The Unbroken – Magic of the Lost – Book One by C.L.Clark,
Orbit, £8.99, p/b.
Reviewed by Steve Dean
The Unbroken follows the stories of two characters; Touraine, a lowly conscripted soldier, and Princess Luca, the rightful queen of her homeland, being kept from the throne by her usurping uncle.
By chance, Touraine is involved with saving the princess against assassins when the army from Balladaire arrives in the conquered vassal state of Qazal, Touraine’s birthplace. The princess offers Touraine her thanks and offers to help her in the future, should she need it. This, of course, soon happens, and the princess saves Touraine from execution, taking her on as an expendable spy/go-between for the princess and the Qazal rebels. Luca is hoping to prove her worth by brokering peace between the two nations, turning the Qazal into allies instead of vassals. Luca is also searching for some lost magical powers, hence the title, which might help her take her throne back.
The book has a promising start, some good character development and foreshadowing. The writing is easy to read and descriptive if a little terse in places. This soon becomes something of a slow burn as we continue through the chapters. Unfortunately, it turns into a chore and then an effort, and finally, a grind as the story continues. If I wasn’t reading the book to review, I doubt I would have reached the end. It reads more like a campaign diary than a novel.
Monday: Got dressed, did some paperwork. Tuesday: Personal guard had leg chewed off by a crocodile. Wednesday: Lunch with the general.
This lack of pacing and gravitas isn’t helped by the characters, who learn nothing, make the same mistakes throughout the book, make the wrong decisions and trust the wrong people over and over. This also results in many past events being forgotten by the characters. It’s as if each chapter stands alone from the rest of the story. You did this, and this bad thing happened, remember? Nope. I found myself not really caring about what happened to any of the characters, and at some points, I thought they got exactly what they deserved.
I also had problems with the world-building, to which the author seems to have applied little thought. Find any French-speaking desert country in Africa, and you’re there.
I feel we must cut the author a small amount of slack as it is a debut novel. This reads more like a first draft, though, and it really needed a major re-write.
In conclusion, this book is described as ‘epic fantasy’ on the back cover. Fantasy, I’ll give you, but it didn’t quite tick the epic box for me.