What first came into mind reading The Unwilling was that it read like a historical novel with it’s palace, heir and a spare to the throne, and arranged marriage and combat training and battles, just with a touch of magic. The title refers primarily to Judah but could also refer to Ellie, Gavin and Theron. Judah was brought in by the midwife when Gavin was born, and adopted by his mother. Ellie came to Highfall as an eight year old, sold by her family to Lord Elban to be married to Gavin. Both Judah and Ellie had no choice in coming to Highfall, just as Gavin has no choice at being heir or Theron in being groomed to lead an army when he had no ability to do so. Their strength lies in being one unit, standing together against Lord Elban. It is their friendship that I loved about this book, their loyalty each other and the willingness to sacrifice their own happiness for the safety of the others.
This book certainly wasn’t what I expected, but I liked that, it kept me interested and eager to read on. Kelly Braffet writes beautifully, with well imagined characters, and a gripping plot, that doesn’t pull any punches. This book may not be for the faint hearted, there is a dark side of cruelty and torture, both physical and mental, used as punishment and a power tool. This dark side is difficult to read at times, but it is an important part of the plot line and the balance of the characters relationships. This book really got under my skin, I felt invested in the characters and their stories so that by the end of the book I felt drained, as if I had gone through everything with them; it takes a special author to write like that.
The Unwilling is an epic and magical read of corruption, power, greed, and friendship under oppression. I loved the historical feel to the book and at times I had to remind myself that this was fantasy fiction, and the characters weren’t real. Complex, compelling and beautifully written this is a brilliant book, and one I’m glad I chose to read.
Juliet Butler 5/5*
The Unwilling by Kelly Braffet
978-0778309406 Mira Books Ebook February 2020