Published: April 28th, 2015
Average Goodreads rating: 4.32
My rating: 4
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. (from Goodreads)
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.
I have seen this book making its rounds around the blogosphere and Goodreads since it came out in 2015. You can’t be a lover of YA fantasy without this book smacking you in the face, repeatedly, at some point. Has it smacked me? Yes. Did I avoid reading it forever? Why, yes I did. “Why, Amanda!” You may ask. “Why ever did you not read this book? I’ve broken your nose smacking you in the face with it so often!” Yes, you have. But, to be honest with you lovely folks, I’ve read the synopsis and it just didn’t sound up my alley.
However, I was sitting in Barnes and Noble one day watching my daughter play and pick out books, and this book was just sitting there on display. So, to entertain myself, I picked it up and read the first chapter. After that nothing could be done but I read the whole thing. The first chapter hooked me good and proper then the story took me on a wonderful journey.
What I Liked
- This book focuses mainly on the characters of Laia and Elias. What I liked is that most of the chapters aren’t about them together even though they are interacting in the same story and the same setting. Sure, they had a few scenes of interaction but they each had their own story, their own purposes and back story that were clearly defined before they got to know each other. I loved how Tahir did that. She got me to love both characters before putting them together and it made their interactions so much more interesting.
- Hot diggity dog I love myself a flawed hero. Elias is all that and a bag of potato chips. He knew throughout the story that some of his actions were wrong. And not just a little wrong, more like death and dismemberment wrong. I hate it when the hero is, “Oh, no, I would never! I am such a good guy!” Blah blah, boring to read about. Give me that death and dismemberment. I am here for that.
- Ahem, Helene. If you have read the book you know what I mean. Helene is a goddess. She is forced to make such hard decisions and they are all done in the background even though their affects are felt by others. The badass bitch that is Helene made those hard decisions and followed through. She is, I repeat, a goddess and I cannot wait to read more about her. Helene is my Queen.
What I Didn’t Like
- The love rhombus. It is not even a love triangle, there are too many players for that. I can’t even remember the one guy’s name, I think it started with a K, but Laia needs to give him a swift knee to the gentleman’s region. Right in the plumbs. I can deal with a fishy romantic rhombus but this was just a little too much for me. If I didn’t adore Helene I would have hopped off that train so fast. TOOT TOOT!
- *SEMI SPOILER* Normally when a book kills off a character I’ve come to like I’m on board with it if there is a good reason for the death. At one point during the story, numerous support characters were brutally offed and while there was a purpose for their death it didn’t feel like it was honored enough. When you give the ax to a perfectly good character I expect a little pomp and circumstance, you know? *END SPOILER*
- Okay, maybe a kind of weird complaint but for a book about a blood thirsty empire full of harshly trained warriors there really wasn’t enough blood, guts, and gore for me. I needed more battle, more clashing blades, more perilous peril. Don’t get me wrong, this is a fairly minor complaint, but is what it is.
In the grand scheme of things I loved this book. I absolutely blew through the story and grew to really care about the characters as their stories progressed. Every movement, every motion had a purpose to it so there was no excess fluff in the book to muddle things up. There is also one character, Cook, that I am really looking forward to learning more about. She seems like she will be a big player later on and I can’t wait to find out why. I have already borrowed the next book from the library and am itching to dig into it.
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.