Monday, June 25, 2018

Review: Torn by Rowenna Miller

Torn by Rowenna Miller
Orbit, 2018
Paperback, 480 pages

About the book:
"TORN is the first book in an enchanting debut fantasy series featuring a seamstress who stitches magic into clothing, and the mounting political uprising that forces her to choose between her family and her ambitions. 

Sophie is a dressmaker who has managed to open her own shop and lift herself and her brother, Kristos, out of poverty. Her reputation for beautiful ball gowns and discreetly-embroidered charms for luck, love, and protection secures her a commission from the royal family itself -- and the commission earns her the attentions of a dashing but entirely unattainable duke. 

Meanwhile, Kristos rises to prominence in the growing anti-monarchist movement. Their worlds collide when the revolution's shadow leader takes him hostage and demands that Sophie place a curse on the queen's Midwinter costume -- or Kristos will die at their hand. As the proletariat uprising comes to a violent climax, Sophie is torn: between her brother and the community of her birth, and her lover and the life she's striven to build."

I read Torn about a month or so ago and it is one that I still find myself regularly thinking about and recommending to others. It's hard to describe why exactly this is, because it's not as though this was a particularly mind-blowing book, but I just really appreciated how well Miller handled the topics that she chose to feature in this story. It was incredibly carefully written and had such an air of calm and thoughtfulness that makes it continue to stick fresh in my mind.

I was immediately drawn to this book based on the notion that the magic system worked through the main character, Sophie's, sewing. What I ended up getting was so much more than that, however, such as high political intrigue, the beginning of a revolution between the lower classes and the upper classes, and even a dash of Victorian-inspired romance that actually added to the story in a variety of positive ways. The rebellion aspect in this book felt so relevant to our own societies, not because we have the exact same thing happening, but because it wasn't about some extreme issue such as slavery, high court scandal, or a major prophecy finally coming true--it was about the working class realizing that they don't want to be told what to do by the upper class anymore; they want more say in the world and their lives. This stood out to me as being something so relevant to history itself and as something that I applaud Miller for tackling, as she makes some fascinating arguments from many perspective throughout the entire book.

Sophie was a character that really grew on me throughout the duration of this book. At first, she comes across as rather uptight and I wondered if she would be the sort of character that I couldn't ever connect to or even like even to become fully invested in the story. Fortunately, as the story develops her character does as well and I was able to better understand her, her ideas, and her reasons for doing (or not doing) what she does. She's a much more complex character than she seems, and where other characters see some of her actions as cold or uncaring of her fellow class, Miller's writing allows the reader to get a better idea of where she's coming from and what her true ideals are.

Kristos, Sophie's brother, is a dream-follower who is very involved in the revolutionary ideas that are starting to cause uproar and major disruptions in the land. Sophie worries for his safety--with good reason, as he can be a bit brash and unpredictable-- and this creates a classic but still interesting sibling relationship that added a great element of conflict. Kristos was not a character that I liked quite as much as others, but he was still a great example of how one can become caught up in the whirlwind of change and sometimes take things further than they should be taken, even if your intentions are in the right place.

There are an abundance of other characters in this book that really help to set the backdrop of the story and also provide some insight into the various classes featured. Each character was so interesting to explore and I very much enjoyed meeting everyone that Sophie met as her business grew and she gained new clientele. This is what I particularly loved about this book, as it allowed the reader to have empathy and understand the perspective of each person of just about every class involved. We got insight into how the lower classes felt about what was happening, how the middle class was handling it, even how the nobility was viewing the issues and how some even wanted to help those behind the rebellion, but simply had less drastic ideas than those demanding change. I thought the political component of this book was extremely well-written and made

Lastly, I loved the magic in this book. This is a low fantasy series (so far, anyway) and the main magic that we see is found within the realm of charm-casting, such as how Sophie sews her charms into her clothing. The way she uses charms is rarer and often more difficult than how others often cast charms, and I found it fascinating how she did it and how it all worked. Her abilities are tested in this book in both positive and negative ways, and I loved exploring the depth and abilities of Sophie's magic along with her--and I wish I could cast charms into sewing as well!

Overall, I recommend this book to anyone who likes some strong political components in their books involving revolutions or class conflict, or anyone who simply is looking for a good book to keep them entertained. Four stars!

Buy the book: Amazon | Book Depository

*I received a copy of Torn courtesy of Orbit Books in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the novel.*

You might also like:
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay
The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso
Uprooted by Naomi Novik
Carnegie's Maid by Marie Benedict


  1. This sounds very cool! I like that it's not full-on fantasy and it incorporates more realistic themes.

    1. Yeah, I really liked that about it! It really made it stand out and makes me think it would appeal to a much wider variety of readers.

  2. I'm terribly behind, I have a copy of this from the publisher but I just haven't been able to get to it. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, your review has reminded me to try to make this a priority soon:-)