by Skye Kilaen
Publisher: Ninestar Press
Publication Date: August 3, 2020
Genres: Romance, Science Fiction
I received an advance review copy of this book from BookSprout. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
The bodyguard is a traitor. The princess is her one true love. And the revolution is almost here.
Elsenna Hazen left spaceport security and ended up a royal bodyguard. She should have known better than to fall in love with a princess.
It’s been two years since one ill-advised kiss in the garden pulled them apart. With uprisings in the streets, the nervous princess transfers Elsenna back into her service. Her Highness has no idea Elsenna is leaking data to the revolutionaries bent on overthrowing the princess’s oppressive father.
Now Elsenna wakes up each day wondering what will happen first: her own execution, or that of the woman she could never stop loving. When rebel attacks escalate and the king plans retaliation, Elsenna discovers that the fights for her love and her life are one and the same.
I’ve read a few of Skye Kilean’s books and enjoyed all of them, so of course I had to read her sapphic scifi romance princess/bodyguard book. While that’s not a trope I usually seek out, The Unbroken reminded me of how much fun it is (and how much pining there is) when done right.
The novella is told from Elsenna’s first person POV. She’s the Vice-Captain of the despotic king’s guard, quite a rise in the ranks from two years ago when she was the princess’s bodyguard. She and the princess, who has an impossibly long name, and Elsenna mostly just refers to her as “the princess” anyway, shared an entirely inappropriate kiss, and that’s when Elsenna got herself reassigned. There’s a lot of unrest going on in the kingdom, though the princess is isolated from that. Her handler – and her father the king – treat her like a child, and her only duties are to throw parties and balls for various branches of the arts. So it’s a bit of surprise when the princess asks for Elsenna to be reassigned as her bodyguard, even the more so because of Elsenna’s guilt. It’s kinda hard to both feed information to the rebels while also being head-over-heels in love with the princess.
“It had been difficult that morning to fit treason in around my duties as vice-captain of the castle complex’s security forces.”
All of that ties in the absolute banger of a first line of the book (the quote above). So there’s quite a bit of angst, and ever so much pining. We’re very much in Elsenna’s head, desperate pining and all, so while there’s clues to some of the later twists in the book, they’re not immediately obvious. After all, Elsenna’s pretty much convinced that she’s going to die for her part in the rebellion – either killed by the current king for treason or killed by the rebels for the things she did under the king’s orders.
“I wanted to put an arm around her and take her out of the room, out of the building, and possibly out of the country. But I couldn’t save the princess from her world any more than I could save myself, no matter how badly I might want to.”
For a novella, there’s excellent world building and very tight pacing. The first half is Elsenna reconnecting with the princess, while the second deals with the after effects of the political upheaval. I thought the second half, especially, was well done, and it handled Elsenna’s PTSD with a gentle but unflinching touch. The buildup of their relationship is slow (remember that pining?) but ultimately satisfying.
Overall, this is a delightful novella and I truly hope the author will write more scifi romance in the future!