Source: NetGalley (Many thanks to the publisher, I ❤ you) and purchased for myself!
TL; DR: I loved it so, so much, but it is heavy so just know that going in.
[CW: Parental Abuse, Questions of consent, death, trauma, depression, anxiety]
The Four Profound Weaves by R.B. Lemberg was one of my favorite reads in the first half of the year, and now The Unbalancing has taken up it’s space beside it for this half of the year. The Unbalancing follows two characters as they attempt to find out what is causing the star in the heart of their homeland to tremble with nightmares. The nightmares in fact have begun to disrupt and may possibly destroy this land if they cannot stop them in time.
The important thing to remember about the writing in these books – that I’ve found at least – is that R.B. Lemberg is a poet. That reflects in the style of their prose. It’s beautiful and at times leans to the purple, in the best possible way. It can seem slow to read, but ultimately the world it paints and the characters are intense and very real, with meat on them.
The primary characters of The Unbalancing are deeply flawed and nuanced – one clearly struggles with an unspecified neurodivergence. They are quiet, very introverted, and wants more than anything to keep to their safe spaces. Our other character is the opposite, full of fire and quick action. I loved them both though it took me a good chunk of reading with Ranra, the more outgoing of the two. Erígra was by far my favorite. I deeply felt many of their needs and questions and empathized with them throughout the whole book.
Outside characters from our primary ones were equally as nuanced and fascinating. We get frequent references to Weaves, but in an approachable and very fun ‘Ah Ha!’ kind of way. The story of the Birdverse is also explored and explained in a deeper way. From the idea of who Bird is to the seven stars and who they were before they were brought to the world. That itself was heartbreaking, the realizations behind those stars.
Ultimately this book felt to me – and I think it’s one that will feel and hit different for a lot of people – to be a lot about beginnings and endings. Finding out truths about yourself and others. One of the biggest themes for me was also Failure. How to carry failure, and carry pain. The book is heavy at times, Erígra is attempting to learn just who they are and how they identify. Ranra is struggling with a history of abuse from her mother, who suffers from an ‘illness of the mind’. Their world is literally being destroyed at the same time as they’re trying to sort these things out (something the book touches on, when is the right time to find oneself or take care of yourself). So don’t expect a light read.
I adored it. I wish I could break down every theme and character, but I would get lost in the weeds and truly – I’m still sorting them out in my own head. I loved this and deeply recommend it if you want a heavier, more intense read that really grapples with a lot of themes.