There are reasons for caution where the land meets the sea.
About This Book
Title & Author: Unraveller by Frances Hardinge
Length: 432 pages
Genres: Dark Fantasy, YA, Fiction
Release Date: January 10, 2023
In a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them.
Kellen does not fully understand his talent, but helps those transformed maliciously – including Nettle. Recovered from entrapment in bird form, she is now his constant companion, and closest ally.
But Kellen has also been cursed, and unless he and Nettle can remove his curse, Kellen is in danger of unravelling everything – and everyone – around him…
Star Rating: 🦢🦢🦢🦢🦢 • 5 / 5 swans!
The Unraveller, the buzz meant. Spider-gifted, spider-cursed. Destroyer of curses, dismantler of mysteries, unpicker of souls.
This book. This. Book.
I adore it. Definitely one of the best books I’ve read recently.
The characters. The interesting, yet gruesome world. Everything was just so compelling for me in Unraveller. Frances Hardinge really knows how to write. I gotta check out more of her books.
I loved the characters here. They were fun and complex. Kellen and Nettle had an absolutely perfect dynamic – him the hotheaded magical sort, and her being the quiet sort that listens to the world and tries to keep the former out of the trouble his temper often lands him in. And the different anxieties and personal problems each of them dealt with… so much hurt, so much angst.
Nettle’s excruciatingly tragic backstory was utterly heartbreaking. She did absolutely nothing wrong, and yet… well, you’ll have to read it to find out. (It hurts far more that way.) And Kellen’s background, though not nearly as terrible, is still incredibly heart wrenching. Being essentially abandoned by his loved ones for suddenly not quite meshing with their livelihoods. Horrible.
I really liked the other characters too. Gall was interesting, and I loved how strong the grayness was in his character. You didn’t really know what he would do next. Also, loved how feral his connection with his murder horse (sorry, “marsh horse”) sometimes made him, especially near the Wilds. I really liked his horse too, despite her murderousness. It was also nice to have an actual adult in a YA group for once (Gall is implied to be about thirty, while both Kellen and Nettle are both stated to be fifteen.)
Gall’s dialogue with our main duo was also gold.
“Did you see that!” Kellen was ecstatic. “That was another place! Those arches – they’re in two places at once! Just then, we were in two places at once!”
“If you ever do that again,” growled the marsh horseman, “little pieces of you will be in a lot of different places.”
I also really liked the part where Gall said that if he died, his murder horse would mourn him for decades. But she would still eat him.
(Yes, I do like my gruesome humor with my horror fantasy, thank you.)
The Setting (and Writing)
The setting was also amazing. Not just the Wilds – the overgrown, untamable forest-marsh where all the weird, magical stuff originates from – but the country of Raddith that borders it, too. I always find it more interesting when books explore how the surrounding settlements deal with the nearby weirdness than the weirdness itself. It’s fascinating to me. Definitely one of the highlights of the book for me!
I also adored Hardinge’s prose. It was wonderful. I absolutely loved the way that she described things from the Wilds, as well as the Wilds themselves. Here’s a few quotes to give you a taste:
It is much more likely that you will lose interest in visiting the Wilds, now that you have seen them. (You only think that you have seen them.) You will believe the evidence of your eyes and mind, which tell you there is nothing worth seeing there. (They are lying.)
The animal was a little too large, a little too beautiful, and glossy as polished leather. It didn’t fidget the way other horses did, and its ears didn’t flick nervously as Nettle and Kellen approached. The huffs of its breath stirred little clouds of steam before its muzzle, despite the warmth of the day.
It didn’t smell like a horse either. It smelled of rain.
I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll keep this section brief. I really, really loved the plot. I loved where the characters went on their journey, and reading about the surreal places that Hardinge created.
The only “con” I can really think of for the book, for me, was that the climax and denouement moved too fast. It kinda seemed like the author was just trying to wrap things up as quick as possible. I really think there could have been a decent sized sequel instead of a very rushed last few chapters and epilogue. I would have liked to see more of the antagonist (who isn’t revealed until a good way through the story, and even then doesn’t make an appearance until maybe in the last quarter of the novel).
But none of that took away any of my enjoyment out of the book as a whole, and I loved everything else about it so much, that I’m still keeping my rating at 5 stars. (Sorry, swans.)
I really and truly adored this novel, and I highly recommend to anyone who likes dark fantasy and/or horror (because horror is definitely an honorable mention for the genres).
There is something that I should definitely mention about the TWs. I know I don’t usually bring up anything about TWs, but I really do feel like it is imperative that I say this. Because of the nature of some of the curses, there is definitely some level of body horror in here, as well as some mention of death. None of it is ever overly described or talked about too gruesomely, but I felt the need to mention it nonetheless.
Anyway, if none of that stuff bothers you, definitely check Unraveller by Frances Hardinge out. You (probably) won’t regret it.