Cover Image: Unraveller

Unraveller

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Member Reviews

I'm seesawing on this one. It took awhile to get going. The short stories read more like an anthology, and without much background context + the sweeping in and out of numerous characters, it was hard to ground myself (ie care).

Eventually though, the story found its legs and I raced through the last 20-30% of the book. Kellan and Nettle are a unique pair. Their ages are kind of ambiguous and that makes the story a little hard to follow. Yannick added in a good sibling relationship, but a lack of love story, or parental figure, or comedy left the overall story a bit dry.

It was, however, a unique premise. Curses, pulling threads, and red herrings kept this off my DNF, and I'm glad I stuck it out! 

Overall:  3.5/5 stars

I'll tell my students about: language, trauma, murder, blood/gore, physical violence, emotional abuse, 

**Thank you to NetGalley and ABRAMS Kids, Amulet Books for the free ARC prior to publication.  All opinions expressed are my own.**
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“… one cannot throw away everything that is touched by pain.”

This simple truth is the undercurrent that drives Unraveller. This is a dark YA fantasy novel that touches on profound themes, about forgiving yourself, forgiving others, and being willing to change. It doesn’t gloss over the hard work that entails. And while I know some people will chafe at the idea of kids saving the world yet again, sometimes we need the kids to save the world. Because adults are set in their ways and have accepted the way things are, and aren’t always able to see the way things could be.

If I was going to dock this book for anything, it would be the prologue. That felt like a slog. Sometimes prologues work great. For me, this one didn’t. Maybe it was the second person POV, maybe it was the tell nature of the prologue, trying to get us up to speed on the essentials about this world we’re stepping into. Either way, I don’t feel it was essential, and if you skip it, you’ll be fine.

Hardinge uses an immersive writing style. We’re thrown in head first. The benefit of this approach is that we spend more time getting to know the characters through their actions than their thoughts. Yes, there is narrative, but never at the expense of plot, and Unraveller has a way of continuously raising the stakes. Hardinge also has a knack for hiding things in plain sight, and that leads to some brilliant revelations later in the story.

This is definitely a book where you don’t want to give too much away. The pace is relentless, the plot unfolds with precision but never feels predictable, and there are plenty of characters whose motives aren’t always clear. In fact, who you can trust and how to determine who to trust are recurring issues throughout, and highlight another critical truth. People aren’t always what they seem. And learning to really look and understand can make all the difference.

While this book holds a lot of truths, it never feels preachy. In its simplest form, it’s about two lost teens trying to find their way in a world that both needs them and rejects them in equal measure. And it’s about them coming to terms with their trauma and their identities. 

The book description on Amazon and Goodreads doesn’t do it justice. It’s my first 5 star read of 2023. The worldbuilding is exceptional, the character arcs are compelling, and the subplots and plots are all satisfying. Highly recommended.
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TW: abandonment, abuse, animal cruelty, animal death, blood, body horror, child abuse, death, domestic abuse, emotional abuse, forced institutionalization, gore, grief, kidnapping, mental illness, violence.

This is another one of those books I feel kind of conflicted about.

On the one hand, it was unique and had such an interesting premise/magic system. But on the other, I felt terribly disconnected from everything that happened for most of the book and I think that was majorly due to the pacing.

This book was kind of like if "Once Upon a Time" met "Supernatural" in a fantasy world where magical spiders gift "curse eggs" to people that have been wronged in some way and clearly, this causes a lot of problems. It also caused the pacing of the book to feel kind of disjointed due to the... episodic nature of the story.

There was definitely an over-arching plot and recurring themes, but most of the book was us following Kellen from village to village as he unraveled different curses. These scenes were interesting, but they also started to feel very repetitive, very fast.

I'd recommend this book for the emotional aspect, over anything else. If you're looking for a story that discusses different kinds of trauma (topically) and focuses on justified anger vs. hatred in a fantastical setting, then I really think you'd enjoy this.

As for me, I didn't not enjoy it and by the end, I could definitely feel myself starting to care about the story, but it's not one I'll revisit ever.
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A huge Thank You to The author, The publisher and NetGalley for providing the e-arc in exchange for an honest review.
My God. Didn't expect this to rob me of breath. But I'm kinda glad it did.
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Frances Hardinge's books never cease to impress—she writes immersive, imaginative, darkly fantastical books, for middle grade readers, though that disguises their depth. While the setting and plots are varied and wondrous, the true focus of her stories is always on the relationships between people, and how the things we do to each other can make all kinds of situations into something beautiful, or something terrible. Unraveller is her best novel since The Lie Tree.
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Series Info/Source: This is a stand alone book.  I got an eGalley of this book through NetGalley to review.

Thoughts: I liked the idea behind this book but found the story to be a bit slow and didn't engage with the characters very well.  This story follows Kellen and Nettle.  Kellen can break curses, a unique and useful talent in a land where people can accidentally or maliciously curse each other.  Nettle is one of the people Kellen has un-cursed but she is struggling to adjust from when she lived life as a heron (when was cursed into a bird) to now living as a person.  

Now, Kellen has been cursed and not only are curses are unraveling around him but everything else too.  Him and Nettle get wrapped up in a plot against some rebellious cursers and are desperately trying to do what they can to help track down these elusive cursers and also break Kellen's curse.

I really enjoyed the idea of curse eggs and people developing these curse eggs because of intense emotion.  I enjoyed the world built here and the idea of the Wilds.  This is an excellent concept novel, like so many of Hardinge's novels are.

However, I struggled a bit with the characters and the story.  The characters are very much held at a distance here and I didn't really engage with them or care about what happened to them.  The plot seems slow at points and gets a bit repetitive with the characters confronting one cursed person after another and trying to solve the mystery of the curse.  The book ended fine.

My Summary (4/5):  Overall this wasn't my favorite Hardinge book but I liked some of the concepts here and the world-building.  I enjoyed her books "Deeplight" and "A Face Like Glass" a lot more than this book.  I struggled some with the plot and characters here but I still think it was worth reading because of the way cursing and the Wilds were dealt with.  I would tentatively recommend it to those who enjoy a good concept-based fantasy.
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In a country with an uneasy truce between the magical and unmagical, there is one sinister crossover: the  powerless, filled with rage, are given the ability to curse others. Scruffy fifteen-year-old Kellen is the only one with the ability to pull apart those life-destroying spells and restore the victims to some form of humanity. But when he and his friend Nettle are drawn into a dangerous plan to uncover a hidden league of cursers, their adventures become truly perilous. Hardinge’s prose is elegant, economical, precise, and richly imagined. Both the primary and secondary characters have astonishing depth and complexity. 
The friendship and connection between Nettle and Kellen is deep and intriguing, and the world-building is on a level with Tolkien or J.K. Rowling. Readers are able to suspend disbelief and immerse themselves completely. And yet, the author leaves room for the reader’s imagination to shape the story. One can enjoy the book for its inventive, action-packed plot or be drawn to reflect on the deeper thematic issues. Like our contemporary world, the impact of inequality, bitterness, self-doubt and rage is often disastrous and far-reaching. 
It is never made explicit whether Kellen or Nettle have any defined sexual orientation, making this a great choice for readers who welcome fantasy without romance. A handful of descriptors - pale, greyish, tobacco-stained - indicate at least some characters are white.
. Thank you to NetGalley and Amulet for an Advance Reader's copy.
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A big thanks to NetGalley and ABRAMS Kids for gifting me an eARC in exchange for an honest review.

Be careful what you wish for. And what grudges you hold.

Unraveller by Frances Hardinge is a YA fantasy novel that follows the life of Kellen, who is an unraveller. Or someone who has the ability to undo curses. In his world, people have the ability to  place life-destroying curses on others. Especially following a wrong doing. In the midst of this, Kellen is trying his best to be an unraveller, even though he himself has been cursed.

I don't know why, but this book wasn't quite what I was expecting. After all, I easily fell in love with Kellen and Nettle. But I found their story a bit lackluster. Especially in the sense of...many spoilers. Though I did like the whole concept that Kellen, give how powerful he is, is a victim in himself. Which created a great dynamic, I very much enjoyed.
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I've always enjoyed the author's inventive worlds, and this did not disappoint.  From the Little Brothers and curse eggs to the Midnight Market, it was fresh and different.  

Kellen was too one-note, rushing in, not always thinking about how things would work or what the aftermath was, while Nettle subtly changed throughout the book.  I particularly liked her relationship with her brother and the tension she had between being human and heron.  The other characters are less well defined, coming out for their set piece of the action and then either vanishing completely or staying somewhat on the margins.  My biggest problem was that this was too action-forward: we rarely rest, exploring a village or person, just rush on from one thing to the next (very like Kellen, to be honest).  A little more time with things might have made the transitions easier.

eARC provided by publisher via Netgalley.
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*4.5 stars*

I always know I’m in for a magical experience whenever I pick up a France Hardinge novel.  Her prose is magical, her characters always have a bit of magic, and the magical atmosphere of her settings always draw me into the story.

I’m happy to say that Unraveller did indeed have all the magic I expected! Reading this aloud with my kids, I was again swept up in a story full of wonder and joy. But it also discussed the power of pain and anger and forgiveness, the consequences of keeping your anger and resentment close until it turns into something you’re unable to control.

Our main protagonist, Kellen, has a talent for unravelling curses. One day he meets Nettle and unravels her curse and they become close friends. But then Kellen discovers he’s become cursed. As Kellen and Nettle investigate his curse, they go on a journey where they discover secrets and lies and the truth about their friendship. 

I love the nuance in Hardinge’s writing. She evokes so much emotion and brings her readers along a thought-provoking journey, yet her messages are never heavy-handed. I’m getting so tired of these in-your face YA stories that scream to the roof messages and themes rather than trusting readers to come to those same conclusions simply because the author has written a well-crafted story. 

This wasn’t a perfect story for me. There were one too many side quests, so the plot did get a bit muddled in the middle for me. A more tightly edited story would have made this a 5 star read. 

But I will be thinking about this story for a long time. It had so many unique and endearing characters, the setting of the Wilds was exceptionally magical and I loved Nettle and Kellen’s growth throughout the novel.  

I’d highly recommend picking up this book! 

*Thank you to NetGalley and Abrams Kids, Amulet Books for the digital arc. All opinions are my own.
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4.5 stars rounded up

Frances Hardinge is the monarch of dark, sophisticated, complex, and eye-poppingly creative YA (though utterly suitable for open minded adult readers) fantasy. Unraveller excels on all of those measures.

Kellen is a curse unraveller, an important role on the island of Raddith, though one viewed with suspicion and sometimes hostility. Kellen and his companion, Nettle, became entangled in a conspiracy to weaponize cursers.

As ever with Hardinge, the characters are vividly created, with gradually blossoming backstories and nuanced feelings and motives. Though teens Kellen and Nettle carry the story, all the others in the teeming cast have full beating hearts and whirring brains. As Kellen and Nettle get deeper into conspiracy, the reader can see them organically growing up and maturing.

As ever with Hardinge, the world building is stupendous. The lore of the curses is off the chart imaginative, from the way they are created to the forms that they can take. The physical geography of Raddith, from the bustling Mizzleport to the deceptive Wilds to the tucked away villages, to the Moonlit Market, are all cinematically evoked.

The plot itself is winding and sinuous. Kellen and Nettle both instigate forward movement and are also dragged along by cynical adults, using them for their own purposes. What seem like cul de sac diversions all ultimately loop back into the main thread and add richness and dimension to the story.

While my preference is for the author’s books that are rooted in the real world (Skinful of Shadows, particularly, and also The Lie Tree and Cuckoo Song), and the more lighthearted high fantasy of the Mosca Mye books, I was thoroughly immersed in Unraveller. I have a nagging doubt that Hardinge appeals less to teenagers than to adults, but whoever reads these novels, I’m glad she’s writing them.

Thanks to Amulet and Netgalley for the digital review copy.
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Thank you to Amulet Books and NetGalley for this ARC in exchange for an honest review!

First of all, Frances Hardinge is one of my favorite children's and YA fantasy authors! Unraveller by Frances Hardinge revolves around Kellen, who has the power to unravel curses in world that is beset by them. His companion Nettle was formerly trapped in bird form before meeting Kellen. Now, Kellen has been cursed, and it's up to him and Nettle to unravel his curse before everything around them unravels.

Here is an enchanting excerpt from the Prologue:

"If you must travel to the country of raddith, then be prepared. Bring a mosquito net for the lowlands and a warm coat for the hills or mountains. If you mean to visit the misty marsh-woods known as the Wilds, you will need stout, waterproof boots. (You will also need wits, courage, and luck, but some things cannot be packed.)
When your ship arrives at the great Mizzleport harbor, remember to trade your gold currency for Raddith’s ugly steel coins. Don’t be offended when the customs folk peer at you through lenses set in hollow stones, or sweep you with iron-fibered brushes. There are reasons for caution where the land meets the sea."

Overall, Unraveller is an absolutely amazing YA fantasy that will appeal to fans of Percy Jackson or Harry Potter. One highlight of this book is the lovely, delightful cast of characters. I felt like I would want to be friends with them. Another highlight of this book is the world-building and fantasy elements. If I had to complain about 1 thing, I would say that I liked the author's previous books, like Fly by Night and Deeplight, better. If you're intrigued by the excerpt above, or if you're a fan of YA fantasy in general, I highly recommend that you check out this book when it comes out in January!
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In a world where anyone can create a life-destroying curse, only one person has the power to unravel them. Kellen does not fully understand his talent but helps those transformed maliciously including Nettle. Recovered from entrapment in bird form, she is now his constant companion and closest ally.
But Kellen has also been cursed, and unless he and Nettle can remove his curse, Kellen is in danger of unravelling everything—and everyone—around him . . .
This book had an interesting cover that drew me to it. I enjoyed the world building and the interesting magic system. The characters had development with the main character, Kellen having some of the best. The book was a bit hard to fall at times due to having so much happening at one time. Overall, this was a great dark fantasy young adult book from a great author. 
There are a lot of places where there are spaces in sentences that are big enough to fit a word or two, but it does not seem to have words missing.
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Frances Hardinge does it again - an eerie, lovely tale of what it means to hate and to forgive and to live with who you are and the things you’ve done. Although this starts out a little slow and disjointed, everything comes together satisfyingly if you stick with it.
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Everything Frances Hardinge writes is incredible, innovative, impeccably paced, and every other amazing thing I can think of. Unraveller is just a continuation of that trend. 10/10 would unequivocally recommend.
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Unravelled by Francis Hardinge

 I was initially drawn to the cover and the description of this book. I loved the unique ideas behind curses being able to be unravelled and that there was someone who was able to do just that. 

The visual descriptions were amazing and I could easily picture myself in the environment.

Unfortunately that is where my enjoyment ended. I felt that there were to many events taking place at once and many times, a character was reintroduced and I had a difficult time remembering how they were connected to the story. I often found myself having to re-read whole pages to understand exactly what was happening. 

This book was not easy to follow and if I had chosen to pick this book out for leisure, I more than likely would not have finished it.
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Another mesmerising and haunting tale from Frances Hardinge. There are so many layers waiting to be unravelled by the reader and this will be one of those books that gets better with each reading.
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This was my first adventure into a Frances Hardinge book. I wasn’t prepared for the length, which I found to be a little excessive. I’m no stranger to lengthy reads, but they need to feel justified. There was a bit too much about too little, and it made keep putting the book down. I’d read for an hour and feel like the story didn’t progress hardly at all. 

And it’s weird because it’s a really good book. It is. It probably sounds contradictory, but it was one of the more uniquely interesting books I’ve picked up this whole year. The world building is vivid and fleshed out, the characters drew me in. 

I reread few books, but I can see myself reading this again. I’d like to look at the story closer, peer into the beautiful nooks and crannies created by the author, sit with the content, and bask in the lovely story created. Even if it takes me a while.
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Amazing!  Frances Hardinge has done it again!  Fantastic world building, excellently paced, intriguing characters and premise.  Although YA, this ticks the boxes for fans of fantasy more widely.  Have already sold this to customers - both fans of Hardinge already and new readers to her work.
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absolutely  loved this book! it was such a fun read, i would  highly recommend this books to my friends and family if they wanted a delightful time,
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