Magic of the Lost #1
WHAT’S THE BOOK ABOUT
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.
WHY YOU SHOULD READ THIS BOOK
The Unbroken by C. L. Clarke has assassinations aplenty. Every few pages, death makes its mark on its protagonists as well as on us. While one is inexperienced in the ways of court but brilliant in commanding soldiers to fight for their country, another is an amateur in both the battlefield as well as the court. While one wears her emotions on her sleeve, the other woman hides her emotions well behind a veneer of a cool mask. While one is loyal to her company of soldiers, the other only cares about the throne. Now, you must read the book to discover who is who.
In addition to the protagonists (Touraine and Luca), I found all the characters to be engaging. The protagonists are flawed, their immaturity plainly visible at each step. This simply exacerbates the situation but roots you to the spot. You have no choice but to keep reading. Further, the book features several queer characters.
As with any epic fantasy novel, things do not remain the same throughout the novel. Both the women grow wiser at the expense of many losses. These losses were like a punch to the gut for me as well as to Touraine and Luca. They could not trust anyone. Even their dearest ones betrayed them.
The Unbroken is a classic conquered versus conqueror tale. Luca belongs to the family of the conqueror while Touraine is the conquered. Kidnapped as a child to fight for Balladaire, she is fiercely loyal to her company of her soldiers – the Sands. Because they are the only ones who keep her sane. Because all the Sands were kidnapped as children. So, all of them feel each other’s pain.
Torn between loyalty to the Sand and duty to Luca, Touraine is forever walking on the edge of a sword. Add to this mix, love for Luca and unexplored ties of blood, you get a story that is crackling with tension.
“This looked like the losing side. It even felt like the losing side. It didn’t feel like the wrong side.”
What does Touraine choose – duty, loyalty, or justice? Again, you have to read the book to find out.
The Unbroken is an intimate portrayal of the complexities involved in governing an empire and the bid to become a ruler. The environment in barracks in which the Sands stay, the punishment-and-reward ways in which they are trained to be loyal to their captors, the politics in the court, the devious behind-the-scenes trickery for personal gain, the descriptive visuals of the hot, baking desert town and the cool house in which Luca stays not only make for a gripping read but also lend themselves to excellent worldbuilding.
However, the book falters in pacing. I would have liked the story to be faster paced. Moreover, despite being lengthy, I felt The Unbroken only skimmed the surface of what C. L. Clarke has to offer. There is magic, sacrifices, and faith to counterbalance the cold and calculate logic of subduing a rebellion. However, I would have liked to know more about them.
The epilogue makes it clear there is more heartbreak reserved for the readers in Book 2 of Magic of the Lost. I would be glad to read the sequel. Hopefully, it will have a faster pace than Book 1.
The Unbroken by C. L. Clarke is recommended for lovers of epic fantasy and queer fiction.
Genre: Fantasy || Pages: 464 || Published on March 23rd 2021 by Orbit
Many thanks to Tracy Fenton @ Compulsive Readers for organizing this blog tour. Many thanks to the publisher for my copy of the book via Netgalley. This does not affect my opinion on the book. I opted to provide an honest review on my blog.
Cherae was a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow and graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in FIYAH, PodCastle, Uncanny and Beneath Ceaseless Skies. Now she’s one of the co-editors at PodCastle. The first novel in her upcoming trilogy is THE UNBROKEN (Orbit, 2021).
Author Links: Website