Unraveller by Frances Hardinge

Posted On 20 October 2022

Filed under Book Reviews
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My Five Word TL:DR Review : Oh What a Tangled Web


Yet again Frances Hardinge continues to astonish me with her phenomenal imagination.  What a creative talent she is. Okay, I confess, this is an author who I’m really enjoying at the moment and I don’t know whether that makes me ridiculously biased or simply determined to enjoy her books but I do enjoy them so I’m not going to question the whys and wherefores too deeply..  Her writing is just packed with everything I love and this is no exception.

What an unusual tale this one is and very thought provoking to boot. I mean, in one respect, I can see why this would appear to be a book aimed at MG/YA, given the ages of the povs and the quest like style of storytelling, but then this is chock full of fascinating world building, fairytale themes that definitely border the dark side and some curse working that is downright nasty in parts so I have no qualms whatsoever in recommending it.  For me this is a book that crosses boundaries and is definitely a story that you can say to yourself at the conclusion ‘and the moral of the story was…’  but, I’m not going to tell you that because self discovery is so much more enjoyable.  Anyway, to the review.

This is a book grounded in a world of curses. Anyone can become a curser at some point in their life and these curses can be terrible in nature.  Kellen and Nettle’s travels have a dual purpose, they help in finding those who have been cursed and in trying to discover the way to unravel the damage done they more often than not uncover the curser.  Based on the idea of ‘once a curser always a curser’, the penalty for wielding this magic is imprisonment – although it doesn’t necessarily follow that the offender will commit more crimes.  You see, these curses are usually based on hatred or revenge, carried out in a form of retaliation for harms either real or perceived.   Now we have Kellen who, quite uniquely, can unravel the curses.  As you may imagine he is almost loved and hated in equal measure and in a world where hatred leads to curses Kellen and Nettle both become embroiled in a race against the clock to uncover a ‘conspiracy of cursers’.

I won’t say any more but instead talk of the aspects of this that I really enjoyed.  So, put the kettle on, grab a cup of tea or coffee and have a seat – because I may ramble.

Take it as a given that I loved the writing and the ideas that Hardinge comes up with.  This will put you in mind of countless fairytales and yet at the same time feel totally unique and it’s this ability to make you reminisce that delivers an overwhelmingly enjoyable sense of nostalgia and whimsy.

The characters. You might not love them all but you have a number to choose from here. Nettle was probably my favourite together with her brother -who I won’t discuss further as I think you need to discover her family’s backstory during the read.  Kellen can come across as a little, mmm, prickly.  A bit hotheaded who tends to rush in and let his mouth run away with him and Nettle kind of grounds him.  But to be fair, he’s a strong character and I thought the friendship between the two was fundamental to the story. Then we have Gall.  This is a guy that’s struck a deal (with the devil or otherwise is for you to discover). He wears an eye patch and rides a Marsh horse – not something a regular human can do.  These are fearsome beasts that form a strong bond and if that bond is severed are as likely to eat you as not.  Not an immediately likeable character but he kind of grows on you.

Now, speaking of Marsh horses is a lovely way to look at the larger world at play.  This is set in a place known as the Wilds.  What a fascinating place this is.  Populated with remote villages that are unreachable due to monsters. The most wonderful and magical markets you can think of – I mean, I would love to go to one of these but at the same time I know instinctively that I would put my foot in it and end up in servitude to some sort of hideous creature.  It’s quite literally a feast for the eyes though.

In terms of criticisms.  Not a lot here to be honest.  I think my biggest problem is waiting for this author’s next book but at least I have the option to backtrack and pick up some of her earlier works.

Also, I had the audio version of this and I thought the narration was fantastic.  I was listening to this whilst doing some rather boring decorating and it completely transported me – the walls seemed to paint themselves in fact, so perhaps this author really can perform magic. I think my only regret is that the writing is so lovely I kind of missed reading the written word for this one – does that even make sense?

I received a copy through Netgalley, courtesy of the publisher, for which my thanks.  The above is my own opinion.

My rating 4.5 of 5 stars


6 Responses to “Unraveller by Frances Hardinge”

  1. Tammy

    This sounds fantastic! And I didn’t know it was the start of a series. Definitely a must read for me one of these days.

    • @lynnsbooks

      Ahh, I think my wording was a bit ambiguous when I said I couldn’t wait for her next book so I’ve changed it slightly. I just meant she’s an auto read author for me so I can’t wait to see what she comes up with next and I actually do have one of her earlier works already lined up.
      Lynn 😀

      • Tammy

        I may have read it too fast, lol. In any case it sounds wonderful.

  2. pagesandtea

    This sounds magical and exciting. How have I missed this author up to now?! Would you say this is a good one to start with if I was tempted to discover another new-to-me author?

  3. Mogsy @ BiblioSanctum

    Anything Hardinge wites is a winner, it seems! I gotta get my hands on this one!

  4. bkfrgr

    It has been too long since I read a Hardinge book – thank you for the timely reminder! 😄

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