Title: The Unfettered Child
Author: Michael C. Sahd
Publication date: August 28, 2019
Summary: Samara is a very special little girl, but she doesn’t know it. When elves capture many of the women from her tribe, a terrible power awakens, and a disembodied voice takes her as his apprentice to teach her how to harness her unexpected powers. With her tribe destroyed, she sets off to reunite with her mother, who was captured, and her father, who set off earlier on to find his wife, but the voice in her head isn’t completely honest.
I previously reviewed this book at the time of publication at the request of the author. Unfortunately, I felt it was underdeveloped and lacked polish. The author very kindly gifted me the fully edited copy. A while back, I wrote about editing making or breaking a book. Sometimes I can read past it to find a really great story, and sometimes the bad writing really impedes the story. The Unfettered Child the first time around was a victim of the latter, but I’m pleased that the revisions did help me focus on the story more, so I’m pleased to be able to updated my review.
The Characters: Clear and Sad
Initially, I had really loved Orin, Samara’s father, and the elves while feeling a bit annoyed with Samara. I loved that Orin was so strong and acted just as I would expect a father and husband who had lost everything to act. That remained true, but, somehow, I felt he was even more broken and my heart just broke for him because of everything he did and didn’t know. I also still adored the elves. With the revisions, they seemed the least changed, but also more diabolical. Or, perhaps, that’s just because I knew what was coming. Still, I loved how manipulative they were and wished there were more scenes with them, though Illtud, a powerful elf mage, really took the cake.
My biggest issue had been with Samara. Even though she’s eight, I felt her character never seemed to develop and complained she cried too much to get out of difficult situations. While I still felt she cried a little too much, it did think the crying was better placed. Or maybe the writing was just tighter so it felt like it belonged. I was also finally able to see the bits of growth she made. With more complexity to the writing, it was easier to see her as more than just a child.
The Setting: All the Right Fantasy Notes
The world building was one thing I had liked from the ARC. As I mentioned, it had hit all the right notes for fantasy, but it felt a little underdeveloped. Since I have not compared the ARC and this published version, I can’t tell for sure if it changed much, but I felt it was richer. Again, maybe it’s just because the writing was more polished and more descriptive with more complexity to the language and phrases, but I felt more immersed in the world. I loved the indigenous, Russian, European, and gypsy influences. They seemed more connected than they had previously. The religion still escapes me a bit, but there wasn’t really a focus on it. I did like learning about the magic and how it worked in this world. It actually seemed very cumbersome, but some of the things they could do was actually really cool.
The Plot: Centered Around Family
My initial review was clearly written before I switched to this format, so I didn’t actually write much about my thoughts on the story itself. I mentioned it was interesting and cohesive and moved at a good pace, but nothing beyond that. This book does move at a good pace. It’s constantly in motion and things are always happening. I liked that no scene seemed extraneous.
This is really the kind of story that can speak to a family as it’s about families that have been ripped apart. As a mother, I can experience the heartbreak right along with them and also wonder to what ends I would go for my own family. I loved the focus on the family and the power of love and duty.
I will say, though, that there were some inconsistencies, like characters being named out of the blue and a character seemingly vanishing even though I thought she’d be back. But they were just little things that were a bit jarring without knocking me out of the story.
Overall: Enjoyable, Yet Serious
I liked the ARC, but this is much better. The writing is tighter, more descriptive, and more complex. It has a maturity to it that really resonated well with me. I found myself enjoying the characters, world, and story more, so I’m really thankful to the author for sending me this copy. It’s a fun, but serious fantasy.
How many cups of tea will you need?
4 should do the trick
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Thank you so much to the author, Michael C. Sahd, for gifting me this copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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