The Unbroken by C.L. Clark

5.0Overall Score

The Unbroken

At its core, this is a book about how colonialism permanently erupts the idea of home. Can you exist in the world without a home? If home isn’t just a place, then why fight so hard for the land ...

  • Plot
  • Themes
  • Characters
The Unbroken
Title: The Unbroken
Published: 03/23/2021
Page Count: 442
ISBN13: 9780316542753
In an epic fantasy unlike any other, two women clash in a world full of rebellion, espionage, and military might on the far outreaches of a crumbling desert empire. 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…

At its core, this is a book about how colonialism permanently erupts the idea of home. Can you exist in the world without a home? If home isn’t just a place, then why fight so hard for the land you stand on? Can you come back to a home you never even knew? Are you able to build a new home without betraying your old one?

These are messy questions explored with even messier characters. Touraine, the star of our story, makes so many bad but perfectly in character decisions that you weep for her. Luca, the love interest of sorts, sees their own bad decisions through almost the same moral lens as Touraine and man is it beautiful to see how these two mirrors crash into one another. There’s never a point where I’m explicitly rooting for one over the other because both of their cases are laid out in the narrative in such carefully placed detail that you understand the deeper nuances. It takes a very precise and in control author to not allow their story to swing too hard in one character’s favor.

Pulling off the political nuance in a way that doesn’t drag down the momentum of the story is probably the hallmark achievement of this book. It moves fast, keeps your attention, gives you beautiful characters to latch on to and yet manages to build out a very complicated political struggle that has no easy answers. Yes, the colonial power is obviously the one with the most blame to carry in the story and it’s made explicit why this is so. What this book does a great job of though is showing how even when one party carries most of the blame, the uncoupling still isn’t something that can happen smoothly and without harmful consequences for both sides. Something as devastating as generational colonial oppression can’t have a sledgehammer taken to it if the goal is justice and healing. Be bold, not reckless is the mantra I found threaded throughout this book’s framework.

Beyond the deeper themes, there is so much of this book to enjoy. I suspect many, many ships will arise out of the broken, fierce older women stomping about pissed off throughout this book. General Cantic gives me Olivier Mira Armstrong vibes in the best way. The Jackal is going to be an epicenter of fan art. Touraine and Luca’s journey will leave people dabbing their eyes at points. And there will be fierce defenses of some of the choices both make. Outside of two rightfully despicable characters, there isn’t anyone in the book who won’t find fierce advocates.

This book feels like one of those deep conversations you have with someone you respect at 3am on a Saturday night. It’s wonderful, you know you’re going to miss it before it’s even over and you’ll think about it for a long time to come.

Comic books, SFF and good cooking are the essential elements of Brent Lambert. A full-fledged military brat, he is consistently struck by wanderlust and has a keen sense of things never really being permanent. A writer with an insurmountable TBR list, he strives to make Black gay characters exist in all worlds and all times.

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