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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. 5 out of 5

    chai ♡

    There are few books I can’t read without pain, without all my old wounds flaring open. These are the stories that feel almost unbearably personal, the stories I can’t talk about without the words filling my throat to choking, without unlocking something I cannot begin to reconcile. Coming face to face with The Unbroken, a story that is built out of the bones of the colonial history of North Africa—the history of my people, my history—a story which drags out those perennial hurts and exorcises th There are few books I can’t read without pain, without all my old wounds flaring open. These are the stories that feel almost unbearably personal, the stories I can’t talk about without the words filling my throat to choking, without unlocking something I cannot begin to reconcile. Coming face to face with The Unbroken, a story that is built out of the bones of the colonial history of North Africa—the history of my people, my history—a story which drags out those perennial hurts and exorcises those familiar demons on the page, I was utterly defenseless. There's a longer review on my blog ( here! ). I say "review" but it's mostly "me working through my very personal, very complicated feelings about empire and colonialism under the guise of 'reviewing'." In brief, it's a very good book. That completely unraveled me.

  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. 5 out of 5

    may ➹

    The Unbroken takes on so many things and does so expertly, tackling magic and rebellions and even a bit of romance, but above all, colonialism. This political fantasy follows two protagonists, Touraine and Luca. A Qazāli soldier, pejoratively referred to as a “Sand,” Touraine was stolen from her homeland when she was young to serve the Balladairan empire, and now stationed at home again, she begins to question everything she thought she knew. Luca is the Balladairan princess intent on making pea The Unbroken takes on so many things and does so expertly, tackling magic and rebellions and even a bit of romance, but above all, colonialism. This political fantasy follows two protagonists, Touraine and Luca. A Qazāli soldier, pejoratively referred to as a “Sand,” Touraine was stolen from her homeland when she was young to serve the Balladairan empire, and now stationed at home again, she begins to question everything she thought she knew. Luca is the Balladairan princess intent on making peace with Qazāli rebels to prove that, instead of her incapable uncle, she can be ruling on the throne. Their paths cross as loyalties form and wither and the “threat” of the rebels grows larger. Touraine was starting to think it was impossible to come from one land and to live in another and feel whole. That you would always stand on shaky, hole-ridden ground, half of your identity dug out of you and tossed away. Touraine’s arc was one of my favorite parts of the book, difficult to witness at first but resulting in an ultimately satisfying growth. Touraine’s mindset as a colonized person is twisted and disturbing to read, the way she believes the warped things she had been taught about her own people and thinks that if she commits more and more of herself to the empire they will finally see her as more than a Sand—but it is all too reminiscent of the thinking patterns that colonized people have in the real world. Clark handled this frame of thinking with care, challenging it through other characters’ criticisms while ensuring that the reader understood that it was a result of colonial brainwashing. Throughout the book we get to watch Touraine work through her complicated thoughts and feelings about the empire and her and other Qazālis’ role in it, and her development was truly fulfilling. While I enjoyed reading from both Touraine and Luca’s perspectives, I found that Luca wasn’t as compelling of a character as Touraine was for me. Even if it weren’t already a bit unsettling to read from a colonizer’s perspective (which was the point and well-done, with no justification for horrible actions), I didn’t feel a strong connection with her as I did with Touraine. Luca was an interesting character and I loved the insights that her POV offered, specifically with how colonizers may believe they search for “peace” but fail to realize that without justice for the colonized, there can be no peace. But in comparison to Touraine, who had such a strong character arc, Luca fell a bit short for me. As much as I might have liked Touraine and Luca, though, I truly did not enjoy their romance. I knew beforehand that it would be a colonized/colonizer romance and I was apprehensive about that, but it was written in a sensitive way, so that wasn’t my main issue. What bothered me was that there was a lack of development and chemistry between Touraine and Luca. This didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book since the romance wasn’t part of the main plot, but their relationship still was a large influence on some of the storyline, resulting in more emotional parts falling flat for me since I honestly could not see how their feelings had developed. “You’ll have to fight for one side or the other. Why not fight for the side that gives you freedom?” Whatever I found lacking in the romantic relationship was luckily made up for in other relationships. The found family Touraine found was heartwarming, especially in how they played a large role in her growth and escaping from her brainwashed mindset. I loved Touraine and her mother’s relationship the most, though; nothing is unaffected by colonialism, and that includes relationships and family. Touraine and her mother’s growth, from misplaced resentment and misunderstanding to the love and fondness they were never allowed to feel, was so lovely, serving as a source of joy and an outlier in the tragic outcomes of families in a colonized land. It honestly made me want to cry at certain parts. If you were to ask me what the highlight of this book was for me, though, with complete certainty I would say the way politics and colonialism were written. How different facets of colonialism were explored on a more personal level through the characters themselves was masterful already, but equally impressive is Clark’s portrayal of the effects of colonialism on a larger scale. As inspired by France’s colonization of North Africa, what the Balladairan empire did to the Qazāli people and their land was painful to read, from the suppression of Qazāli religion and language, to the pitting of rebels and Sands against each other despite being from the same culture. The fact that, from its characters to the broader setting, almost every aspect of this book is influenced by colonialism only serves to reinforce the idea that colonialism is a completely destructive force and leaves nothing untouched. “We pray for rain.” “No. Be the rain.” The Unbroken is definitely on the slower side, so if you’re looking for a faster-paced fantasy this might not be for you. I myself wanted things to move more quickly in the beginning, but if you can let the story slowly unravel in the first half, you’ll find yourself quickly devouring the rest. (It took me several weeks to read the beginning, and then I binged the last half in only a day.) This is truly a book to savor and take your time with in order to fully appreciate all that it encompasses. If you enjoy fantasy with a complex examination of colonialism, you will undoubtedly be satisfied by what you find within the pages of The Unbroken. —★— :: representation :: Black North African-coded lesbian MC, wlw MC with physical disability (injury), Black North-African coded characters, wlw characters, non-binary side character :: content warnings :: murder, death, violence, past attempted rape, torture, racism, colonialism, depictions of grief, depictions of blood Thank you to Hachette for sending me 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.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Lex Kent

    3.50 Stars. This was a well written story that unfortunately was not really for me. I love fantasy, especially sapphic fantasy, so this was another book on my most anticipated ‘21 reads list. I was so excited when I was approved for an ARC copy and could not wait to spend this weekend (it’s a long book) reading this. My expectations might have been a little high, but in the end, the quality of this book was definitely higher than my actual enjoyment. Enjoyment wise this book was just in the aver 3.50 Stars. This was a well written story that unfortunately was not really for me. I love fantasy, especially sapphic fantasy, so this was another book on my most anticipated ‘21 reads list. I was so excited when I was approved for an ARC copy and could not wait to spend this weekend (it’s a long book) reading this. My expectations might have been a little high, but in the end, the quality of this book was definitely higher than my actual enjoyment. Enjoyment wise this book was just in the average or okay category, but I upped my final rating a little because the book was well written. This is a long book, twice the size of an average read, but I was excited for a big epic fantasy adventure. I knew that this book was slower in parts, and it was, but I actually liked the slower parts. I thought the world building was well done and I loved all the details of culture, government, and military that Clark wrote so well. I felt fully immersed in this new world. I also thought that Clark did really well with not being too info-dumpy which is always appreciated. I’ve noticed in other reviews, that people thought the first half was slow but liked the second better. While I agree about the speed, I was the opposite in what I enjoyed. The book from about 50% to 75%, felt like a real slog to me. The pace actually speeds up, but I felt like there were a bunch of start and stops in all the action and little storylines. It looks like this is going to happen, but then this does, than this, so I could not get comfortable with the story and it was harder to read. The flow of the last quarter, the ending, was much better but I didn’t particularly enjoy reading about anything that was going on. I think the biggest issue was that I did not like the main characters. I like strong badass women and while both mains acted like they wanted to be, they were anything but. Luca, a princess who did not seem to understand crown politics at all, and Touraine, a lieutenant who disappointed me most of all. Touraine, who is supposed to be the best, the highest ranking of all her soldiers, and instead is an absolute mess. I don’t think she did anything right the whole book except for one choice near the end. It was so frustrating to read about such a useless character. I can’t even count how many people are dead because of her choices. You know when you wish a main character will just go away to some far off city and leave the rest of the characters in peace, well that’s not really a great sign. Besides the fantasy aspects, I wanted to read this book because it was sapphic. That was a bit of a bummer too. I would not read this book if you are looking for romance. I would say that this book did not have romance. One character likes the other, while the other character just ruins anything that character is trying to do. It’s not much of a relationship and I could not even get why one character pinned after the other when she got nothing in return. I’m such a character driven reader that not liking the mains really affected my enjoyment. If you are more of a plot driven reader, this book might work much better for you. This book has a lot of wonderful high reviews so I’m a bit of an outlier here. It was well written and well imagined, but it just was not my type of book. I don’t think I will be reading the sequel, but this author has plenty of talent and I will keep an eye on her future books. A copy was given to me for a review.

  5. 5 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

  6. 5 out of 5

    Hamad

    Actual Rating: 3.5 Stars To be honest my brain is not in the best place right now and I am reading for distraction! I will review this one soon...

  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. 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.

  10. 5 out of 5

    charlotte, (½ of readsrainbow)

    read it for the mother-daughter relationship read my full review on reads rainbow! 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 read it for the mother-daughter relationship read my full review on reads rainbow! 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

  11. 4 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.

  12. 5 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.

  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

    Library of a Viking

    “It’s in our nature to doubt. The key to faith is standing by someone anyway.” The Unbroken is C.L. Clark’s debut novel and is a North African inspired military fantasy. The Unbroken is the first book in the Magic of the Lost series. This story follows two main characters, Touraine, an army conscript from the faction “Sands”, and the princess Luca from Balladaire, trying to prove that she can lead the kingdom and take the throne. The Unbroken is a fascinating fantasy story, which deals with some “It’s in our nature to doubt. The key to faith is standing by someone anyway.” The Unbroken is C.L. Clark’s debut novel and is a North African inspired military fantasy. The Unbroken is the first book in the Magic of the Lost series. This story follows two main characters, Touraine, an army conscript from the faction “Sands”, and the princess Luca from Balladaire, trying to prove that she can lead the kingdom and take the throne. The Unbroken is a fascinating fantasy story, which deals with some thought-provoking themes, such as colonialism, identity, faith and loyalty. Clark masterfully displays the effects of colonisation on people’s identity, hopes and culture. Furthermore, the reader is reminded of our past's historical realities and why colonisation is still affecting people to this day. Clark also focuses on the complexity of faith and how our experiences can weaken our faith in religion. This book's themes make this a compelling and important read, and Clark deserves credit for dealing with these issues in such a powerful manner. Moreover, Tourraine and Luca are terrific characters with depth and complex interests and motivations. While Tourraine struggles with her identity and her war experiences, Luca is a nobility with a privileged background, seeking to claim the throne. By making these two characters work together, the plot frequently takes on twists which keeps the reader engaged. The magic system is interesting and is based on ‘faith’. I hope to learn more about the magic system in the sequel. My main criticism is the pacing in the first half of the book. I struggled with connecting with the characters and the world for the first 200’ish pages. Furthermore, this story takes place in quite a depressing world (which is intentional), making this a difficult read for me. Although the story is set in a harsh setting, I would have wanted some more lighthearted moments to help the readers push through the whole story. The serious tone made this book a bit dispiriting to read at times. However, this book's second half is sensational, with high stakes, betrayal, epic world-building, and intense fight scenes. I am happy that I kept reading because Clark rewards the reader in the second half. In conclusion, The Unbroken is a unique and important fantasy book that deals with issues such as colonialism and the complexity of faith and identity. Furthermore, Luca and Touraine are memorable characters and the magic system is fascinating. Although the first half of the book is a bit slow, the second half is phenomenal! 4 / 5 stars. Thanks to Orbit Books and NetGalley for an e-arc in exchange for an honest review.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Amanda

    2 to perhaps 2.5 stars. This book and I just didn't mesh very well, unfortunately. Before I get into the things I didn't care for, I'll list some that I enjoyed: - The writing was pretty good, in particular the action scenes. I think the author did an excellent job building suspense and keeping things engaging in those scenes. - The setting was fresh and unique. I personally haven't read a fantasy book before this one that was set in a colony, and with the complicated politics and issues that come 2 to perhaps 2.5 stars. This book and I just didn't mesh very well, unfortunately. Before I get into the things I didn't care for, I'll list some that I enjoyed: - The writing was pretty good, in particular the action scenes. I think the author did an excellent job building suspense and keeping things engaging in those scenes. - The setting was fresh and unique. I personally haven't read a fantasy book before this one that was set in a colony, and with the complicated politics and issues that come along with it, so that was interesting. - (view spoiler)[I enjoyed the subplot with Touraine and Jaghotai's relationship. I do wish we'd gotten a little more foreshadowing, but overall it was definitely a highlight of the book for me. (hide spoiler)] As for dislikes, let's begin with our leading protagonist Touraine. I...did not care for her. I believe much of that stems from how little backstory we got, or really any actual showing of her relationships early on. We're told (and told and told) just how much she cares about the other Sands, but those relationships just didn't ring true for me most of the time. As for Touraine herself, well, she's a soldier...and that pretty much sums her up. Or maybe not, because for such a well-trained soldier, she sure makes some odd choices, such as getting drunk while in the camp of the rebels who are rebelling against the country Touraine is working for. I would expect a soldier to be a little more level-headed and actually maybe think a decision through for half a second, but with Touraine, basically every decision she makes is on a whim (and so many of them are so extreme, such as (view spoiler)[betraying one group and then the next and then the other one again, and so forth). (hide spoiler)] Of course, Touraine is not the only illogical person in this book. Far from it. With the exception of Gil and perhaps Pruett, both fairly minor characters in the grand scheme of the book, pretty much all of the characters in any position of authority seem to forgo any logic when making most of their decisions. Might as well move on to Luca herself at this point. Um, she is not a good ruler-in-training AT ALL. Much like Touraine, she has this habit of making decisions seemingly out of nowhere and with painfully little forethought put into any of them. She knowingly puts people who she finds untrustworthy in positions of power and then is shocked when they abuse their power. The rest of the cast often felt like filler characters playing their role. I'm talking about most of the Sands, Touraine's supposedly beloved family, who are often only treated as fodder by the plot to motivate Touraine. Very few are shown to have any personality beyond their role, such as Pruett being this tough soldier ex(?)-girlfriend or Tibeau, who is kind of the more hopeful friend. At least maybe? I still don't have a good image of him. Swinging back to Touraine and Luca, let's discuss their romance for a moment, shall we? It is after all what so, so many of the decisions in this book are made for. This was the most forced, least respectful, and toxic romance I have read about in a long, long time. There was practically no chemistry between the two leads and they made all these kingdom-shattering decisions based on some slight attraction to one another. I did not for a moment buy into their relationship or feel compelled to “ship" them. What forever tarnished any hope of that was the scene where Touraine belittles Luca's disability. I just could not ship a pair of characters where it's so clear that one party does not respect the other at all, as was clear when Touraine talked over Luca and treated her disability as though it were nothing compared to the things that Touraine, an able-bodied person, witnessed. I know she was trying to make a point about Luca's position of privilege. I am aware of that. But it was just not handled very well if you also want me to imagine these characters together romantically. I haven't really delved into my thoughts on the plot as whole because I really don't know where to begin. To me, the plot overall is little more than a string of one bad decision after another. Touraine passes her “loyalty” out like candy and then just as quickly snatches it out of a person's hand and runs away laughing, then wonders why she keeps making a mess of everything. There were just so many things that happened that made so little sense. Not to mention that the book basically lives off drama and characters backstabbing one another, which can be fun, but in this book felt like filler in place of an actual cohesive plotline. As I mentioned in the list of highlights, I did like some of the worldbuilding. However, there was, like so many aspects of The Unbroken, things that also left me wanting. One thing I enjoyed at first but that disappointed me in the end was how the main country did not have religion (view spoiler)[ which turns out was because it was banned by the evil Balladerians and the religion is actually good and real. (hide spoiler)] So...there went my hope for an atheistic fantasy setting. For a time there was a nice focus on science, but then it was pretty much replaced by these healing gods once they were introduced. I did not care for the magic, as it seemed that whatever the characters needed, here was some magic to take care of the problem. We were not really shown its limitations and the rules of what all it could do were not clear. If the characters didn't understand the magic and were still trying to figure it out themselves, it would be one thing, but here we had these priests who knew how to use it but were too tight-lipped to say much about it. (view spoiler)[Of course, since Touraine betrayed them and their secret magic to the enemy ruler, I guess I can't fault them for that. (hide spoiler)] ---------------- I really, really wanted to like The Unbroken. I was looking forward to it for months prior to release. It has so many high ratings and seems well-received by so many readers. The premise was sound and intriguing. The execution, sadly, just didn't work for me.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Luce

    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.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Ms. Woc Reader

    The Unbroken is a dual POV epic fantasy that follows two women from very different backgrounds. One is a disgraced soldier of Qazali origin and the other is the future ruler of the Balladairan Empire. Touraine is saved from sure death for a crime she did not commit by Luca is exchange for being a pawn in her plan towards peach between the Qazali rebellion and the Balladairans. However Luca's version of peace is still a very much colonized version where even granting the people minimal rights is The Unbroken is a dual POV epic fantasy that follows two women from very different backgrounds. One is a disgraced soldier of Qazali origin and the other is the future ruler of the Balladairan Empire. Touraine is saved from sure death for a crime she did not commit by Luca is exchange for being a pawn in her plan towards peach between the Qazali rebellion and the Balladairans. However Luca's version of peace is still a very much colonized version where even granting the people minimal rights is a power struggle, And Touraine having the most freedom she's ever had really has to grapple with her place in the world. All she knows is serving the empire in different roles. So it's interesting to read about her basically decolonizing her mind to reject the notions that have been programmed into her. Right now she's an outsider who has been tugged away from everything she knows and her Sands(fellow soldiers) she can relate to. There was a little point where it lagged in the middle while we get to know the characters more in the routine they've settled in. It does end up picking back up as Luca and Touraine battle each other on different sides. There's romantic tension between the two but it's not a sweet romance where they perfectly fit. Luca is the master and the one with dominant power which is something that can't be ignored. CL Clark does an great job describing the world of Qazal. I love fantasies where you can picture the town clearly and are given vivid descriptions of what people wore and ate. I also liked the parallels to the real life French Empire's rule over North Africa. I received an arc from Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. Full review https://womenofcolorreadtoo.blogspot....

  18. 4 out of 5

    Charlotte

    I felt pretty distant from this story all the way through and I think it's due to the writing, characterization and relationships (or lack thereof). It's still a perfectly solid debut with a lot of excellent action and meditations upon the impossible position that the colonized are put in. Review to come I felt pretty distant from this story all the way through and I think it's due to the writing, characterization and relationships (or lack thereof). It's still a perfectly solid debut with a lot of excellent action and meditations upon the impossible position that the colonized are put in. Review to come

  19. 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.

  20. 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

  21. 5 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/...

  22. 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.

  23. 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

  24. 5 out of 5

    El Hyrst

    Full review available on my blog from the 22/04/2021: https://inkandplasma.com/2021/04/22/t... Thanks to Orbit Books for the eARC of this book, it has not affected my honest review. This book is so hard to talk about that I’ve been sitting on reviewing this for a month now. Oops. I honestly kept coming back to this but I couldn’t find the words to explain how this book gutted me in the best ways possible. Really you just have to read it. But, I’ll try. I completely, whole-heartedly adored Touraine. Full review available on my blog from the 22/04/2021: https://inkandplasma.com/2021/04/22/t... Thanks to Orbit Books for the eARC of this book, it has not affected my honest review. This book is so hard to talk about that I’ve been sitting on reviewing this for a month now. Oops. I honestly kept coming back to this but I couldn’t find the words to explain how this book gutted me in the best ways possible. Really you just have to read it. But, I’ll try. I completely, whole-heartedly adored Touraine. The whole way through this book, she is an absolute shining light of a character. The complications she faces are unbearable, and I honestly don’t know how I would have handled a single one of them if I was in her place, let alone all of them hitting her back to back. Touraine was stolen from her homeland as a child, conscripted into the army of the empire colonising her own people, then sent back to her homeland to quash a rebellion. It hurt my heart, honestly. Watching Touraine come back to a place she barely recognises, with a language she doesn’t speak, was incredibly powerful. Her loyalties are constantly torn. Between the rebels she ‘should’ help, the people she grew up with and the woman she’s drawn to, Touraine is constantly having to make decisions on a knife’s edge. I was breathless with anticipation for her next actions at all times. I actually ended up listening to the audiobook of this, and I listened to it in one sitting, completely ignoring my fiance so I could focus on the story. This book is brutal. It’s not a fluffy rebellion story where ‘good’ conquers all and changes hearts. It’s a raw look at the ugly realities of colonialisation, of racism, and of the consequences of rebellion and warfare. Touraine isn’t ‘drawn to goodness’ or any of those usual cliches, instead she spends a lot of time conflicted over who she should help, what side she’s supposed to be on, and whether she should act at all. Even just reading along with her I was caught in indecision, and I can’t wait for more in this incredible series. I’ve seen reviews complaining about the relationship between Luca and Touraine, and I guess that’s fair, but it’s important to me to point out that they’re a mess for a reason. These are two women who are diametrically opposed in a lot of ways, and more importantly the power disparity between them is a huge factor. Luca doesn’t want to dismantle the empire. Luca wants her throne back, to rule the empire. I personally adored the complicated relationship between them and the struggle to balance feelings with the realities of a rebellion that’s so much larger than either of them. Touraine’s choices are so, so complicated, and I’m so glad that this book didn’t lean into the ‘love conquers all’ narrative and instead highlighted how complex their power dynamic truly was and how much needs to change before they can fit together without rubbing on each other’s sharp edges.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Fanna

    ↣ digital copy received via netgalley ↢ January 17, 2021: Just got an early copy of one of the most epic sounding books with one of the sexiest covers EVER OMG.

  26. 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

  27. 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.

  28. 4 out of 5

    sol

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

  29. 5 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

  30. 4 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.

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