Torn creates an interesting intersection of fairy tale, historical revolution, and romance to tell the story of a seamstress who finds herself in the middle of a deadly plot hellbent on upending a kingdom.
The plot devices read similar to a fairy tale, with a comically evil villain, a hasty like-to-love timeline, and an ancient form of magic that’s not questioned by those who witness it.
Combined with the very real conversations on politics and the merits of democracy, Torn becomes a fairy tale brought into the modern day. Instead of a poor young girl at the mercy of a wicked stepmother, we get a strong, independent businesswoman who unexpectedly finds herself amidst the nobility, thanks to her admirable skills. Instead of a wicked witch or an all powerful wizard, we get a two-faced revolutionary leader who loses his way by the end of the novel. Instead of dragons or demons or evil forces at play, we get the workings of a run of the mill revolution. Instead of a completely unrealistic marriage between a commoner and a noble, we get a down to earth conversation about the laws that would need to change in order for their union to take place. Finally, revolution significantly rewrites the nobility of fairy tales. Gone are the beloved Kings and Queens, replaced by scared nobility who don’t know how to work with people they formerly thought of as faceless lemmings.
At its heart, Torn is an examination of the politics of revolution and the path of unrest as it grows from conversations in a cafe to a bloody revolt against the nobility.
There are heavy Les Miserables undertones as we see the leaders grow more restless with each conflict. At the beginning, every gathering is filled with smart political conversations. We see the common folk discussing politics in squares, in bars, and in dark corners. We see the nobility crowding around pamphlets, discussing political ideology and the future of their privileged state. We see a younger generation of nobility beginning to understand how terrible their system of government is against the common man. The conversations are fascinating and add an intellectual air to the book.
I was most interested in the magical aspect of this world. The magic remains mysterious, never getting fully explained. It takes on a fairy tale stance in that people commonly accept it and never question how a seamstress is able to conjure charms from a hidden light source only she can see. There are a number of interesting magical revelations throughout, and I hope Miller goes further into the history and mechanics in the next book.
Overall, Torn proves to be a fantasy that goes beyond its fairy tale cover story. Through political discourse and a deep look into both sides of a revolution, we get a smart insight into the many revolutions of our history.
By Rowenna Miller
Published by Orbit
NOTE: I was provided a free copy of this book via NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review.