I came across Unbetrothed on Instagram and requested to join the launch team for the forthcoming (Feb. 2022) title. I received a free e-copy of the book in exchange for an honest review. Opinions expressed are my own.
One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much.Luke 16:10
Because I generally review only Christian novels (as opposed to “clean” fiction), I asked the author, Candice Pedraza Yemnitz, about the genre. She said that, because it’s fantasy, it’s not a Christian book. But, because she’s a Christian, the book does have Christian themes. I appreciate her honest description of the title, which does indeed possess Christian themes (thereby setting it apart from many “clean” titles).
Throughout, the novel references the “Ancient One.” I really appreciate this name for God, which echoes the term “Ancient of Days” and also speaks to God’s unchanging nature and presence!
Although Beatriz, the main character, doesn’t yet know the Ancient One (that is, in a personal way), she prays to him and is also strongly impacted by her mom’s faith. We also see moments where traditional magic (more on this below) isn’t enough to save the day, so the Ancient One intervenes on behalf of Beatriz. There are also various Scripture quotations, throughout.
The novel also emphasizes stewardship, addressing the question of how we use the resources we have: selfishly or generously (As an aside, I think the term “stewardship” is too often applied to money, with the implication that “stewarding” money means saving it. I really disagree with this idea. Stewardship means using our resources as the Lord calls us to, which may mean doing things that the world will not understand— the widow’s mite).
This is, to some extent, also a content note, but I wanted to briefly address the use of magic in the novel.
I know that some readers avoid reading about magic, for conscience sake, and I definitely would not recommend this title to such readers.
With that said, there are a few nuances to the magic in the book. First, magic is given as gifts to people. For instance, one character heals and another kindles fire with her touch. While these gifts typically come through the whyzer, a human with the ability to confer gifts, it is also implied that their ultimate source is the Ancient One.
Additionally, I think that these gifts can be interpreted allegorically, using the Parable of the Talents. Even though “talents” are a currency in the parable, I think that a person’s “talents” (including resources), also fits the parable’s intent—especially when the last verse of the parable is taken into account.
What I Liked
I often see reviewers exploring character development in their book reviews but it’s not something I usually think about. With that said, character development is very evident in Beatriz’s story arc. She grows from being self-centered to understanding the needs of others.
The culture of the fictional land of Giddel is clearly infused with Latin elements. It is SO refreshing to see this in a wholesome fantasy novel, especially one with Christian elements. I want to see so many more #OwnVoices books in the Christian genre!
The characters were believable. Much as I hate to admit it because she annoyed me at numerous points, I can definitely see myself in Beatriz and her less-than-shining moments.
The plot line was engaging and well-paced. There were some fun end-of-chapter cliffhangers (which I generally plowed right through).
- I’m very happy to say that the romance was delightfully clean! There was maybe (?) one kiss, but nothing gross and detailed.
- Magic, as outlined above
One other content note with a potential spoiler (see below Recommendation Status)
Reader Discretion. This was a really fun book to read, especially because I haven’t seen many princess fantasies with Christian elements. Recommended for fans of Shannon Hale and Gail Carson Levine.
Due to the inclusion of magic, some readers may feel uncomfortable with the content. The author does not classify this novel as a Christian book.
Additional Content Note Below (Spoiler)
There’s a moment where a character is referred to as “unworthy,” which I felt wasn’t completely resolved (I couldn’t tell if we, as readers, were supposed to agree with the statement or not). Additionally, I think a reader could interpret Beatriz’s character growth (in conjunction with the worthiness/identity theme) as a works-based identity. However, I don’t think this would be a fair assessment of the author’s intention, since the novel was not written as Christian allegory.