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Reviewed by Kimberlee J Benart for Readers' Favorite
Unbroken by Bill K. Underwood is an exciting work of historical fiction set against the 1519 expedition of Hernan Cortes to the Yucatan and Tabasco regions of modern-day Mexico. Told through the eyes of a talented, intelligent, and resourceful boy named Felipe, the son of a Spanish father and Taino Indian mother, it captures the cultures, the conflicts, and the people of the times, both Hispanic and indigenous. Felipe joins the expedition as a groom to one of seventeen horses that become the first horses to set foot on the North American continent. However, Felipe didn’t come willingly. Cortes cheated his father out of his prize stallion and jailed him in Cuba. Now, Felipe must find a way to return to Cuba and free his father, if he can just survive a little bullying, a few burning ships, and an angry Mayan or two along the way.
In Felipe, Underwood gives us an inventive and courageous mixed-race young hero. From “horse whisperer” to translator to healer to lifesaver, Felipe proves to be more capable, steadfast, and truly kind than many of the adults around him. In the process, he sees first-hand the brutality and injustice of life, let alone of war and conquest. Unbroken is written in a descriptive and flowing narrative which moves the plot along at a good pace. The main characters, both fictional and historical, are clearly drawn. There are a few twists, turns, and surprises along the way to engage the reader. Who would ever think to weaponize ants? An entertaining and educational read. Highly recommended.