ARC Review | The Unwilling

My Rating: ⭐️⭐️

Title: The Unwilling

Author: Kelly Braffet

Format: eBook (NetGalley)

Pages: 400

Publication Date: February 11, 2020

Categories: Dark Fantasy, Sci-Fi

Disclaimer: **I received this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.  All thoughts and opinions are my own.**

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.

Thank you to MIRA and NetGalley for giving a chance to read this eARC.

My reading experience of The Unwilling was not what I expected. I was intrigued and kept reading it, but halfway in I was getting restless. I kept reading to see why our main characters: Judah, Gavin, Theron and Elly were all suffering so much and I was hoping for somewhat of a happy ending. I didn’t get that.

Judah was born on the same night as the future Lord of the City, Gavin. Being born on the same night created some magical bond between them. They can feel each other’s pain and can communicate in a way no other two people can. Elban, Gavin’s father is a very cruel man who finds pleasure in torturing his children and foster child. He exerts his power through cruelty and Judah, Gavin, Theron (Gavin’s younger brother) and Eleanor (Gavin’s intended) all suffer because of him.

There is also political intrigue in the kingdom and someone is planning Elban’s downfall, but who? Then there is the newcomer Nate, the magus – he’s a healer with a hidden agenda. Everyone wants a piece of Judah and she has no idea why – but will she find out before it’s all too late?

  • Something about this book kept me reading it – and mostly because I needed to know what was so special about Judah. Why did the magus need to get to her so badly?! She had powers obviously but she hardly…and I mean HARDLY uses them in this book because she doesn’t know she has them. 🤦🏻‍♀️
  • This book is depressing so the only shining light about it is the bond and love between Judah, Gavin, Theron, and Elly. They suffered together and became their own family and relied on each other. Their love for each other really came through in this story.
  • There were a few twists in the story within the political environment of the kingdom but…again…the twists benefited everyone else, not the four abused people in this story.
  • Triggers: Almost EVERYTHING. Torture, graphic scene of a deer hunt, graphic scene of feral hounds torturing someone (think Ramsey from Game of Thrones), cutting (it’s blood magic), drug use, physical and mental abuse…so much abuse.
  • I had to reach 75% into the book to find out what Judah’s power was? Ugh…Why couldn’t it be explained earlier? Nate’s relationship with Derie (his abusive mentor)…didn’t even really explain why their people needed Judah until the end! So frustrating. 😑
  • I’ve read books with torture in it, but in the end – someone is usually a hero. Someone turns the tide…this kingdom was ruled by one mad man to another. There was no happy ending in sight for Judah, Gavin, Theron and Elly. There was seriously no HOPE for these four children, now adults, trapped together in misery. They were unwilling to become like their father Elban, I get it…they were unwilling to let their family be broken apart…but it was.
  • When Judah’s power explained by Nate who’s head is scrambled by Derie so he can carry out this mission of ending Elban’s line and unleashing Judah’s power – by then he’s a madman too. This whole story was about people who needed Judah for something. They all preyed on her even Nate who was supposed to “help” her, even Gavin who wasn’t supposed to hurt her.
  • The ending was frustrating. 😒 And this is categorized as Sci-fi on NetGalley…what was sci-fi about it? The part where Theron tinkers as an inventor? Did I miss it?

Despite all the things that turned me off about this book, I read this book in three days! That means something about it kept me interested and I think it was the mystery of Judah’s power. But by the time it is explained I was just so frustrated with this story and the ending left me even more unsatisfied. Judah’s dilemma seemed so impossible to fix, here was a girl who was bound to another, not by choice. Bound to a kingdom not by choice and here were this people, trying to keep her bound. This book wasn’t for me but I did finish at least.

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