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Monday, March 6, 2023

Review: THE FAITHLESS by C.L. Clark

 

Official Author Website
Buy The Faithless HERE
Read our review of Book 1, The Unbroken

OFFICIAL AUTHOR BIO: C.L. Clark is a BFA award-winning editor and Ignyte award winning-writer, and the author of Nebula-nominated novel The Unbroken, the first book in the Magic of the Lost trilogy. She graduated from Indiana University’s creative writing MFA and was a 2012 Lambda Literary Fellow. She’s been a personal trainer, an English teacher, and an editor, and is some combination thereof as she travels the world. When she’s not writing or working, she’s learning languages, doing P90something, or reading about war and [post-]colonial history. Her work has appeared in various SFF venues, including Tor.com, Uncanny, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies.

FORMAT/INFO: The Faithless was published by Orbit Books on March 7th, 2023. It is 465 pages split over 44 chapters and an epilogue. It is told in third person from multiple POVs, including Touraine and Luca's. It is available in paperback, ebook, and audiobook format.

OVERVIEW/ANALYSIS: After bloody revolution, the nation of Qazal appears to have won independence from the conquering nation of Balladaire. But though Princess Luca may have made promises on behalf of her empire, she still doesn't control the throne - her uncle, the duke regent does. Luca's hoping her upcoming coronation will allow her to cement a treaty with the Qazal, but the duke seems determined to keep the throne for himself, even going so far as to call for a Trial of Competence. And with Luca's allies dwindling, her hold on the throne is slipping away. In desperation, Luca reaches out to Qazal to send ambassadors - and requests that Touraine be among them. The Qazal council thinks that Touraine's relationship with Luca may get them the concessions they want, but is Touraine willing to play on those emotions to protect her people?

The Faithless is a heartbreaking fantasy sequel that continues to examine the many ways colonialism can traumatize an entire people. Touraine continues to be a standout character, grappling with the absolute messiness of her emotions caused by her upbringing. In book one, we learned that she was taken from her home as a child, trained to be a soldier and indoctrinated by the empire to believe that her nation was uncivilized and something to be ashamed of. Touraine has spent most of her life seeking the approval of those who kidnapped her, to prove she is "civilized;" she is still in the process of breaking herself of years of teachings, to see her country as proud and beautiful and not something to be looked down upon. She has not finished that journey yet, and she may never do so, but watching her ongoing struggle is the heart of the book.

Luca also continues to be hopelessly naive in believing that everything will go her way and not believing the horrible ways in which the migrants in the empire's capital are treated. While her naivete lends to some of the storytelling, I did wish I could see her navigate the political situation a little more deftly. She seems to be constantly floundering when she should be in her element.

The core of this book is absolutely tense, and I found myself tearing through chapter after chapter, constantly wanting to see what would happen next. Occasionally, however, some chapters were told from the POVs of a few side characters. One major B plot involves the situation back in Qazal, while a second follows a character in the capital city of Balladiare. While both are likely to be important to the final book, they felt a bit shoved into the story; the first plot I didn't really need, while the second I actually would have liked to see more fleshed out, as it speaks to other political forces at work in the empire.

CONCLUSION: Overall, The Faithless is a gripping examination of empire and a worthy follow-up to The Unbroken. It doesn't have easy answers and puts the characters through the wringer in more ways than one. If you want to delve into trauma through some truly messy characters, The Faithless is here to deliver.

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