March 27, 2023

ARC REVIEW Unseelie (The Unseelie Duology Book 1) by Ivelisse Housman

Unseelie (The Unseelie Duology Book 1) 
by Ivelisse Housman
Rating: 4 Stars
Release Date: January 3, 2023
Format: eARC (Courtesy of Publisher and NetGalley) and Audiobook (Borrowed from Library)
Publisher: Inkyard Press 

I’d been hearing a lot of hype about a new fantasy book with an autistic main character, and I knew I had to check out what everyone was talking about. Ivelisse Housman’s debut young adult fantasy novel Unseelie is filled with adventure, a strong sense of family, and great worldbuilding. 

Iselia Graygrove, or ‘Seelie’ is a young changeling who has been traveling with her human ‘twin’ sister Isolde for years. Seelie’s family loves her, but her ‘differentness’ has always made her an outcast in every village they traveled to. Once Seelie’s magic starts to become wild and out of control after a heist gone wrong, the sisters are thrust into the middle of a mystery with the potential to affect both fae and humans alike.  

It was interesting to read the author’s note explaining that the stories of changelings were thought to be an early explanation for autistic children. That really helped me relate specifically to Seelie’s character as a reader. Readers got to experience how Seelie reacted to the world differently than the other characters in the story. She has tried so hard to fit into what society considers normal, and her challenges are only compounded by her faerie heritage and her autistic mannerisms (I don’t believe the word autistim was explicitly used in the story). The others do their best, but there are multiple instances where they struggle to understand her neurodivergent experiences from their neurotypical perspectives. As a result, she’s never really fit into either world, and that weighs heavily on her over the course of the book. 

Having a sister of my own, I really connected to Isolde and Seelie’s relationship. They are incredibly close, and Isolde is fiercely protective of her sister against those who would ostracize her for being a changeling. Despite their closeness, there are the inevitable moments where they clash and get into arguments. Said moments only made me relate to them even more (what sibling relationship doesn’t have a few fights now and then?) 

The world-building is well developed. The author takes some of the most famous pieces of faerie lore, and builds that into the story to create the different realms. There’s an obvious nod to the classic fairy tales, but the world is built such that it feels fresh for both die-hard fantasy readers and those new to the genre. I appreciated the vivid and immersive imagery, and how the world was brought to life as the characters went on their travels. The pace was such that the characters kept moving fairly frequently, and that helped introduce the readers to new places and people. 

The only drawback of the book, and why I was unable to give it a full five stars, was how disjointed the plot seemed to be. I could tell you so much about the world, the characters and individual moments but things were so hectic and confusing I can’t actually tell you how those moments connect. The author completely lost me with the transitional moments of the book. The progression of the story is confusing at best, and as a reader it can be overwhelming to have so many moments where you’re not really sure whats going on. The best way I could describe it is a tangled knot of string - you never really know where pulling on one end is going to lead you. 

Overall, this was a very entertaining and insightful novel. There were some minor issues, but not enough to detract from my overall enjoyment of thhe book. Elena Rey does an excellent job bringing the story to life with her performance in the audiobook narration. From what I can tell, the book is set to be part of a duology and I’m excited to (hopefully) get to see more in this world. Readers who enjoy magical fantasy tales full of fun, stellar neurodivergent rep, and unique characters should definitely give the book a chance. 

Thank you to the author, the publisher Inkyard Press, and NetGalley for providing me with a complimentary review copy of the book. I appreciate the opportunity to read and review Unseelie immensely. Please note - I voluntarily read and reviewed the book. All opinions expressed in the review are my own and not influenced in any way. 

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