colonies. Coming back to Qazāl reopens old wounds for all of them, testing sympathies and highlighting inequalities as they're forced to take up arms against their own people. Fittingly, for a book that's all about women, a book in which nearly all of the leadership roles are filled by women, a book in which women-loving-women is the predominant relationship on display, it's only fitting that the overarching conflict is represented by four women - Touraine, Pruett, General Cantic, and Princess Luca (actually, there's a fifth, but to talk of her would be to wade deep into spoilers). Pruett is a soldier of the Sands and a lover to Touraine, a woman whose own loyalties are cleaner and simpler, and whose love tugs hard at Touraine's loyalties. Cantic is the woman who trained the Sands, a mother figure and a mentor, whose loyalties are muddied at best, and whose influence over Touraine further clouds her loyalties. Princess Luca embodies the Balladairan empire, a woman who has come to Qazāl to end the rebellion and take their magic, a woman who raises Touraine above her station, and whose affections strain not just loyalty but identity. Balladaire was a land of gifts and punishments, honey and whips, devastating mercies. The Unbroken is divided into four parts, and each of them pivots on a twist of love and loyalty for Touraine. I don't know that I've ever read a book with such a conflicted heroine, a story that piles on so many jaw-dropping, stomach-churning twists. It's hard to read at times, and Touraine is often hard to like. She's selfish in many ways, and has something of a savior complex compounded by imposter syndrome. We sympathize with her, we absolutely do, and we feel her pains as if they were our own, but she makes pivotal choices for all sides of the conflict without thinking them through. She's a product of her Balladairan upbringing, tempered by her love for the Sands, and challenged by this newfound sense of home, and Clark captures all the depths of psychological horror and emotional torture that represents. It would be impossible to fix every betrayal on her shoulders. Too many of them were contradictory. Even though this is fantasy, the simmering tension and spark of rebellion in Qazāl is all too familiar. It's about fighting for one's home, pushing back those who would erase your history, your religion, your culture, and your very identity. The faces of the rebellion are a mixed bunch, some more or less likable than others, but we understand their struggle. What makes it all so difficult to digest is that there's no clear sense of evil to the struggle, no one hero or one villain, just a lot of people from different cultures and backgrounds with what they believe to be good intentions. Color, race, and religion are all a part of the conflict, but they're secondary to the fact of a large empire conquering and colonizing its neighbors. While it becomes easier to choose sides as the story moves on, but I dare say it never becomes more comfortable. The Unbroken is brilliant in its brutality. It's a book that makes you think and feel, a story you're almost forced to take part in. While I loved the ending and thought Clark did a fabulous job of bringing closure to so much conflict, the epilogue leaves me torn. It almost feels as if it undermines the struggle and the sacrifice, opening a door to a more typical fantasy resolution, but knowing how many times this twisted and pivoted, I'm anxious to see what's next. https://beauty-in-ruins.blogspot.com/...

  19. 5 out of 5

    Delaney

    Review for The Unbroken by C.L. Clark Thank you so much to Orbit letting me read an early e-copy of this via NetGalley! All opinions are my own. Summary: “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 b Review for The Unbroken by C.L. Clark Thank you so much to Orbit letting me read an early e-copy of this via NetGalley! All opinions are my own. Summary: “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.” My Thoughts Where do I even begin?! Maybe with the stunning cover art by Tommy Arnold? If you haven’t looked at it, please do, and then come back to read the rest of this. And my goodness, the tension. We’ll get it out of the way that I absolutely adored this book. It is a fantasy debut set in a queernorm world, with mostly female POV’s which I always love to see. Both of our lead characters are queer women who are constantly balancing on a knife’s edge trying to figure out how they feel about each other. Touraine is a soldier, who has found a family and a lover in her battalion of Sands. She constantly wants to impress her commander, Cantic, and rise above her station of Lieutenant. However, she is returning home at the beginning of the book, and it’s where her troubles begin. She has to fight internally with her loyalty to her found family and station, or to the ones rebelling against them. ”We pray for rain.” Luca is a princess, who is ultimately thrust into a position of power that she is not entirely prepared for. She is doing her best, but she needs someone to help quell the brewing rebellion. She also comes from a very different upbringing than Touraine, and they are constantly at odds due to the dissimilarities of their viewpoints. ”Take off both your legs and look at all you have left.” She threw her arms wide. Luca just stared at her. “I said look!” Slowly, Luca turned her head marginally, flicker her eyes right, left. Plush carpets and carved wooden tables, upholstered chairs, everything but the servants pretending not to hear the future queen and her pet Qazāli shouting to the rafters. “You will never have nothing. Not like we have nothing. Not like the Sands have nothing, not like Qazāli have nothing.” Eventually Touraine and Luca form a tentative and unsuspected alliance, and the action continues going from there. This is a book primarily focused on political intrigue, controlling a seat of power, appeasing royals and rebels and the army trying to keep everyone safe. This author really enjoys teasing you with hints of an intriguing magic system with tiny seeds interspersed at the perfect times to keep you interested in it, and I get the feeling that we’ll be getting to know a lot more about this magic system and its users in book two. It is also very focused on Touraine as a character. She has so many internal struggles, from feeling an alliance both to her fellow soldiers, as well as to the Qazāli people, who are always seen as lesser than the Balladairan’s. We see her go through a lot of internal character growth, and her viewpoints shift throughout the book, but it never felt wishy-washy to me. Less like she couldn’t choose a side, and more that she was learning to understand who and what is really worth fighting for. ”Touraine had been wrong earlier. You don’t find a life. You have to make one, with the people around you and the causes you put your strength into. She’d built a life with the Sands. They had all made the best they could out of a nightmare. But she’d been putting her strength toward other people’s causes for so long and deluding herself into thinking that she had her own reasons. Now she had a chance to choose her own cause.” Overall (TLDR) I loved this book. The complexity of the political intrigue, Touraine’s internal and external struggles, as she faces many, along with the beautiful hints of the magic system were all so incredibly well done. Luca was also an enjoyable character to read from, and the banter and tension between her and Touraine was both so frustrating and always left me wanting more scenes with them together. And the WRITING. I had a hard time choosing which quotes to use, because I highlighted so many brilliant bits of writing within this e-arc. Clark has some serious talent, and I can wait to see where she goes from here. This is absolutely a book to look out for, and an author to watch continue to grow! If you enjoy political intrigue, characters going through incredible struggles and growth, hints of magic, and a queernorm world, I highly recommend this one to you. I have no doubt it will be in my favorite books of 2021, and I look forward to book two! A huge thank you to Orbit for sending me a copy I really appreciate it! All quotes are taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication! Go read this, and then find me on Instagram and Twitter! Instagram Twitter

  20. 4 out of 5

    Para (wanderer)

    ARC received from the publisher (Orbit) in exchange for an honest review. This has been, hands down, one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I’ve been looking for books with messy, complicated relationships lately, so that sounded fantastic, plus being promised critique of colonialism on top and that cover? With those arms? 😍 Unfortunately, while it’s a good book, I have to admit I found it something of a struggle, even if it was no fault of its own. Touraine has been stolen as a child and ARC received from the publisher (Orbit) in exchange for an honest review. This has been, hands down, one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I’ve been looking for books with messy, complicated relationships lately, so that sounded fantastic, plus being promised critique of colonialism on top and that cover? With those arms? 😍 Unfortunately, while it’s a good book, I have to admit I found it something of a struggle, even if it was no fault of its own. Touraine has been stolen as a child and indoctrinated to be a soldier for the empire of Balladaire. After a few years of service, her company gets sent to her homeland to help supress a rebellion. Luca is Balladaire’s legitimate heir, who goes to Qazāl to deal with the rebellion and prove herself capable of ruling to get her uncle off the throne. Along the way, the two women get hopelessly entangled, both in politics and with each other. The main star of the book are absolutely the themes. The way it examines colonialism from both sides of the coin and uses it to craft the story is masterful. The way Touraine is loyal to the empire that mistreats her and very slowly and gradually starts to reconsider things and fight for her own place in the world. The way Luca tries to be a better ruler but makes horrible choices anyway. The question of improving the system or tearing it down. Often, fiction offers easy answers, but this did not. It felt very real. I also liked that the colonial power was France-inspired instead of England as is more typical. The relationship developing between them is equally messy. Clark is not afraid to explore the uneven power dynamic in all its complexity and potential for conflict. It was absolutely my favourite aspect because I simply haven’t seen many fictional books like it before. It also deals prominently with religion, which is directly tied to magic, and I found the approach extremely fascinating – Balladaire has no magic and renounced all worship of gods, claiming it to be to be uncivilised superstition. Yet the thing Luca is most curious about is whether there is any truth in the stories of Qazāli healing magic, which could help save her homeland. So after all this praise, how come that I struggled with it? Honestly, I’m not completely sure myself. If there is a flaw I could see, it’s that the pacing is a little uneven in places, not nearly to the extent it’d bother me this much. I think my main problem was the tension – it’s unpredictable and very intense, with characters making a lot of choices that make you want to yell “WHY are you DOING this” at them, and while this is a feature for most people, I was apparently in the mood for something more chill and fluffy, something I didn’t realise until I was a good way through. If you want an intense book and the premise sounds good to you, I would absolutely still recommend it. And I am definitely interested in the sequel – I just hope that with the next one, the timing will be better. Enjoyment: 3/5 Execution: 4.5/5 Recommended to: fans of The Traitor Baru Cormorant and The Thousand Names should definitely check it out, as should those looking for post-colonialism in fantasy and messy f/f relationships Not recommended to: those in need of a chill book Content warnings: sexual assault, attempted rape (discussed), epidemic More reviews on my blog, To Other Worlds.

  21. 5 out of 5

    FantasyBookNerd

    Love, Revolution and colonialism. So I have literally just finished reading The Unbroken, and I have to say my thoughts are mixed on this one. There is quite a lot to like about this book, and these things outweigh some of my reservations about the book. As with many books by an author that I am unfamiliar with, my interest was piqued by the gorgeous cover art by Tommy Arnold. I love the way that the cover captures the desert setting of the book and the inner strength of Touraine pushing against Love, Revolution and colonialism. So I have literally just finished reading The Unbroken, and I have to say my thoughts are mixed on this one. There is quite a lot to like about this book, and these things outweigh some of my reservations about the book. As with many books by an author that I am unfamiliar with, my interest was piqued by the gorgeous cover art by Tommy Arnold. I love the way that the cover captures the desert setting of the book and the inner strength of Touraine pushing against both sides of the conflict that she is placed in the middle of. The story takes place in Qazal. A country that is viciously governed by the expanding empire of Balladaire. It’s main characters are Touraine, a conscripted member of Balladaire's armed forces, stolen as a child to be used as a frontline soldier in the ‘Sands’ regiment of the army. The children are ‘educated’ from an early age, with their belief systems and personalities modified to believe that they are fighting their former home for the greater good. The other is Luca, the young monarch of Ballardaire who is sent to Qazal in order to quell the rebellion and prove her ability to rule Balladaire to her uncle, who is currently the regent and does not want to relinquish the power of the throne. The Unbroken is quite an interesting read. It is based in a North African setting with the Balladairans resembling the French empire of the late 19th Century. Now, I found this to be quite an original premise and not one that I had seen in a fantasy book before. Clark does an amazing job of building an extensive and believable world that lies outside a normal fantasy setting. She catches the vibrancy of the country that she is describing, even though the country of Qazal is a suppressed country. She also captures the cruelties of the ruling classes and the poverty of the people. She regularly highlights the disparity of the situation, showing the nihilistic attitudes of the nobility on the one hand, with lavish balls and the like, and the abject poverty of the people that are being oppressed. Additionally, she shows the dehumanisation of the Sands (the regiment of the army that is made up of the conscripted nationals) and theQazali people, regularly peppering the book with descriptions of the casual cruelty that is metered out to both the everyday people that live there and also to the ‘Sands’. The basis of the plot revolves around Luca’s obsession with her obtaining her rightful place as leader of the Balladairan throne.However, Luca wants to step away from the normally brutal methods that have not worked and actually wants to negotiate with the rebels. In order to initiate this plan she needs an intermediary to go between both parties. This is where Touraine comes in. At the very beginning of the book, Touraine foils an assassination attempt on the Princess’s life. Thus gaining her some favour with the princess who grants her a boon for her valour. When Touraine is disgraced in an incident later in the book,she calls in the Boon and the princess sees her chance to set her plans in motion by employing Touraine as her personal emissary. What ensues is a story of two individuals that come from vastly different backgrounds learning about each other and the feelings that grow between the two, as well as learning about different cultures and wrangling with the political machinations of both the Empire and the rebels. Like I said there is a lot to like about this book. The setting, the romance between Luca and Touraine, the political wranglings and the effervescent plot that takes you in lots of different directions. However, I did find it a little hard to get into at first, and I found it difficult to relate to the characters initially. The pacing at the beginning of the book revolves around a lot of plot building. And at times, I found that this hampered the pacing for me, thus adding to my difficulty in relating to the story. However, when we get to the second half of the book, the pacing picks up and I have to say it leads to a pretty climactic conclusion that had me turning pages at a rate of knots as I wanted to find out how the book will end. On the whole, I enjoyed the book despite my initial difficulties with the pacing and I eventually related to the characters. I have a feeling that C. L Clark will be a fantasy writer to keep an eye on, and will go from strength to strength.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Landice (Manic Femme)

    Just finished and the only word I presently have for you is: WOW! Also, Book 2 when? (Edit: Goodreads did weird edition things so I deleted my other review of the Paperback and moved it to the Kindle edition, since that's the one I read, to consolidate) Love sapphic books, too? Let's be friends! Bookstagram | Booktube | Booktok | Book Blog | Twitter Just finished and the only word I presently have for you is: WOW! Also, Book 2 when? (Edit: Goodreads did weird edition things so I deleted my other review of the Paperback and moved it to the Kindle edition, since that's the one I read, to consolidate) Love sapphic books, too? Let's be friends! Bookstagram | Booktube | Booktok | Book Blog | Twitter

  23. 5 out of 5

    Dom

    The Unbroken by CL Clark is a debut fantasy novel set in a North African inspired world. It’s queer, it borders on grimdark, it’s full of political intrigue, and it’s painful. I went into The Unbroken expecting it to hurt my feelings and you know what, I got my feelings hurt a lot. Mission accomplished. The novel has two POV characters: Touraine, a woman stolen as a child from her home and forced to become a soldier for the Balladairan Empire, and Princess Luca, the precariously positioned heir t The Unbroken by CL Clark is a debut fantasy novel set in a North African inspired world. It’s queer, it borders on grimdark, it’s full of political intrigue, and it’s painful. I went into The Unbroken expecting it to hurt my feelings and you know what, I got my feelings hurt a lot. Mission accomplished. The novel has two POV characters: Touraine, a woman stolen as a child from her home and forced to become a soldier for the Balladairan Empire, and Princess Luca, the precariously positioned heir to the Balladairan Empire. Through two incredibly different lenses, the reader is taken on a brutal journey of betrayals, massacres, rebellions, and the horrors of colonialism as various parties vie for control of Qazāl. Touraine as a main character had my attention from start to finish. There are layers and layers to the emotional and political conflicts she navigates, and honestly, she doesn’t always (or even often) make sensible or healthy decisions. I’ve noticed other reviewers saying that some of her choices throughout the novel don’t make sense to them, and while that’s valid as an opinion, my counter-argument is that it’s much easier to sit back with the distance of a reader and say we’d make a choice differently. Given Touraine’s massive amount of trauma from childhood to present day, the life or death situations she finds herself in, and the complicated political alliances she’s navigating while extraordinarily out of her depth, I think her flaws and messiness are believable and part of what makes her a compelling main character. You want to root for her even though she often doesn’t root for herself. The enemies to lovers romance in The Unbroken also has all of my favourite flavors for this dynamic: sapphic, slow burn, morally complicated with questions of power imbalances, reluctant alliances out of desperation, and genuinely being positioned as enemies where both parties make mistakes and treat each other badly. I’m super picky with enemies to lovers dynamics and The Unbroken hits all the right notes for me. It’s also refreshing to read a wonderful high fantasy novel with so much diversity. Both main characters are queer (lesbian and bisexual) and one is Black while the other is disabled with lots of queer and BIPOC supporting characters. The universe is queernorm and sexuality is not a plot point. Mind the content warnings on this one, though. Content warnings for: racism, graphic depictions of violence, graphic depictions of death, gore, torture, sexual assault. There are probably more I’m missing but those are the ones I noticed immediately. Overall, The Unbroken is the kind of fantasy book that will draw readers in and possibly polarize them in the process. This is the kind of book I would love to talk to my friends about because I think the variety of opinions would generate some great discussions. If you want a fantasy story full of murder and the promise of magic with a nuanced, powerful, complicated, imperfect main character, The Unbroken should definitely be on your radar. Thank you to Orbit and Edelweiss for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Lady H

    This is a smart, mature, and bleak debut that looks at colonialism. It strikes me as being heavily inspired by France's occupation of Algeria, and culturally, it is certainly North Africa-inspired. I did enjoy this -- it has that readability that isn't always found in high fantasy -- but I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped. Mostly, that's because I don't think it went far enough, whether that's with its characters, plot, or worldbuilding. While there's certainly lots of clever commentary on co This is a smart, mature, and bleak debut that looks at colonialism. It strikes me as being heavily inspired by France's occupation of Algeria, and culturally, it is certainly North Africa-inspired. I did enjoy this -- it has that readability that isn't always found in high fantasy -- but I didn't love it as much as I'd hoped. Mostly, that's because I don't think it went far enough, whether that's with its characters, plot, or worldbuilding. While there's certainly lots of clever commentary on colonialism, I just don't think the book went far enough in depicting those realities, particularly given this book's inspiration from French Algeria. The magic system might have been more interesting if we'd learned more about it, but I was left wanting. In particular, the book constantly referenced a Cursed City and a library that one of the main characters is desperate to see, but after one aborted attempt, this plot thread fades away, and it definitely felt like a Chekov's gun situation. I also really was not a fan of the central relationship; it just rang very false to me. I was really surprised by the ending, and not in a good way, and I can't imagine what direction the next book will take. Overall, though, I think this is a pretty great debut, though I don't know if I see myself continuing the series, unfortunately! Solid 3.5 stars.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Kate

    Full review to follow because WHEW this book was phenomenal. In the meantime, quick discussion of some important points! Things I liked: ➽ The portrayal of colonization and its effects at both the macro and micro level were absolutely gutting. This was a very difficult book to read and I mean that in the best way possible. The themes of colonization's effects on land, language, economy, etc. are explored, but so are said effects on interpersonal relationships. I don't think I've ever really read a Full review to follow because WHEW this book was phenomenal. In the meantime, quick discussion of some important points! Things I liked: ➽ The portrayal of colonization and its effects at both the macro and micro level were absolutely gutting. This was a very difficult book to read and I mean that in the best way possible. The themes of colonization's effects on land, language, economy, etc. are explored, but so are said effects on interpersonal relationships. I don't think I've ever really read a book before that looked at the experiences under a foreign regime from that close a point of view, and I really appreciated it! ➽ I'm always a sucker for politics and governance in my fantasy, and this one freaking delivered. ➽ Literally all of the characters are so fleshed out, multi-dimensional, and just all around incredibly well-developed. We only get two narrators (the protagonists, Luca and Touraine) but both of them and even the side characters have distinct, separate personalities. I could open the book randomly at any chapter and after reading one or two sentences immediately know whether it was a Luca chapter or a Touraine chapter. ➽ If I ever got the opportunity to be held in Touraine's arms I would just die happy. Things I disliked: ➽ The fact that Touraine is with Luca instead of me is clearly a travesty. ➽ All kidding aside, I didn't particularly care for the romance between the two leads. (Although I did appreciate how very fucking gay this book was.) I'm Keeping this book's rating at 5 stars though because how much I liked everything else overpowered the one thing I didn't really like and also I'm hopeful that I'll vibe with the romance more in the next book! Find more from me: ⤀ Blog ⤀ YouTube ⤀ Twitter ⤀ Instagram

  26. 4 out of 5

    Scarlett Readz and Runz....Through Novel Time & Distance

    4.25 stars This novel shouldn’t have been so surprising to me, as I’ve heard only the best of things and read a lot of raving reviews about it. The cover alone is simply stunning and creating a lot of buzz among book lovers. Praised as military fantasy, I had semi-reservations about picking this up, since I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how “military” this read would be. As a fan of stories with less agreeable and rather more gritty characters that take long-shot risks and develop to com 4.25 stars This novel shouldn’t have been so surprising to me, as I’ve heard only the best of things and read a lot of raving reviews about it. The cover alone is simply stunning and creating a lot of buzz among book lovers. Praised as military fantasy, I had semi-reservations about picking this up, since I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of how “military” this read would be. As a fan of stories with less agreeable and rather more gritty characters that take long-shot risks and develop to come into their own, this was spot on perfect to my taste. Within a few pages, I was taken with Touraine, one of the main characters in this story. Combined with the harsh and sprawling east orient setting for this north African-inspired fantasy, C.L.Clark found the right measure to bring every detail to life and capture a thought-provoking take on forced colonization, its harrowing dread, and the effects of it emotionally as well as economically. Touraine is a soldier for the Balladairan Empire. On a mission, she returns to her place of birth, the city of Quazal where her mother gave her up when she was incredibly young. Raised to be a soldier in her Sands family, she has become hardened and moved her way up in the military ranks almost unheard of. Just like any other mission, she will execute this one as sharp and precise as all of them, till someone recognizes her at a public hanging and shouts her name before the noose snuffs out the life of the accusing voice. Luca, another main character, is the rightful heir of the Balladairan Empire but is held back and tested by her family. A fateful accident has left her paralyzed which supports the idea that she cannot become a queen. Spending much of her time reading to gain insight on leadership, she is on the threshold to grasp what she desires, that is if she can assert herself from those holding her back. When the Touraine and Luca meet, it is under unexpected circumstances - one that leaves Luca to lead and Touraine to follow. Their dynamic is fueled with tension as both have to step out of their comfort zone and learn to work together. But nothing is ever free! As Luca wants to use Touraine to negotiate the place of power in the colony, Touraine is balancing a tight rope to appease all sides and not without guarding her own interests. What ensues is a delicate play of power that goes around and changes everything backhandedly. An emotional roller coaster and quest for loyalty that will leave innocent civilians to die under the circumstances. This is the time where both women have to step up and become who they were meant to be! EVERY EMPIRE DEMANDS REVOLUTION *** This novel was so much more than I expected. After I started reading it, I watched an interview with C.L. Clark on Dave’s FanFiAddict’s channel and it gave me a greater understanding of the author’s background and writing style, which I absolutely loved. By the time I reached the novel midway, I was really elated over her voice and prose, not to mention the compelling complexity of the plot. The story itself felt like a tight-knit maze to meander through and discover. With every new turn, another cog clicked into action that changed the plot while the characters moved either closer or further apart. Very well done was the intricate play of Touraine’s and Luca’s relationship that tethered in moments of breathless sizzle and screamed in search of truth and identity in others. Something I didn’t mention yet is the power of healing through Shalan magic, which is tied to a belief system that is explored in this story. It becomes an important part of the development and turns of the characters tugged into the plot. There were certain characters that possessed such magic abilities and that became dear to me as a reader and posed as great guidance to the main characters. As a sucker for settings that hug a story perfectly, I loved this stark and dreadful environment that gave a real sense for the hardship of the poor, the socio-economic stands, and effects of the occupation vs the plush, overabundance of the rich. There is so much grit in this novel that I wanted to shake out the pages from the sand of this stark place and environment. The Unbroken is the first book in the MAGIC OF THE LOST series and it commenced in a way that a second novel can move forward perfectly. I suspect it will be very different, given the turn of events in this book, but that may not mean we won’t find some familiar characters in the sequel. I’m definitely looking forward to finding out where this goes. Do I think you should pick this up? YESS, definitely. If you do, happy reading and enjoy! Scarlett I received a copy of this novel from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own. Thank you! More of my reviews here: Through Novel Time & Distance

  27. 4 out of 5

    imyril

    Compromised and uncompromising. A strong debut from a fierce new voice. 4.5 stars Full review to follow. I received a free copy from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

  28. 4 out of 5

    laurel [the suspected bibliophile]

    She was their pet. And she'd be a well-dressed one, but she'd dance all the same. Touraine is a conscript, torn from her home as a child and sent into the army of her enemy. For over twenty years she's lived, breathed and exemplified the pinnacles of perfection for the empire. But it's never enough, because when she's drugged, attacked and kidnapped by the rebels, her people focus on the death of a soldier and Touraine's supposed role. She is saved only by the world of the empire's princess, who She was their pet. And she'd be a well-dressed one, but she'd dance all the same. Touraine is a conscript, torn from her home as a child and sent into the army of her enemy. For over twenty years she's lived, breathed and exemplified the pinnacles of perfection for the empire. But it's never enough, because when she's drugged, attacked and kidnapped by the rebels, her people focus on the death of a soldier and Touraine's supposed role. She is saved only by the world of the empire's princess, who needs someone who can liaise with the rebels. But Luca has her own agenda, and Touraine is tired of being a pet... Holy fuck me this lives up to the hype and then some. I need book two. I have no idea where book two is going to go, but I need it. Touraine was starting to think it was impossible to come from one land and learn to live in another and feel whole This was one of those books where I wasn't quite swept away by page one, but by page 10 I was hooked. The writing style, the world-building, the plot, the tense relationships—I loved all of it. The Empire of Balladaire doesn't believe in magic or gods—those are for the barbarians they conquer, and are to be eradicated. Except Luca, a scholar fascinated by the arcane, wants the answers to magic, yearns to bring something back to the empire's homelands so she can kick her uncle off the throne and take her rightful place on its seat. Is everything yours for the taking? Do you care about anyone but yourself? Luca was complicated, intelligent, and had some glaring blindspots (she is, in essence, a liberal whyte woman who doesn't know or denies she has blindspots and privilege because of the hardships she's faced as the physically disabled semi-deposed heir of a kingdom that prides physicality). I loved how Clark demonstrated intent versus impact with Luca and her perceptions of the world. Luca intends to make right, by settling the rebellion with minimal bloodshed and making things "right" for the rebels and the empire. She goes to the rebel leaders, liaises with them, kinda builds their trust, and goes halfsies on some of their agreements. However. Her intentions to do right are perceived for what they are—fumbling half-assed appeasements that will settle the rebels down without pissing off the imperial colonizers who make the money. Luca is so ingrained into the current system that she cannot see that her brilliant ideas still have the same consequences and effects as the previous rulers' actions, just with a new flair. And so, when her plans go up in smoke (honestly, she was surprisingly pretty close to succeeding), she reverts back to what has worked—outright subjection. When she encounters resistance and backlash, she turns back to the system of colonization instead of continuing to work to dismantle the system she is implicitly responsible for, thanks to her privilege and position in the imperial elite. It was a fascinating case-study, with lots of analogies to the issues of American society and allyship (and also analogies to France and northern Africa, which this book was loosely based on). It's a crime to keep those arms of yours hidden away in an army coat. I really, really loved Touraine. She's messy, she's complicated, she just wants to survive at all costs, and she finds her alliances torn in two. She's a person who knew who she was and her place in the world, and wanted to rise higher to help her conscripts—and by rising higher she had vertically integrated herself into the system of oppression (also trauma and brainwashing since she was super duper young when she was stolen from her family). So when she returns to the land of her birth, she's under suspicion from both her higher (who think she's going to run back to "her" people, despite how much she's proven her worth) and from the indigenous population (who regard her as a traitor/pathetic tool of the system). Of course this is going to come to a head, and of course Touraine is going to make some really messy decisions, because she's a woman used to being decisive and having one direction only, and now she's being horrifically torn into four different directions (towards her former general/pseudo-mother figure and her dreams of military achievement, towards Luca and the ideals of a better empire based upon the structures of the past, towards the rebels and what is right but complicated, and towards the Sands, her fellow conscripts). What is war if not a complicated web of mathematics and charm? So in addition to these fascinating character studies, there's also a rip-roaring military-political plot, with several subplots of magic and belonging and festering sexual chemistry. The plot does slow in the middle, but there is just so much juicy set up and tension that I really didn't mind it. There's a lot of back and forth—between, well, everyone—and it was fascinating to dive into this complex world and uncover everyone's really jarring and contentious motivations. Because everyone in this book has their own motivation for doing things, and a lot the times the decisions they make are at odds with what is best for them in the long term (or hell, even in the short term). I did like how this really dived into the horrors of war. War is not glorified in any sense, and it shows those who do glorify it (Touraine's asshole captain) in really awful light, and as only able to glorify it because of his position as noble and officer and therefore distanced from the true horrors, able to pick and choose what he experiences instead of being in for the entire suck, as Touraine and the Sands are. It also show the different aspects of war—not just from the soldier perspective, but from the brass, and the nobility (both imported and born in the country), and also the rebels and the regular civilians trying to live their lives, who are caught between their colonizers and the rebels, a bad position either way they choose (the colonizers view them as inhuman but useful resources to be exploited, while if they side with the rebels they are with their people but also are targets for the colonizers—it's a bad decision either way). And, it shows a really, really awful take on war from a soldier's perspective—I am talking about Cantric. Without spoilers, let's just say that it's on the same level as that monologue in A Few Good Men—it sure makes a great soundbite, but when you dig into the complications and impact, whew, no. Who needs a god of oceans when I could drown inside your eyes? Who needs a god of grain when I could feast between your thighs? Mild spoilers here on out As for the romance aspect. Hmm. It wasn't as...all there as the blurb implied? And I think that's a good thing. Because there was a lot between Touraine and Luca, from their sexual chemistry to their differences in background, station, viewpoints, privilege, and well, um, everything. At least they realize it's a bad idea, although Touraine is so used to operating by survival and becoming a chameleon that of course she's going to do whatever it takes to survive and thrive, and Luca...Luca realizes that and doesn't really press. However, this book is incredibly sapphic. There are so many sapphic relationships embedded into the storyline that I was just so, so happy throughout the entire read. Anywho, I just droned on and on and on about absolutely nothing in particular, just that this is definitely one to pick up if you're looking for a gritty military-political fantasy. It reminded me a lot of Wexler's The Thousand Names, except the sapphic representation was actually good and it really dove into the nuance of colonialism and imperialism from a number of different points of view instead of just the colonizers'. Definitely a must read, and not just because of that fucking fabulous cover. It is really flexing its right to bear arms. I received this ARC from Edelweiss for an honest review

  29. 5 out of 5

    Shelley Parker-Chan

    You know that shiver you get when you encounter fiction that excavates truth? This book is SO TRUE: all the ugly, painful, deeply personal complexities of revolution against empire, captured in shimmering pointillist detail. I’m in awe

  30. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    The Unbroken is a North African inspired military fantasy in which we follow the story of a princess and a soldier from opposing sides who have to work together to achieve their goals. Set against a backdrop of a colonised city rife with rebellion and mistreated citizens, with vivid and luscious writing, this book captures the heartbreak and complicated loyalties of a war torn country perfectly. The two main characters we follow are Touraine, a military conscript who is from a faction of the mil The Unbroken is a North African inspired military fantasy in which we follow the story of a princess and a soldier from opposing sides who have to work together to achieve their goals. Set against a backdrop of a colonised city rife with rebellion and mistreated citizens, with vivid and luscious writing, this book captures the heartbreak and complicated loyalties of a war torn country perfectly. The two main characters we follow are Touraine, a military conscript who is from a faction of the military called the ‘Sands’ who are looked down upon and seen as lesser who is fighting for her freedom, and Luca a princess from Balladaire who is trying to prove herself as a good leader in order to claim her throne. Luca is also disabled and uses a walking stick, I’m not disabled so I don’t know good a representation this was, but I liked how it was handled and how it shaped but didn’t define Luca’s character. This book is heavy on the politics, with the city of Qaza-l currently being run by the country of Balladaire, who are very much the colonisers and trying to ‘civilise’ the people of Qaza-l, and a rebellion is brewing amgost the Qaza-li so our two main characters are trying to negotiate peace between the Balladaireens and the Qaza-li, Luca with the intention of bringing a stop to the rebellion and prove to her uncle she is good enough to be queen and Touraine with the intention of protecting her fellow sands. There is interesting discussion on colonisation in this book and how that affects the people whose country and culture are being stolen, as well as the Balladaire empire thinking they know best and being unwilling to leave in peace. Touraine also has a lot of ties to the rebels, which she discovers when she is kidnapped by them at the beginning of the book. This was interesting to explore and added an extra element to Touraine’s character, she is very much someone whose loyalties are torn in many directions and it is clear that she struggles with this and it leads to some questionable decisions on her part on occasion. She also has a very interesting dynamic with the General, called Cantic, who at the start of the book seems on Touraine’s side but then throughout the book seemingly becomes more and more of a villain in Touraine’s mind, which I think reflects her changing loyalties. I really loved the other rebel leaders, who we see a lot of through Touraine’s eyes, especially Aranen and I’m really excited to see more of her in book 2. The plot of the book is very strong in my opinion, it is fairly steady throughout and not too action packed so if you like lots of action it may not be for you, but adore politics and negotiation dynamics so I enjoyed this!! The ending is also quite explosive and at one point I thought the author had done something very shocking but it turned out not to be true but it still shocked me haha. The setting is also so immersive, especially if you like dessert based fantasy, and the writing is very evocative and captures the environment so well. A couple of things I struggled with in the book were a) the writing at times, sometimes I feel like we skipped very minor things in a scene but it made the text a little hard to follow and sometimes took me out of the story. I think the best way to describe it is sometimes it felt a little patchy. This is the author’s debut book though so I feel like this will improve with time! B) I wasn’t totally sold on the relationship, obviously this is a very nitpicky thing as I’m always happy to have lgbtq relationships in fantasy, especially sapphic ones. At first I thought I was going to love it because of the first scene as well as the princess/body guard dynamic but I just didn’t feel like there was a lot of connection between them and then suddenly feelings seem to come out of nowhere? The power dynamics were obviously very complex so this might have contributed a bit to the strange relationship haha. The fantasy elements are there, but not very explored, however I didn’t feel like this was really necessary, this book definitely felt like a political book, and I feel like the magic is something that is going to be explored in future books so I’m excited for that. The magic felt like this unknown, as just slowly starting to come back into the world, and Luca wanting to find out more about the magic was a major part of her motivations. In conclusion this was a strong start to a new adult fantasy series, almost reminiscent of an adult an ember in the ashes, full of politics, sapphics and biceps!!

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