TORN (The Unraveled Kingdom #1)
By Rowenna Miller
Release Date: 3/20/18
TORN is the first book in an enchanting debut fantasy series featuring a seamstress who stitches magic into clothing, and the mounting political uprising that forces her to choose between her family and her ambitions, for fans of The Queen of the Tearling.
Sophie is a dressmaker who has managed to open her own shop and lift herself and her brother, Kristos, out of poverty. Her reputation for beautiful ball gowns and discreetly-embroidered charms for luck, love, and protection secures her a commission from the royal family itself — and the commission earns her the attentions of a dashing but entirely unattainable duke.
Meanwhile, Kristos rises to prominence in the growing anti-monarchist movement. Their worlds collide when the revolution’s shadow leader takes him hostage and demands that Sophie place a curse on the queen’s Midwinter costume — or Kristos will die at their hand.
As the proletariat uprising comes to a violent climax, Sophie is torn: between her brother and the community of her birth, and her lover and the life she’s striven to build.
TORN had already landed on my radar when I received word that a copy would be arriving. And it was not long into the book that it solidified its spot among many other anticipated releases and immediately took precedence over my current reads.
This is the story Sophie, and young seamstress who has the ability to cast charms into stitches and has succeeded in opening and establishing a successful business during a time when doing so is impossible for many. She has built an impressive list of clientele. Unfortunately, the nobles she depends on to maintain her business are also the very individuals her beloved brother Kristos is leading an anti-monarchist movement against, that threatens to turn violent revolution. Through her work, Sophie attracts the eye of a Duke that she soon develops feelings for. However, when Kristos is kidnapped and the ransom requires her to produce a cursed garment for the Queen, she soon finds herself TORN between her brother and community and her current life and beliefs.
TORN unravels at a leisurely pace that allows the reader to reflect and savor each moment. Full of political intrigue and moral dilemmas, it boasts a significant amount of character development in the unlikely form of a dressmaker. Sophie is charming and simplistic in the most elegant ways. While it is easy to understand Kristos’ desire to bring about change and crush the currently oppressive system, we are given a strong insight into Sophie’s own trials that allows us to understand why she struggles with his actions. I cheered Kristos for fighting the people’s fight but found myself unable to fault her for her inability to do the same. We are immersed in a world where we are given multiple sides of the coin. Soon learning of her fears for her brother’s safety, work ethics and desires for a more peaceful approach, Sophie easily won my respect and admiration in terms of protagonists. She presents a fascinating process of evolution as she is exposed to the system and attempts to come to term with greater knowledge and understanding.
I have to pause for a minute and reflect on the romance elements within TORN, as I am not normally a fan. Here, however, it unfolded in such a natural and almost charismatic way, that I admittedly found myself drawn back to her relationship with Duke Theodore. The additional element of an impossible affair thrust into the throngs of forthcoming revolution made this work on every level and upped the ante for our young heroine.
The magic system is not only original but sophisticated. The descriptive process of Sophie’s abilities to stitch charms and also see them being cast, accompanied by the explanations of the emotional impacts this had on her felt complete and beautifully balanced.
World build was slightly limited but not necessarily flawed. The settings coincide perfectly with the unfolding plot and I expect we will see much more in the second book.
Miller writes with a certain level of complexity that speaks of appreciation for her readers. Refusing to spoonfeed us all of the answers, she has built an intelligent system of politics and societal conflicts that not only allows but encourages us to form our own opinions. And there will be times that is not easy.
This is a delightfully surprising debut slow burn that fans of fantasy and political intrigue will find impossible to put down. I will be impatiently awaiting the sequel.
*I want to thank the publisher Orbit for this copy. The above review is my own, honest and unbiased opinion.
Devoured over a nice cup of Jasmine Oolong!