“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.”
I SWEAR I read this before but it’s not on my Goodreads read shelves… I feel like I’m losing my mind! Anyway, the (presumed) second time around reading this book was lovely. I’m thinking this series has the potential to be rotated into my rereading material.
“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”
1. The characters. This is one of those books where motivations and intentions play a huge role and I loved every second. Each character has their own reasons for doing things and the ‘evil’ characters are taken care of as well. Personally, I found Elias’ mother, the Commandant, to be especially fascinating. She’s such a cruel character but at the end we get this amazing glimpse at her inner thoughts and motivations and while that doesn’t exactly justify what she’s done, you can start to understand her a bit more. I also really enjoyed the hidden undertones in the Resistance. In most other fantasy novels with a dystopian-like feel, the Resistance are the good guys and they fight for the betterment of all. In this novel, the Resistance is a little more fractured and not all is as it seems in relation to the two ‘greatest leaders’ in the history of the Resistance. It’s a bit lost and misguided and it is truly a sight to behold.
“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you.”
2. The plot. The pacing of this is perfect if you don’t like reading books in one sitting and you need moments of calm in order to set the book down. The overarching plotline is structured like the traditional climax set up but there are multiple mini climaxes followed by moments of temporary calm that really help to segment the book without splitting it. (kind of like if you were a tiny person walking up and down in the depressions of a waffle. I know that’s a weird analogy but it’s the most accurate one I could think of that didn’t involve bugs!) There are also multiple plotlines weaving together that make for a very interesting novel.
“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.”
3. The world. The world is very well built for a first installment. We don’t get much information about the world outside of where Laia and Elias currently reside in the Empire but there is promise of more with a map at the beginning and the mention of outside lands at the end and interspersed throughout. The Empire itself is taking shape marvelously and you really get a sense of the culture and feeling. The whole set up reminds me of the dynamics between the peoples in The Winner’s Curse with the whole ‘conquering culture’ aspect.
“All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”
4. The romance. I don’t know how I feel about this. On one hand, it really is a spin on the classic love triangle but on the other, it’s still a love triangle and I almost tend to dislike them on principle now. Elias has two potential partners: Helene and Laia. Laia also has two potential partners: Keenan and Elias. See the overlap? It’s almost like a love pentagram that has a million strings going everywhere. Or a skewed Venn diagram. There wasn’t a lot of soul mate talk though which put me at ease a bit. I suppose I’ll just have to see how it works out in the following books.
“The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release.”
The Final Verdict:
A well-orchestrated YA fantasy with plenty of intertwining plotlines and an interesting world.
Will I continue with the series?
Yes, definitely. I really do want to see how everything turns out!