It is official, give me a book with colonialism and sapphics and I’ll instantly be on my knees.
Wonderful stories and book covers are flourishing in 2021, especially adult fantasies with yellow covers, sapphics and themes of colonialism which basically say “be gay and overthrow your empire”.
If the above keywords weren’t enough to make you add The Unbroken to your TBR, today I present to you a review of the book as part of it’s blog tour hosted by Caffeine Book Tours!
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.
Thank you to Orbit Books and Caffeine Book Tours for sending me a copy of this book in exchange for a spot on The Unbroken Book Tour! This did not impact my review in any way.
All the quotes used in this post are from an advance reader copy and may differ in the final publication.
The Unbroken follows Touraine, a soldier for the Balladairan Empire who has to return to the city of Qazal, where she was given up by her mother at a young age, for a mission. Touraine, raised to be a soldier by the Sands family has hardened up and made her way up in the military ranks and is going to execute this mission like any other, ignoring the fact that she was basically abandoned in this very city.
Luca, another protagonist is the rightful heir to Balladairan’s throne but is held back by her family because they think that she is unworthy of the power she has. A fateful accident that has left her paralyzed, 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.
“You don’t find a life. You have to make one, with the people around you and the causes you put your strength into.”
Both Luca and Touraine, along with all the other side characters were well developed and had distinct voices. It was an equally delightful and gritting experience due to the morally-grey nature. Thought I would have to say that Luca’s POV was the best to read because of her interesting thought process.
When the Touraine and Luca meet, it is under very unexpected circumstances— one that leaves Luca to lead and Touraine to follow. Their dynamic is filled with tension as both of them have to step out of their comfort zone and learn to work together, but they eventually form a tentative and unsuspecting alliance
When the author said that this book was “gay, really gay” they weren’t lying. Even though I didn’t care much about the whole romance plot point going on in the book, I really did appreciate the f/f relationship!
“Who needs a god of oceans when I could drown inside your eyes?”
The world-building was also very well done. As the book was based off events that took place during The French Colonialism of North Africa, I had a lot of fun digging deeper into the history.
The way colonialism impacts a country’s culture and language was portrayed wonderfully because I can certainly see my own country India slowly losing it’s beautiful culture. Another aspect I enjoyed was the politics, something I am a huge sucker for, especially in fantasies.
The system of Shalan magic which is used for healing was also very intriguing learn about, considering there were many side characters who possessed the ability to use it which later turned out to be crucial for our main characters.
The only thing that fell short for me was the plot pacing. It was way too slow for my liking but I understand that it was needed for the world-building that was coming, The Unbroken being an adult fantasy after all.
Overall, The Unbroken was a gripping page-turner, a complex novel that punches you in the gut with brilliance and makes you want to come back for more.
Representation: LGBT protagonists of color, f/f MCs, m/m side characters, nonbinary side character.
Trigger Warnings: Depictions of colonial violence (physical and emotional) and destruction, gore, attempts and threats of rape, threats of torture.
About The Author
Cherae (they/she) has been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world.
When they’re not writing or working, she’s learning languages or reading about war and post-colonial history. Their short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. The Unbroken is her debut novel.