#BookReview: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Title: Unraveller | Pub Date: 2023-01-10 | Pages: 432 | Genre: YA Dark Fantasy | Source: NetGalley | Starred Review

Unraveller Review

“… one cannot throw away everything that is touched by pain.”

This simple truth is the undercurrent that drives Unraveller. This is a dark YA fantasy novel that touches on profound themes, about forgiving yourself, forgiving others, and being willing to change. It doesn’t gloss over the hard work that entails. And while I know some people will chafe at the idea of kids saving the world yet again, sometimes we need the kids to save the world. Because adults are set in their ways and have accepted the way things are, and aren’t always able to see the way things could be.

If I was going to dock this book for anything, it would be the prologue. That felt like a slog. Sometimes prologues work great. For me, this one didn’t. Maybe it was the second person POV, maybe it was the tell nature of the prologue, trying to get us up to speed on the essentials about this world we’re stepping into. Either way, I don’t feel it was essential, and if you skip it, you’ll be fine.

Hardinge uses an immersive writing style. We’re thrown in head first. The benefit of this approach is that we spend more time getting to know the characters through their actions than their thoughts. Yes, there is narrative, but never at the expense of plot, and Unraveller has a way of continuously raising the stakes. Hardinge also has a knack for hiding things in plain sight, and that leads to some brilliant revelations later in the story.

This is definitely a book where you don’t want to give too much away. The pace is relentless, the plot unfolds with precision but never feels predictable, and there are plenty of characters whose motives aren’t always clear. In fact, who you can trust and how to determine who to trust are recurring issues throughout, and highlight another critical truth. People aren’t always what they seem. And learning to really look and understand can make all the difference.

While this book holds a lot of truths, it never feels preachy. In its simplest form, it’s about two lost teens trying to find their way in a world that both needs them and rejects them in equal measure. And it’s about them coming to terms with their trauma and their identities. 

The book description on Amazon and Goodreads doesn’t do it justice. It’s my first 5 star read of 2023. The worldbuilding is exceptional, the character arcs are compelling, and the subplots and plots are all satisfying. Highly recommended. 

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