Author: Sabaa Tahir
Release Date: April 28, 2015
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.
This was probably my most anticipated release of the Spring. I've been contemplating what to write for this review for days now.
The world building in this novel is amazing. The Romanesque world is brutally scary. And you really start to feel for the characters. The writing was beautifully simplistic.
So what did I not like?
The love triangles! Oh god I hate love triangles. This was more like a square. Each main character was in their own love triangle. I loved seeing Elias and Laia interact, but the constant confusion about feelings over everyone else got annoying.
What was awesome?
The constant switching of perspectives. Elias and Laia had two amazingly different voices. I was really glad that Helene was not one of the distinct POVs. She would have been a similarly strong voice to Elias. And I wasn't overly fond of her character (though I know a lot of people liked her a lot). The characters as a whole were pretty complex. Even the Commandant was not completely straightforward.
The plot was remarkable. I loved the idea of a spy-slave. And that cliff-hanger! I just hope the publisher buys the next book. I have to have the next book!
So what did I think?
I really liked this book. It's not for the faint of heart. There is a lot of action and bloodshed. And there are a lot of references to rape. But honestly, with the ancient Romanesque world, the references make a lot of sense. Just to put this in perspective of how brutal it is, at one point one of the main characters is nearly raped and she almost dies.
Did I love the book? No. But I really enjoyed it. And I can't wait for the next one.