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My reading took a nose dive this March but it’s books like The Fires of Vengeance by Evan Winter and The Unbroken by C.L. Clark that made up for it! To tell you the truth, you can always count on Orbit books to fill your heart. Today, I’m excited to bring your my thoughts on C.L. Clark’s The Unbroken which is a North African inspired political fantasy.
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.
TRIGGER WARNING: COLONIAL VIOLENCE, KIDNAPPING, ALLUSIONS TO RAPE, TORTURE, GUN VIOLENCE, SLAVERY
I RECEIVED AN E-COPY OF THIS BOOK FROM THE PUBLISHER AND CAFFEINE BOOK TOURS AS PART OF MY PARTICIPATION IN THEIR TOUR.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark is heavily influenced by the French colonization in Northern Africa. Firstly, I love how fantasy writers are exploring these historical atrocities in detail. From the Qazal slums to Balladaire’s rich district, Balladaire has destroyed the Qazal way of life not only by the land they stole but also the children who were stolen and the erasure of religion.
Touraine returns to Qazal as a Lieutenant and despite being a native of Qazal, all Touraine can feel is disgust. To her, the natives are uncivilized and her “education” as a soldier sets her apart. This internalised racism and Touraine’s development is one of the core themes of The Unbroken. Touraine was stolen as a child and fed propaganda against her own country, so her return is not
I found Luca’s narrative especially compelling. Her own racism and privilege is so clearly read but tied up in these beliefs that she is doing good. But let’s be clear here: Luca wants to do good by her people and this does not include the Qazal.
“Their lives paralleled Touraine’s own displacement, though, of course, their displacement had been by choice. And didn’t risk their lives. And was more profitable on the whole.“C.L. Clark, The Unbroken
The Unbroken explores how the effects of colonization cannot be outdone by a few good intentions. Luca can choose to raise the pay of the Sands or reach out to the rebels but like, Touraine said, at the end of the day, Luca and the Balladairans occupied land that was not theirs. They took and took from the natives and thought that by employing them or building a school would be a good enough bargain. Truly though, what is a good enough reparation for the lives they took, the land they desecrated and the religions they banned?
“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.“C.L. Clark, The Unbroken
I love how complicated the characters were from Touraine’s own internalized racism to her confusion about being her identity. As a biracial, I could relate to some of Touraine’s emotions. I understood what it was like to feel unwelcomed, to feel othered, but not the experience of someone who had been stolen away and used against their people. You could tell with the way Touraine felt about wanting to learn Shalan and how it resonated with her. There is something so heart wrenching of hearing your native language and even when you don’t understand it at times, it fills the blood. It caresses your memories and pulls you in.
“Balladaire was a land of gifts and punishment, honey and whips, devastating mercies.“C.L. Clark, The Unbroken
The worldbuilding in The Unbroken was so fascinating. I love how the author integrated language, architecture and the history of the land. The world of The Unbroken was so full of life. IT wasn’t just a description of Qazal’s architecture but the author actually showed readers how things like a building or clothing are changed when a country is colonized. Personally, I also liked that through Luca we find out some of the policies like food rations, the Sands and how public approval swayed political decisions.
Cherae has 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 or reading about war and post-colonial history. Her short fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, FIYAH, PodCastle and Uncanny. The Unbroken is her debut novel.
🌸 Have you read The Unbroken or do you plan to?
🌸 What’s a fantasy theme that you enjoy exploring?
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