the unwilling

3.5 Stars

This is a dark, violent, haunting fantasy book that won’t be for everyone, but I enjoyed it. Sensitive topics include child abuse and descriptive violence. If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy YA fantasy book with cross-starred crushes, cute misunderstandings and a happy ending, move along. In fact, I wouldn’t characterize this as YA at all.

It took me a long time to get into this book because the story moves slowly. It was probably at least 150 pages or more before I didn’t think of reading the book as a chore. The last half of the book was a faster read. That’s not to say that I liked all of the choices that the author made, and some story arcs made me rolled my eyes, but overall, it was good.

Judah is a foundling raised inside Highfall castle and raised along with Gavin, the son and heir to Lord Elban’s vast empire. Judah and Gavin share an unnatural bond that ties their fates together. While Gavin is groomed to inherit his father’s empire, Judah doesn’t play much of a role in the castle and has almost no freedom to make any choices for herself. She’s basically a prisoner. Lord Elban is cruel and has his own plans for Judah, of which she gets no say.

A new magus with magical powers and his own vision of the empire arrives in the city surrounding Highfall. His plans include Judah, and his task is to get access to Highfall and earn her trust. A task easier said than done.

Other than perhaps Judah, none of the characters have too many redeeming qualities. They all have their own self-interest foremost in their minds, and they don’t really care who they have to betray, hurt or kill to achieve them. It’s hard to read the relationship between Judah and Gavin because it’s a classic tale of an abusive relationship. They love each other, but seem to hurt each other frequently. Then they apologize and the cycle begins all over again. Other than Judah, there isn’t much growth in other characters, although their true personalities do come to the forefront a bit more.

This is not an easy read, but the writing is beautiful and at the end of the day, I was glad I read it.

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.