Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
**********************************************************MAJOR SPOILERS AHEAD**************************************************
I’m going to keep this review fairly short and to the point (let’s be honest, I’m probably going to fail at this).
The writing was fantastic. I haven’t read a book that made me look up some words in dictionary in a while; however, much of the imagery Tahir paints with her words helped me understand what she was trying to say. This book is one of the more elevated in terms of vocabulary, as compared to other YA novels.
The characters were engaging, as well. However, it always happens that I like one character more than the other. Some thing about Laia just doesn’t let me like her as much. Elias was an interesting character and so was Helene. I really enjoyed their friendship and how they were willing to do anything for each other. I got a feel of each of their characters individually and together and I was kind of rooting for them to be together. There was this will they or won’t they dynamic between them. I hate when another girl comes between friendships and I’m not saying Laia did. I just don’t understand why Elias is fascinated by her or even likes her. If a relationship was going to bud between them then this book was too short because both of their feelings kind of came out of nowhere. Obviously there was attraction on both sides but willing to risk your life and friendship for it seemed out of the blue for someone you just met.
Anyways, I didn’t give this book 5/5 because of the romance element. Helene obviously has feelings for Elias and this was obvious from the beginning. However, I feel like her jealousy when Laia comes into the picture made me start disliking her. I think Helene had a very strong story and character arc going for her which was obviously overshadowed by her jealousy. But I’m interested to know how her character will develop as she is now Marcus’ Blood Shrike. God I hate Marcus! I couldn’t hate his brother too much. In fact, I felt bad for his brother. But Marcus, oh how I hope you die in the next book. Why does the evil brother always survive?
I’m interested to learn more about the mythology of magical beings like the genies and the Nightbringer. Also, Helene has healing powers? What??!!!!
And Augur Cain! That sneaky sneaky Augur. You never know which side he’s on. Elias almost gets killed and you don’t see Cain’s plan go into action until the very end. All the pieces finally fit together and we understand (sort of) why they left Laia alive. However, I can’t believe Marcus became the new Emperor!
Laia’s character compared to Helene’s is pretty unremarkable. The poor weak girl and the soldier who falls for her. But why? Just give me one reason why Laia and Elias make a good match, as love interests and as partners??? I got none. Laia has a lot more development to go through and I hope I actually start to sympathize with her because the entire time I felt bad for Helene.
Also, I hope the Commandant gets more of a back story. I wasn’t quite satisfied with the story provided that she was pregnant and she decided to give up Elias but then decided to go back and kill him? I don’t completely hate her and I hate flat villain characters. I love villains I hate to love.
THINGS I LIKED:
- Helene and Elias’ friendship.
- The complex relationship between the Commandant and Elias.
- The connection between the Commandant and the Nightbringer (what evil are you two planning)
- The story behind the genies
- Elias’ guilt after killing his friends was so genuine I could almost feel his pain (Tahir is to be commended for this feat)
- Helene’s power to heal.
- Cook’s hatred for the rebels and Laia’s mom. (I feel like there’s a story here
All in all, this book gave me a lot of feels. Like always, I had a problem with the romance but this book is definitely something to look out for. I’m looking out for some characters to see how they develop. I’m definitely going to read the next book!!!