Publisher: Amazon Digital Services
Date of publication: May 5th, 2017
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy, Young Adult, Magic, Paranormal, Shapeshifters
Purchase Links: Amazon | Better World Books
Format Read: eBook
Got Book From: Amazon
Trigger Warning: Violence, Death of a parent, child abuse (talked about)
Craving a gritty, kickass heroine? If you like guns, magic, & heartbreaking drama, you NEED this book!
Helena Martin doesn’t know who she hates more, the sorcerers who fired the magic-laced bullet or the gang-lord master who used her mother as a shield. It’s not the price she expected for escaping magical slavery, nor is the unstable power now pulsing in her veins.
Caught between her former master’s hunters and the Guild Sorcerers determined to kill them, she finds a safe haven at a dog rescue willing to take in a different kind of stray. But Helena’s newly-unleashed power is a beacon for her enemies. And they’re threatening the first place she’s ever thought of as home.
Before I start the Unleash review, I want to let everyone know that I will change up how I do my reviews. The whole beginning/middle/end of the book wasn’t working for me. So, enjoy the new format!!
Unleash is the story of Helena. Helena and her family were magical slaves for a gang lord, Gwydain. When the book starts, Helena, her cousin, and her mother were waiting to be rescued by Guild Sorcerers and Enforcers. As part of a deal, they would help take down the Gwydain and get their freedom back. But it didn’t quite go down as planned. Helena’s mother was killed by the Guild that was supposed to help them.
Those first few chapters were tough to read. The desperation and then terror that Helena felt was palpable. She was forced to watch as Gwydian murders a girl and uses her blood to prime spells. She is forced to act against her will when Gwydian is being attacked. She is forced to watch as her mother is shot by the people who were supposed to her. It was overall sad and a little overwhelming to read. I usually don’t get overwhelmed by events in the book (I have a pretty thick skin), but in this case, I had to take a break from reading. I had to gather myself because I identified with Helena.
Helena’s flight to Minnesota broke my heart. She was forced to leave her mother behind and run. Then, she decided to part ways with Morgan. While it was a smart move, it still broke my heart even more for her. She was 17, alone and scared to death of what would happen next. Meeting Krista and Jaesung was the best thing that could have happened to her.
The pacing of Unleash slowed down considerably after Helena met Krista and Jaesung. After the frantic, almost manic pacing of the first few chapters, it was a relief to see the book go to a much slower pace.
I liked that Helena shielded Krista and Jaesung from what was going on with her. They knew something was up, but they weren’t sure what it was.
I also liked that Jaesung and Krista’s reactions were natural when Helena told them a very watered-down version of what happened to her. What I mean by watered down was that she left out all the magic and shapeshifting. She stuck to the bare bones of what happened.
I did think it was a little ironic that Helena found sanctuary, and then employment, at a dog rescue. Why ironic? Well, Helena was forced into being a shapeshifter by Gwydian (her flashback to that was sad). Her shapeshifter form is an Irish Wolfhound. I also thought it was smart that she kept with Krista and Jaesung. The Guild wouldn’t attack her while she was with “mundanes.“
The different types of magic were explained in Unleash. There was a cultural mishmash of the magics used. There were Hindu, Asian, and Celtic featured. I also liked that the author gradually explained the magical part of the book. It gave me time to process what was told.
The secondary characters were well written and fleshed out the story. Krista was one of the main secondary characters that I loved. She was loud and brash. But she was also one of the kindest people in the book. She had a softer side, and when it was revealed what was going on with her, my heart broke.
Let’s talk about Jaesung. He was Korean, having emigrated to the US when he was nine years old. He did Martial Arts (that scene at the wedding was AMAZING). He never gave up on Helena, even when he knew there was more to her story than what she was telling. I think I fell a little bit in love with him during the book. He was gentle and, most importantly, he listened. I wish I could pull him out of the book and clone him….lol.
Helena and Jaesung’s romance was a gradual thing. The author snuck bits and pieces of how Helena noticed Jaesung and how she felt safe with him. There were several near kissing scenes until that hot scene in the bathroom. What I liked is that their relationship didn’t feel forced. It felt natural and realistic (well as real as a YA Paranormal book will feel).
After a calming middle of the book, it picked up its pace again. It didn’t get a frantic as it did at the beginning of the book, but it was pretty fast paced. Helena learned much more about why Gwydain had made her family slaves. I will say that I was surprised by everything that was revealed by the Guild. All I could feel was astonished by what was revealed. A lightbulb went over my head because it made sense why Gwydain was doing what he did.
The real MVP of the last half of the book was Jaesung. He learned about Helena’s past and was cool with it. That did surprise me because I know if I found out that magic was real, I would be flipping out. He also tried, stress tried, to protect Helena several times. I felt he dealt with what happened to him at the end of the book pretty well, to be honest. I would have been flipping out about that too.
The end of the book was pretty good. I was a tiny bit disappointed by what happened to Gwydain. But he got what he deserved. The author did wrap up all storylines, except a couple, and I figure they will feature in the next book. There was enough left open at the ending for me to want to read book 2.
Overall, Unleash was an excellent paranormal YA book. It was fast-paced with a lot of different representation in the book. I am eager to read book 2. I would also recommend this book to anyone over the age of 16. There are graphic violence and talk of child abuse (Helena remembers sleeping with her father at 9 to stop a gang member from raping her). There is some kissing, and Jaesung and Helena have sex. But it is not graphic.