Published: August 30th, 2016
Average Goodreads rating: 4.34
My rating: 5
Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
“Mercy is weakness. Offer it to your enemies and you might as well fall upon your own sword.”
Lions and tigers and bears, oh my! Mostly the “oh my!” part. If anyone read my review of An Ember in the Ashes, the first book of this series, you will know that I fell head over heels in love with this story and these characters. The moment I finished the first book I was already snagging this, its second installment, and diving in. If that isn’t the sign of a great story I don’t know what is. I read more than half of this book in one sitting and at 452 pages that isn’t chump change. Lets dive in!
What I Liked
- Laia’s character development is so well done. In the first book she was so terrified. Determined, but terrified. It ruled her and she was ashamed of it. In this book it was like she put her foot down and found this boundless strength inside that allowed her to control her fear and use it to accomplish her goals. She went from a frightened child to a magnificent heroine. Does she have a few missteps along the way? Sure, but that is part of her story, part of how she grows as a person. Laia is amazing.
- The pacing in this book was spot on. There was action, adventure, perilous peril nail biting sequences, and gasps galore! At no point did I think, “Well, this story is in a bit of a lull so I’ll take a reading break.” No sir. I did not want to put it down. You get more depth into the characters and their struggles and successes to the point where you just can’t get enough of them.
- I mentioned this with the first book but it is so important I feel like it needs brought up again. There is absolutely no fat on this book. Every scene, every moment has a purpose. We have all read a book in a series that felt like filler (half of the Throne of Glass series for example) and that half of the scenes could have been cut. Tahir delivers. Every page has a purpose and you don’t want to miss a moment of it!
What I Didn’t Like
- I still love Helene, I really do, but I wasn’t entirely on board with her in this book. I won’t dive into it too much, because spoilers, but she felt lost. Confused. In truth, she was, and that was part of her purpose in this story but I’m hoping that in the third book she gets some justice. She deserves it. Helene has to make some incredibly difficult decisions in this story and my heart just aches for her.
Yup, that is all I didn’t like. I told you that I loved this book. Tahir’s writing is engaging and flows well, the story itself is engrossing, and the emotional response the story pulls from you is palpable. If you want a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat then I cannot recommend these books enough. I will leave you with one parting quip, I told you Keenan was trouble.
“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”