About the book:
Six of Crows meets the Iron Fey series in this high-energy YA fantasy that follows the adventures of changeling Seelie and her twin sister as they embark upon the heist of a lifetime for a mystery legacy. As they evade capture by both human and fae forces, Seelie discovers more about her own Autistic identity, her magical powers, and love along the way.
Twin sisters, both on the run, but different as day and night. As one searches for a fabled treasure, the other, a changeling, searches for the truth behind her origins, trying to find a place to fit in with the realm of fae who made her and the humans who shun her.
Iselia “Seelie” Graygrove looks just like her twin, Isolde… but as an autistic changeling trying to navigate her unpredictable magic, Seelie finds it more difficult to fit in with the humans around her. When Seelie and Isolde are caught up in a heist gone wrong and make some unexpected allies, they find themselves unraveling a larger mystery that has its roots in the history of humans and fae alike.
Both sisters soon discover that the secrets of the faeries may be more valuable than any pile of gold and jewels. But can Seelie harness her magic in time to protect her sister, and herself?
A heroine who’s Autistic? That caught my attention! I’m so glad it did.
Unseelie tells us the story of Iselia (Seelie) Graygrove and her identical twin sister, Isolde. Seelie is a changeling (at first I wasn’t sure how a changeling could have an identical twin and both be living in the human world, but that’s explained as the story unfolds). She and Isolde have fled their home and live by their wits and Isolde’s skills as a thief. They look alike, but they are very different in abilities and personalities.
When they go after a legendary treasure at the home of a powerful family, they run afoul of not only the family, but also others looking to steal the same treasure. They flee, and along the way, find that the other thieves have interests in common with them, and they all fall in together. In the middle of pursuit and combat, Seelie is trying to master her unpredictable, unreliable, often dangerous magic that she has spent a lifetime squashing down.
Seelie is a fascinating character! The fact that she is autistic is part of who she is, and it plays a role in her interactions with people and things around her. But it isn’t ALL she is. She’s also a teenage girl who desperately wishes she could return home, who’s afraid of the magic she carries but doesn’t understand. She’s a sister, a daughter, a friend.
The other characters weren’t quite as well fleshed out as Seelie, but were still enjoyable. Raze has potential as a love interest, and the banter/sniping between him and Seelie was entertaining. I also really liked the tension in Olani, between her ability to be a ruthless combatant in a fight and then to gently heal people’s injuries.
It was almost painful to see Seelie realizing that, even though she and Isolde are twins, they won’t always share the same goals and ideas. I’m interested to read the second book in what is to be a duology to see how they handle that conflict. Seelie hasn’t thought much beyond her desperate longing for home. Isolde, now that she’s seen a world of adventure, wants more than just returning to what was.
And this is a young adult fantasy. The characters act like teenagers and young adults, not adults full-grown and mature. Sometimes they make stupid decisions. Sometimes their emotional upheaval is a little bit grating. But they learn from their choices, and they grow as characters. That’s how this thing is supposed to work, right?
The characters are engaging, the storyline intriguing, and Housman’s writing style is positively lyrical. All these elements combine to make this a solid four-star read for me, and to make Housman an author I’ll read more from.
Disclaimer: I received a review copy from Harlequin Trade Publishing and NetGalley. All opinions here are mine, and I don’t say nice things about books I don’t actually like.
About the author:
Ivelisse Housman is a Puerto Rican-American author and illustrator. At all seven schools she attended throughout her childhood, she was infamously “that kid who gets in trouble for reading during class, but refuses to stop.” She was diagnosed with autism at 15, which made everything make a lot more sense. When she isn’t writing, she can be found making soup or tending to her houseplants. She lives in the Blue Ridge Mountains with her high school sweetheart/archnemesis and their two rescue dogs.