Review: Torn by Rowenna Miller
Series: The Unraveled Kingdom #1
Also by this author: Fray
Published by Orbit on March 20th 2018
Genres: Fantasy, Romance
Also in this series: Fray
TORN is the first book in an enchanting debut fantasy series featuring a seamstress who stitches magic into clothing, and the mounting political uprising that forces her to choose between her family and her ambitions, for fans of The Queen of the Tearling.
Sophie is a dressmaker who has managed to open her own shop and lift herself and her brother, Kristos, out of poverty. Her reputation for beautiful ball gowns and discreetly-embroidered charms for luck, love, and protection secures her a commission from the royal family itself -- and the commission earns her the attentions of a dashing but entirely unattainable duke.
Meanwhile, Kristos rises to prominence in the growing anti-monarchist movement. Their worlds collide when the revolution's shadow leader takes him hostage and demands that Sophie place a curse on the queen's Midwinter costume -- or Kristos will die at their hand.
As the proletariat uprising comes to a violent climax, Sophie is torn: between her brother and the community of her birth, and her lover and the life she's striven to build.
Torn by Rowenna Miller was just a joy to read. I loved the concept of integrating magic with sewing and quickly found myself swept away into the world and character of Sophie. She is innovative, independent and loyal, though her loyalties wind up rather divided, putting her in a hard position.
This is set very much in a have/have-nots world with the elite upper class, and the lower working class. The rich have an extreme amount of control. To even attempt to start a business, one must apply for a permit and most applications are quickly denied. And if there is an existing business that you would be competition for? Don’t even think about it. It adds enormous barriers for residents to raise themselves to a better quality of life. Sophie is a minority in addition to being from the lower class part of town, but has worked hard and risen to a respectible position that serves the upper class. She even runs her own shop and even has a couple of employees, which can seem like an unattainable dream for someone with her background and position. Charms were not historically desirable in the culture she is now a part of, however, most have been crude and written in clay. They were not fashionable or interesting, and people generally doubt their power to actually work. They come across as a cheap novelty item one might buy in the street, like a worthless little trinket. But Shophie took the charmcasting that is known for people of her heritage and offered it in a unique way that made it much more marketable and desirable. She has created a novel product by sewing charms directly into items that people would actually use and want without the charm. And then, her clients started telling stories about how the charms do actually work, and well, business took off.
This is very much a character driven story and since I felt a connection to Sophie immediately, it worked incredibly well for me. But there are also intriguing things going on in the world. I always love a good political uprising, and this book delivered that as well. There is an uprising brewing as a group is trying to organize political reform that will remove power from the upper class and allow the general masses to have a say in government, to have the right to attempt start businesses on their own terms. Sophie finds herself in a hard position as the clients that have allowed her business to grow and thrive are all targets of this reform. And if they leave or lose their wealth, Sophie’s business won’t survive. On the other hand, she wants others to have the same chances she had. She recognizes that her permit for her business could have been denied, and each year when its time to renew, she knows it can always be revoked at the whim of whoever is in charge.
My only word of (very slight) caution, is that there is some serious insta-love in this, but I found I really didnt mind it this time. The story was very well written, I loved Sophie’s character, and I quickly wanted her to have whatever her heart desired. Even if that meant wanting her to have her insta-love. I know this is a negative trigger for many readers, myself often included, so I did want to at least put in a soft forwarning about it. Know what you are in for and maybe you won’t be as bothered by it.
Overall, I can say I highly recommend this one. It has fun, excitement, and magic all sewn into one amazing story.