- Page Count: 446
- Release Date: April 28, 2015
- My Rating: 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.
This deserves all the hype and more. I might have been a nervous ball of stress the entire time I was frantically paging through this super intense book, but that story was TOTALLY WORTH IT.
Let’s just agree from the beginning that words will not do this book justice, yes? Good. Now for words:
This was one of those books that I had to keep reminding myself was just a story because I was getting so emotionally invested. Seriously, anything could’ve happened — I had no idea if anyone was going to survive (yes, I see the sequel now). I’m just going to list my thoughts instead of the plot because everyone else has summarized this book so well. And you can refer to the book description… “brutal world inspired by ancient Rome?” Accurate. “Military academy?” Ok no more like gladiator school of death and no hope.
Anyways, I LOVE ELIAS SO MUCH. Like he’s survived this brutal training to be a killer, yet still managed to remain human and want to escape that life. So much of this book is about how our choices define us and he’s put in such incredibly difficult situations aaghhh my heart still breaks for like every single character. They were all so strong, flawed, and believable. A+ character growth all around, but especially with Laia. She isn’t the typical badass YA heroine either… like she starts out pretty timid. I loved her determination to rescue her brother and persevere through the hellish experience of being the Commandant’s slave. Like this world is brutal, but she stopped letting life happen to her and started acting on her own plans:
“Once, I’d have wanted that. I’d have wanted someone to tell me what to do, to fix everything. Once, I’d have wanted to be saved.”
Other things I loved:
– The Commandant might be one of my most hated book villains ever
– Alternating POVs that wove together perfectly
– Elias and his hilarious POV that still managed to be sarcastic while fleeing death
– The freaking humanity in everyone and what they choose to act on
– There’s romance, but the story in no way centers around it
– I didn’t really think it was a love triangle/square. More like curiosity?
– Random awesome supernatural stuff
– Set up a seriously epic sequel with yet more difficult choices
– The writing and pacing were perfect. I seriously could not put this book down. Or breathe.
I HAVE ZERO COMPLAINTS. Do you know how rare that is?! I always find something to complain about, even with books I love. (My reviews are like editing… like first get the stuff out of the way you don’t like and then it’s implied that everything remaining works? Go with it). So let me end with this perfect quote:
“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be. Too much fear and you’re paralyzed. Too little fear and you’re arrogant. Fear can be good… it can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you. Don’t let it sow doubts within you. When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible, to fight it: your spirit. Your heart”