Title: The Faithless (Magic of the Lost #2)
Author: C.L. Clark
Publication date: March 7, 2023
One Sentence Summary: Princess Luca may be back in Balladaire, ready to claim her throne from her uncle, but she needs Touraine by her side, even if Touraine is reluctant to leave a freed Qazal, no matter how much she needs to be the one to sign the treaty, which only leads both women to be pulled into a game of chess.
The Faithless is the second in the Magic of the Lost trilogy. After the events of the first book, we find Luca back in Balladaire and still fighting her uncle for her throne, and Touraine struggling to get Qazal in order after their new independence. But the treaty still has to be signed and Touraine still has to get back to Balladaire for that and Luca still needs to find a way to win against her uncle. With these two women reunited, with all the things that still lie between them, it makes for a somewhat uncomfortable in the best way possible ride towards the end. There’s a game of chess being played out between Luca and her uncle and there’s an ex-soldier trying to play the role of an ambassador, creating chaos and loss at nearly every turn. But I loved watching these two women grow and grow over the course of the book, and the ending was just amazing. As much as I hated how Luca and Touraine started out in this book, I completely forgave them by the end.
The Faithless follows some time after the events of The Unbroken. During that time, Luca has returned to Balladaire with a treaty that still needs to be signed and no sign of her uncle relinquishing the throne. Instead, she finds her uncle has most of the noble houses’ support, leaving her to fight tooth and nail for whatever leverage she can while doing her best to help the Qazali in Balladaire. Touraine, meanwhile, has been working with her mother, the Jackal, to try to ensure the survival of their people, but resources are scarce and Luca keeps calling Touraine to her side, pushing her into the role of ambassador, which doesn’t fit well over an ex-soldier.
Once Touraine finally arrives in Balladaire, though, the game only just starts as Luca and her uncle both maneuver to take the throne permanently. Politics isn’t Touraine’s strong point, but she’s caught between her Qazali birth and Balladairan upbringing, and the pull she still feels towards Luca is hard to ignore. With both women pulled into a manipulative game, they’ll have to do everything in their power to take the throne and protect Qazal and Balladaire, because there’s more brewing outside the palace gates.
I have to admit The Unbroken was not one of my favorite books. I enjoyed it enough, but I just felt like Touraine was being jerked around by the story and it annoyed me quite a bit. The Faithless, unfortunately, didn’t start strong for me, either, but, by the end, I was completely onboard and absolutely in love with Luca and Touraine. These women go through so much over the course of this book, and I really liked the addition of Touraine’s old friend Pruett getting a few chapters to herself. The world just felt that much more expanded and things just that much more crazier.
Where The Unbroken felt like it was giving me a fresh new world and interesting characters, no matter how much they felt like they were at the mercy of the story, The Faithless gave me a number of strong and interesting women. It’s mostly about Luca and Touraine and how they dance around each other while trying not to be hurt by each other again despite working together to win Luca her throne. But it’s also about Pruett and her seeming desire to carve out something for herself, and Aranen and her dealings with working through grief and trying to ground Touraine in her Qazali heritage. There’s also the cocky, swaggering Sabine, an old friend of Luca’s who takes Touraine under her wing, and Ghadin, who serves as Touraine’s page in Balladaire, serving wholeheartedly while still keeping a hold on still being a child.
At first, I hated Luca and Touraine and how they just kept shrinking. They felt annoyingly meek and like they were only at other people’s beck and call. I didn’t see any of the strength I saw in the first book, so I was sorely disappointed in two women who felt more like shrinking violets than a princess and former soldier. Even though I wish they had started out a bit stronger, at least, I did see their incredible growth both as individuals and as a couple that is endlessly pulled towards each other. I loved that tug and pull that defined their romance. It cut and bled, but also soothed with how fiercely they really cared for each other. There’s a lot of pain and a lot of beauty to them, and I loved how it hurt so much. I loved their romance in this book so much more, and I can’t wait to find out how their decisions at the end of this book will impact whatever happens in the third book. I really enjoyed watching both of them come into their own and really grow to be incredibly strong on their own and together, even if they always felt one step behind.
Watching Luca and Touraine engage in that chess game with her uncle was quite fascinating. It drove me a little nuts that they always seemed a step behind, but I liked how they slowly pulled the curtain back and could finally see Balladaire for what it was and what it had become. There’s a lot of truth that comes out in this book, and I found myself utterly fascinated by all the revelations. They end up in quite a lot of danger as they pursue these truths, and friends are lost and nearly lost along the way. I loved watching Luca and her uncle deal with each other, and the end was particularly satisfying, if a bit heartbreaking. Unfortunately for them, there’s also trouble brewing outside the palace walls. A rebellion is in the making. There isn’t as much as I would have liked on that front, with it being introduced and then hanging mostly stagnant despite a few small steps, but I can’t wait to see how it plays into the third book.
While Luca and Touraine are the main characters, the secondary characters were just as fascinating. I loved that Pruett, who felt quite left behind, got her own time to shine. She’s a really fun character, a soldier through and through. But she’s smart, and I loved how her story arc ended in this book, and can’t wait to find out what happens with her in the next. She isn’t a natural leader, but somehow finds her voice and her place, even if it takes a bit to get there. She’s gutsy, or crazy, and I absolutely loved her chapters. I also really liked Aranen. She’s dealing with some serious grief and the loss of her magic after her wife’s death in the first book. She felt quite sad, and my heart broke for her, but I liked how she was just so grounded in her culture and how she tried so much to give that to Touraine. She was a quiet character in all the chaos, so I really appreciated her and how steadfast she was, like a bit of calm in the middle of the storm.
This trilogy isn’t just about Luca and Touraine, the attempts to bring back magic, and the battle for a throne. It’s also about the effects of colonization. Even though Qazal has been granted its independence, it still requires the signing of a treaty. And that treaty is in jeopardy as Luca and her uncle both angle for the throne. I hated how Qazal and the Qazali felt like playing pieces, but this is a game and both players are playing to win it all. I hated the way some of it unfolded, hated how Touraine had to fight both for her people and her place in the court and how it just never seemed to work out in her favor. But I also liked how this book widened the world and expanded on what was offered in the first book. Not only are the borders pushed out, but there’s more about the magic that has been lost and more about how the Qazali are treated in Balladaire. It broke my heart so many times, but colonization is brutal.
The Faithless is an intense story. There are plenty of twists and turns and scheming. New friends are made and old friends are seen. The romance was cutting and painful, but still gorgeous. I really enjoyed the game of chess and really loved getting to know the world better. The best part was just how smooth of a reading experience this was. I read a lot of this book aloud to my daughter at bedtime, and the cadence of every sentence was just lovely, creating an easy to read book that was just beautiful to read. But all the threads in this one inevitably wind their way to whatever conclusion there is to come in the next book, and I can’t wait to find out what happens next.
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Thank you to Orbit and NetGalley for a review copy. All opinions expressed are my own.
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