Note: This contains spoilers for Unsounded: Chapter 9, “Wherein Family Ties Chafe the Throat.”
In a way, the recurring theme of Ashley Cope’s Unsounded is breaking ties.
The most obvious example of this is the zombie Duane, who was ripped from his old human life when he and his daughter were murdered by an invading force. Now doomed to live his existence as one of the walking dead, he is bound to his young companion Sette because of his compassion for children. He is thrust from his noble position and his loving family, and becomes a shambling servant of a criminal family.
Most of the time, high fantasy is set in a world based in historical Europe. There are some wonderful backdrops there — beautiful castles, scenic farmlands and thick forests; there’s also a big challenge to the setting, however: To retain the authenticity of its historical roots, most of the characters are typically depicted as Caucasian. You can perhaps create diversity by using standard Tolkien races (dwarves, elves, orcs and such), but usually the common, everyday people often look like the same kinds encountered in Arthurian legend or a Robin Hood story.
One of the most remarkable things about Ashley Cope’s Unsounded is how she twists the formula of the typical fantasy setting. Most of the characters, for example, seem to be of African descent. How do the people of Cresce look like when dressed in Renaissance-fair garb? Pretty darned cool, it turns out. Their hairstyles are a little modern, but that’s been a problem with a lot of high fantasy.