Release Date: April 28 2015
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 3.5 stars
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.
Make no mistake, I was pretty damn excited about this book. But then I started reading it…
Before you decide that you’ve had enough and leave, let me explain! I was disappointed because I felt like I’d already read so many fantasy books that are quite similar. I mean there are slaves, and soldiers, and a bunch of rebels who are planning some kind-of revolution. You really haven’t read this type of book before? REALLY? It also reminded me a lot of The Winner’s Curse (even though the male character is the slave in that book) because of the romance between Laia and Elias. I was getting such a “been there, done that” vibe but I didn’t ditch it because of all the hype surrounding this book. (But maybe it’s just me feeling like it’s not 100% original? Please tell me it’s not just me…)
To some extent, it does live up to it’s hype. After all it’s beautifully written with great world-building and an unpredictable storyline. The characters are also pretty interesting but not as complex as I had hoped. Their actions aren’t unexpected though because most of the character’s motives are clear from the start (or at-least enough hints are dropped that we can guess them).
For example, Elias is a student at Blackcliff, a Mask academy…and doesn’t want to be a Mask. Laia is a scholar slave who wants to rescue her brother and is forced to join the Scholar Rebels to do so. The book is told from their dual perspectives and somewhere along the way, they end up meeting and their lives and stories become entangled. I think the changes in POV made the story richer but Laia frustrated me because of her incompetency. The worst part was that Laia herself is obsessed with her incompetency and cowardice! And while she was brave and determined to save her brother, I also found her stupidity and naivety very annoying. Elias, on the other hand, was far more interesting and I was very curious to see how his relationship with his mother would play out.
I would have said that the romance was perfect except it wasn’t because of the double love triangles.
(Ok so I would never toss my Kindle out the window but..you get the idea!) The love triangles annoyed me a lot because they felt so very unnecessary. I felt like it would have been so much better if there were more platonic relationships in this book.
But when it’s all said and done, I did enjoy this book, and I’m probably going to read the sequel.