Book Title: Unseelie
Author: Ivelisse Housman
Release Date: January 3, 2023
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fae
My rating: 4.5/5 Stars
Happy release day to Unseelie!! I squealed when I received an ARC of this one, and I can’t wait for all of you to read it as well!
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?
As soon as I discovered Unseelie would be a YA Fantasy novel featuring a female autistic MC, I knew I had to read it. Excitingly, there has been an increase in fiction featuring autistic characters in the last year—however, there are still very few books with autistic characters that aren’t actually about autism or aren’t contemporary. As much as I love reading contemporary novels, I was thrilled to hear about this fantasy book, which follows Seelie, an autistic changeling, and her twin sister Isolde.
Something I found interesting about Unseelie is the allegory for changelings. Seelie is autistic, and this is mentioned in the synopsis, but her being a changeling is also a clear metaphor for autism, or any sort of difference deemed so by society. As a changeling, Seelie constantly feels othered and isolated from those around her. There’s a quote in the book about how people see changelings as less than human, how they don’t feel any empathy, and when the changeling child doesn’t turn out exactly as the parent wants, they resent the child’s existence. This is unfortunately an opinion a lot of society shares about autistic people. I love that the book used Seelie being a changeling to describe her autism, because I feel like it’ll be a good way to educate those who are unfamiliar with it, or those who are misinformed, about the kinds of things autistic people go through daily.
In regard to Seelie herself, my heart broke for her. The situations she was thrust into must have been an absolute nightmare for her. As someone who thrives on routine and consistency, Seelie’s life was flipped upside down time and time again. She had a hard time coping with these sudden changes, which can be seen in the form of meltdowns, shutdowns, and issues controlling her emotions throughout the book. Those around Seelie are never entirely sure how to help her when she’s overstimulated, which makes it even more difficult for her to cope. Even so, she’s determined to reunite her family and preservers with her head held high. I can’t describe how happy it made me to see a strong character who is crazy powerful dealing with something like overstimulation. We need to see more of this kind of rep!
While I did love Seelie’s character and her journey (which I thought was authentically and realistically portrayed!), I didn’t relate to her as much as I expected to, since we share a lot of mannerisms. Our personalities are very different, which is why I think I had a harder time connecting to her. Even so, this didn’t hinder my enjoyment of the book, or her character. It was just something I’d been hoping for.
Aside from her character, though, the plot of Unseelie was well-developed with some exciting twists and turns woven in throughout. I enjoyed the first fifty percent of the book, but it was the last fifty percent that had me on the edge of my seat and unable to put the book down. A specific plot line happens (sorry for being vague—I don’t want to spoil anything) that was at the same time both fun and nerve-wracking, and from there, the anticipation kept rising.
The only part of this book that I didn’t love was the building romance between Seelie and Raze. It wasn’t until the last thirty percent that I finally bought into the fact they cared for each other more than sort of friends and begrudging allies. I like their dynamic a lot, but I’m not sure how I’ll feel about it if they become involved romantically. Part of me is hoping their friendship will be focused on first before a romantic relationship, should there be a sequel.
Speaking of, I’m desperately hoping for a sequel to Unseelie! There’s still a lot of questions I have left, and so much more to be explored, both through Seelie and her sister Isolde. I haven’t heard anything about it yet, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed.
Overall, I really enjoyed Unseelie, and I’m so happy to have authentic autism representation in a fantasy book. I hope to see even more soon!
Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a digital ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
Check out my last blog post: Can’t Say Goodbye (Cover and Excerpt Reveal)