Unseelie Book Review
You can't have a fae theme without certain types of faeries being discussed—like changelings. In Ivelisse Housman's debut YA novel Unseelie, a changeling and her twin sister are on a quest to bring their family back together.
This was one of my most-anticipated YA releases of the year. I've been excited to read it ever since Jordan sent me an IG post of the cover reveal several months ago.
Genre: YA Fantasy
Category: Cozy Read
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RATING: 3.5/5 Stars
Plot: 3/5 stars
Characters: 3.5/5 stars
World: 4/5 stars
Twin sisters, both on the run, but different as day and night. One, a professional rogue, 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?
Unseelie is an adorable book about family and acceptance, but it carries heavy themes of fear, self-sabotage, and historical accuracy. I was drawn in by the cover and made curious by the premise, but hooked from the first page.
On the night the faerie world collides with ours, anything can happen and wishes come true––and right now, I'm wishing I had stayed home.
As I read, I discovered much of the plot is character-based and acts as setup for the second half of the duology. But there are plenty of action scenes and laughs to keep it from feeling like a slog. Housman balances it all nicely, making for a solid debut that's fun to read. I devoured most of it in two sittings, and I have faith that the next installment will be even better.
The twins and their tentative allies are unique and likable in their own ways. As they progress on their journey, friendships and awkward an romance bud, adding an extra layer of cuteness and levity to balance the characters' sad backstories.
Headfirst into danger.
The perfect start to any morning. Who needs coffee when you have the icy shock of mortal terror?
Seelie’s inner monologue oscillates between sarcastic quips and heartbreaking fear, insecurity, and pain. Due to the trauma she’s faced, Seelie has a complicated relationship with her origins and magic, which plays a big role in her story and growth.
I don't want to be a changeling enchanter who summons storms and flings fireballs. I just want to make my parents proud, to feel the comfort of family and home. I want to make cakes somewhere cozy, where no one has any expectations of me, and be left alone.
I resonate with Seelie on a number of levels. She's not one of my favorite characters of all time—she's intentionally flawed, which I hope is setting her up for an awesome arc—but she has a special place in my heart.
As an autistic young woman, she's had trouble with communication and overwhelming thoughts and emotions, and she can come across as stubborn, rude, and immature. But she is willing to acknowledge her quirks (at least to herself) and tries to work on them.
One thing I did not like was how she went from having a mental breakthrough to immediately complaining again when the rest of the gang wanted her to train. By the end, she does accept herself and her power, gaining a little confidence, but this backpedal detracts from the satisfaction and momentum. But maybe that's part of her character arc?
Isolde is the opposite of Seelie: confident (if a bit cocky), quick-thinking, happy to stab first and ask questions later. All of this makes her a fun character, but her best traits are her loyalty and protectiveness of Seelie—especially when protecting Seelie from herself.
"Seelie, I know you don't like it, but...magic is a part of who you are. Maybe this means it's time to stop pretending it isn't."
"I care about you too much to let you hurt yourself by ignoring a problem we all know is there."
Even though we don't see much of them, Seelie and Isolde's parents are admirable. Their mom's a badass, their dad has a soft side, and the parents adore both of their children. I hope to see more of them in the next book.
Unseelie takes place during early autumn in both the mortal and faerie realms. The setting, magic, faerie revels, the twins' pet brownie, and the coziness of the Destiny—the somewhat sentient, magical wagon the twins live in—create a perfect comfort read for when the days get cooler and the leaves begin to change.
"Shoo." It comes out of my mouth without passing my brain. You can't just shoo faeries like they're mosquitos buzzing a little too close, but I do. "Go on, shoo. Go dance an eternal waltz or something."
We get hints about the history of the world, but not many major details. I think much of it will be revealed and fleshed out in the second half of the duology. What we do learn is that humans and faeries used to peacefully coexist, but have long since become divided and mistrustful, keeping to their respective realms.
It's better this way. Except for those of us with a foot in each world, yet belonging in neither.
Without giving anything away, I must say that Housman’s twist on changeling lore took me by surprise. It's not just the connection to autism—there are secrets Seelie discovers that make her question everything.
Magic has a cruel sense of humor.
Everything that I thought I knew about changelings is wrong.
Unseelie is a cute, fun story about two sisters searching for a way to bring their family together again. Along the way, they find a new family and a new purpose. Unseelie may not be perfect (which is to be expected with any debut), but it is highly enjoyable and exceptionally cozy. I look forward to the conclusion of this story in the next installment and would recommend it to fantasy readers, especially if you like:
Faeries (and other magical creatures)
Strong sibling relationships
The knife-to-the-throat trope
Magical quests and treasure hunts
Heists gone wrong