Book review: The Faithless by C.L. Clark

Discover Orbit's "The Faithless" by C.L. Clark on Amazon.
Discover Orbit's "The Faithless" by C.L. Clark on Amazon. /

This month marks the release of The Faithless by C.L. Clark, the sequel to their fantasy novel The Unbroken. It’s been a long wait to find out what happens next for revolutionary Touraine and queen-to-be Luca Ancier following the explosive events of book one. How does The Faithless fare as a follow-up to one of 2021’s most promising fantasy debuts?

We’ll be keeping this review as spoiler-free as possible, though there will be mild spoilers for book one.

The Faithless by C.L. Clark. Image courtesy of Orbit Books.
The Faithless by C.L. Clark. Image courtesy of Orbit Books. /

Book review: THE FAITHLESS by C.L. Clark, (Magic of the Lost #2)

When last we saw Touraine and Luca, their relationship was strained, as was the relationship between their native nations: Qazāl and Balladaire. The Unbroken was both a powerful exploration of colonialism and its effects on those caught in its gears, as well as a tale of star-crossed sapphic romance.

The Faithless continues both of those ideas while expanding on Clark’s world in a number of meaningful ways. The biggest is the setting. One of the defining aspects of The Unbroken was the complicated relationship between a nation which had been colonized and one which seeks to colonize others. In that regard, The Faithless continues to be one of the most fascinating fantasy examinations of colonialism in recent memory. It draws on the French colonization of Northern Africa for inspiration, and Clark uses a deep well of knowledge on the subject to flesh out their tale.

Touraine was taken from Qazāl as a child and raised as a conscript in Balladaire. The first novel dealt with her return to Qazāl at a time when the fires of revolution were flaring up, and what it meant for her as someone who was raised in the empire to then reconnect with the homeland of her childhood. In the sequel, Clark flips that on its head by spending most of The Faithless exploring Touraine’s return to Balladaire. The character work for Touraine is top notch.

Meanwhile, Luca is locked in a bitter power struggle against her uncle Duke Nicolas Ancier, the reigning regent of the Balladairan Empire who refuses to relinquish the throne to her. Where Touraine has to examine how this empire has treated those who are indoctrinated into it, Luca has the sheltered worldview of someone who grew up on the privileged end of that society. By the time the novel ends, both have grown a great deal, and not always in the ways you’d expect.

The Faithless spends a lot of time on Luca and Touraine’s tumultuous relationship. The romantic elements take center stage. Some readers will doubtless enjoy that more than others, depending on your preference for how much romance versus adventure you want in your fantasy books. Regardless, Clark does an amazing job with this slow burn love story. Luca and Touraine’s romance is complicated, and however often they move in and out of each other’s orbits, it never feels contrived just to keep up the tension.

That’s not too surprising though, because character work is easily one of Clark’s biggest strengths. Whether it be the wonderfully fun Sabine Durfort (who will totally be a new fan favorite) or the vile Duke Nicolas, the characters in The Faithless feel very much like real people. A special nod has to be given to Pruett, who serves as an impromptu third main character. Her personality is very different from the other two leads and she takes us to different parts of the map, which added a lot.

The Unbroken by C.L. Clark. Image courtesy of Orbit Books.
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark. Image courtesy of Orbit Books. /

The Faithless dials up the romance but tones down the action

We’ve talked an awful lot about character stuff, in part because that’s what stood out to me the most about The Faithless. The worldbuilding is also excellent, although as with the first book I found myself wanting to see more of the world. That said, while we may not see countless fantasy cities or vistas, the ones we do spend time in are explored in great detail.

The pacing and prose are also very solid. Clark’s writing is lyrical yet accessible, and the book pulled me along so quickly that I had a hard time putting it down. If you want a new fantasy book you can devour in a few feverish sittings, The Faithless is it.

The other thing I would point out to prospective readers is that this is a much more of a political and romantic fantasy than The Unbroken was. The first book had those elements as well, but the story of Qazāl’s revolution also meant that there were a lot of action scenes, bloody betrayals, and heart-pounding moments. The Faithless still has those, but the struggles in the sequel are often less outright visceral than before (though not always — one particular scene late in the novel had me gasping out loud). The various magics are explored in some fascinating new ways, though much of it feels like set up for the big finale in book 3. This is true of the plot as well, which ends on a huge cliffhanger that sets up the trilogy’s final volume.


The Faithless is a worthy follow-up to C.L. Clark’s The Unbroken that builds on the characters, world, and magics introduced in the first book, while adding a heaping dose of political intrigue and even more romance. I’ll be eager to get my hands on book 3 when the time comes.

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