The Unbroken (Magic of the Lost #1) by C.L. Clark
Publication Date: March 23rd, 2021
Paperback. 464 pages.
I loved Clark's ability to create such a vivid setting with characters whose passions and personalities were vibrant and authentic. I particularly loved getting to know Touraine, an incredibly tough woman who doesn't really take anything without a fight or without doing what she thinks is right, but unfortunately what is "right" isn't always easy to determine, and we see Touraine struggle with this issue at multiple points throughout the story. Touraine's biggest struggle is with her own identity and with trying to determine where her loyalties lie--with the Balladairians who have formed her new family, or with the Qazāli where she was born.
I also enjoyed following Luca's perspective, which was one of much greater privilege than Touraine's and allowed us to sort of get a glimpse into the other side's perspective of the rebellion and how different aspects were perceived in different ways. It's one of those situations where you can understand Luca's perspective in many circumstances and how things aren't necessarily as cut and dry as some may think, but it's also frustrating to see how much this affects those who are suffering, and how it would be so much easier if everyone could just find a simple compromise. But it's much more complex than that, and I think Clark handled this entire situation with nuance and care that felt respectful and also unafraid to approach difficult topics and themes. I appreciated Luca's determination and refusal to back down to anyone when she didn't want to, although this did lend to a bit stubbornness of course, but she was also fairly open-minded at points as well.
The world-building is one of the most compelling points of this book, and it's also one of the points that I wanted the most expansion on. We get a lot of amazing world-building and description of the city itself where the majority of our action takes place and I loved the depth of history and background that Clark created for the cultures involved, but I also wanted more about the surrounding areas to be developed (maybe in future book[s]?). Clark portrays the struggles of identity that have developed as a result of colonization, as well as how colonization can begin to affect certain aspects of culture, such as religion. I also liked Clark's depiction of the rebels and the interactions between them and the Balladairian colonizers, as I think it showcased the various struggles that arise and how "negotiations" often fall apart between two groups of unequal power.
Loyalty is one of the biggest topics explored in this book, and I think Clark did an excellent job of showcasing how complex the question and exploration of loyalty can be. Does one follow blood ties or the ties that have been holding them in recent years created by colonization? At what point is it considered betrayal when trying to do what you think is best for opposing sides? Is there ever a time when it's okay to help an 'enemy,' even if it seems like it will be beneficial for everyone? These and so many more questions are explored in some truly nuanced and engaging ways throughout The Unbroken.
Overall, I've given The Unbroken four stars! I really enjoyed this new world that Clark created and I cannot wait to see what's next for this world and the characters I've grown attached to!