Title: The Unwilling
Author: Kelly Braffet
Publication Date: February 11, 2020
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Source: Digital ARC provided by publisher via NetGalley
The Unwilling is an epic fantasy story. I had no idea what was in store for me when I signed up for the blog tour, only that I thought the story sounded fantastic. This book is quite hefty, so get comfy!
The story follows four people. Gavin, the heir of Highfall and future ruler. His younger brother Theron who prefers books and gears to people. Judah, the foundling, who showed up mysteriously at the castle as a baby and has been raised alongside Gavin. And Eleanor, a girl from a far away province that was bought as a child to be Gavin’s future wife. The four of them grow up together, though they learn of their very different roles the older they get.
Gavin and Judah have a very special bond that allows them to feel what the other is feeling. It has saved each of them as much as it has hindered them. Judah can feel every time Gavin drinks too much, and Gavin suffers the wounds when Judah does something that garners punishment.
Once they are all adults, they realize they’ve all been pawns in a bigger plan for Highfall. Theron’s life is in danger, and Gavin must make some very difficult decisions. Judah’s life doesn’t feel like her own because everything she does affects Gavin, and Eleanor is merely there to marry Gavin and produce heirs.
Meanwhile, in the city outside of Highfall castle, there is a magus with plans for Judah. He comes from a long line of people who have planned for her birth for many years and he is also a pawn, set to fulfill a plan. As all of their lives intertwine, no one’s plan is going how it is supposed to.
I really adored this story. It reminds me of books like Lord of the Rings in that there are many details and it really immerses you in the world. It also has one of my favorite things in books, the group of friends who are all very close and must rely on each other to get through the hardships. I just really enjoyed this story and would recommend it to anyone who likes immersive fantasy!
“‘None of use are meant for anything. We’re tools in a box, that’s all. Pieces of wood carved like stablemen and courtiers and–and foundlings.’ She heard the words come out of her mouth and was grimly satisfied to realize that she believed them. It was easier to feel that way, to think that the course of her life couldn’t be changed.”
-Kelly Braffet, The Unwilling
*Please note, this quote is from an ARC copy, so it may change in the final copy.
Synopsis: A penetrating tale of magic, faith and pride…
The Unwilling is the story of Judah, a foundling born with a special gift and raised inside Highfall castle along with Gavin, the son and heir to Lord Elban’s vast empire. Judah and Gavin share an unnatural bond that is both the key to her survival… and possibly her undoing.
As Gavin is groomed for his future role, Judah comes to realize that she has no real position within the kingdom, in fact, no hope at all of ever traveling beyond its castle walls. Elban – a lord as mighty as he is cruel – has his own plans for her, for all of them. She is a mere pawn to him, and he will stop at nothing to get what he wants.
But outside the walls, in the starving, desperate city, a magus, a healer with his own secret power unlike anything Highfall has seen in years, is newly arrived from the provinces. He, too, has plans for the empire, and at the heart of those plans lies Judah… The girl who started life with no name and no history will soon uncover more to her story than she ever imagined.
An epic tale of greed and ambition, cruelty and love, this deeply immersive novel is about bowing to traditions and burning them down.
Kelly Braffet is the author of the novels Save Yourself, Last Seen Leaving and Josie & Jack. Her writing has been published in The Fairy Tale Review, Post Road, and several anthologies. She attended Sarah Lawrence College and received her MFA in Creative Writing at Columbia University. She currently lives in upstate New York with her husband, the author Owen King. A lifelong reader of speculative fiction, the idea for The Unwilling originally came to her in college; twenty years later, it’s her first fantasy novel. Visit her at kellybraffet.com.
Author website: https://www.kellybraffet.com/
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