Judah knows she's different. She's been unnaturally connected to Gavin, the heir of Highfall, since the night of their simultaneous birth and no one can explain why, but as the kingdom collapses around them, what makes her different to everyone within those walls might save her life.
Thank you to Maddie at Welbeck Publishing for sending me a review copy of this in hardback! The paperback publication of 'The Unwilling' is being published today (21st January 2021).
I'll make that clear from the start that this is a long book and there are several reviews on Goodreads that put this down as a negative aspect. I want to ensure this doesn't put you off because I ended up loving this and the long chapters were worth it for the emotion, tension and drama.
Fantasy novels tend to get complicated very quickly for me if I don't fully commit to the world-building involved. Luckily, with this being a buddy read, I had set pages per day to read and discuss with Sophie and this actually helped me a great deal in creating the world of Highfall in my head. Braffet did an outstanding job of depicting a grand building set within walls where the regal and wealthy lived, whilst lesser members of the population lived in substandard housing and squalor outside them. It felt almost like a 'Game of Thrones' style division of wealth and the descriptive nature of Braffet's writing ensured the setting was never doubted. As such it became clear to latch onto the world envisioned and then be able to focus on the plot.
From the beginning there is an air of mystery surrounding Judah and how/why she came to be connected with Gavin, this alone made me want to continue the story just to find out how this was possible and what relationship they had. But, as I progressed there were more and more aspects of this novel jumped out at me as reasons to love it. Subplots began to form and characters who we thought we could trust started to deviate into the "bad intentions category". Having that lack of trust in a character made this so much more enjoyable, until the last 10% it wasn't clear what secrets lay buried and who wanted what but gradually all the strings came together to reveal a bittersweet ending and set up for a sequel.
Briefly, I will have to give a small appreciation to my favourite character, Elly. What a badass! She came into her own field of power and showed having knowledge is sometimes the most powerful weapon of all and I loved her for that.
If you're looking for a fantasy novel to sink your teeth into I would definitely pick this one. It's a bit long, but so is Game of Thrones and we've all endured that now haven't we? At least this had a good ending!