By C L Clark
- The Unbroken
Author: C L Clark
- ISBN: 9780356516233
- Published: March 2021
- Pages: 528
- Format reviewed: Paperback
- Review date: 29/03/2021
- Language: English
The life of a fantasy hero is never easy. They are often thrust into an adventure not of their choosing, losing those that they love on the way towards an objective that seems impossible to meet. In C L Clark’s Unbroken, one of the protagonists is Touraine, a soldier who much overcome all the usual challenges that fantasy offers, but also struggle within the confines of a society designed to keep people like her down. The world of Magic of the Lost is not for the faint of heart as only the strong and the lucky will survive.
Touraine was stolen as a child and brought up by her captures to become a conscript in their army. Now Touraine and her company are returning to the land of Qazal, a place many of them never knew. After years of being the vanguard for the Balladairan army, they must now police those that could be considered their own. Also among the flotilla of ships is Luca, the Balladairan Princess who must prove her worth if she is to ever rule the Empire, but how should she rule? An assassination attempt brings Touraine and Luca together. These two vastly different people will determine the fate of Qazal and the Empire.
Having read a lot of fantasy the structure can often follow a pattern of being a single protagonist, or several. Unbroken differs in that it has two leads, and the time is split just between them. This makes it one of the most character led fantasy books that I have read. Not only do we learn a lot about the motivations of Touraine and Luca, but also the relationship between the two of them. Too often in this genre the various characters are off on their own adventures will little interaction. Here, we learn how each character feels about the other and we see the relationship from both perspectives.
An in-depth relationship within a genre book is always welcome, but the real boon is how Clark uses it to drive the story. Luca is always going to have a significant impact on the people of Quzal, both the locals and those that have migrated from the other areas of the Balladairan Empire, as she is a Princess. It is her meeting with Touraine that changes the course of history. Touraine herself has links to important family members and between the two of them, whether they are in peace or conflict, changes the politics of the city.
Clark paints a very human relationship and highlights character flaws. Some of the decisions that both make lead to unforeseen consequences that will haunt the characters for the rest of the lives. What makes the interaction between Touraine and Luca so intense is their diverse backgrounds. Clark can explore many of our own society’s ills via these two. A company of conscripts who have fought at the front for years and yet still have no power. The reason behind this? Their background and skin colour. The politics of Quzal plays out along race lines. Touraine starts off wanting to improve life for her Company from within, but with the dice loaded against her, is joining the revolution the only choice?
Unbroken is best placed in the Low Fantasy spectrum of the genre as its hides most of its magical elements. Whether true magic exists or not is an important part of the story. There are moments of explosive action, often coming from nowhere as guerrilla tactics are preferred over conventional war. Much of the book is set in one city and with two main characters, this allows a level of character exploration seldom seen in the fantasy genre. The relationship between Touraine and Luca drives events. If you like your characters well developed and relationships fully realised, then this fantasy outing is for you.
Written on 29th March 2021 by Sam Tyler .