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.
Release Date: Out Now
I’ve been eyeing up this book for a long time and then noticed it on sale on my kindle and snapped it up like a woman dying of thirst. As someone who has really been into the epic-fantasy genre of late this kind of book is up my street and begging to be read. For readers of Throne of Glass and the Grisha Trilogy this is a must read.
Sabaa Tahir is a world builder. This book is built up in the desert and as such this harsh environment encourages hard characters, those hidden in the shadows. This may be missed by someone but the very setting isn’t somewhere lush and green – full of hope and life, no it’s somewhere where the very land is ravaged by the air around it. She also entwines the folklore that you would expect in the desert. Think of the Jinn (or djiin – genies) and Ghouls, all steeped in Arabian folklore which is sadly not as pulled upon by authors as it could be. These creatures are subtle in this novel yet they are being built up and I expect the next book to rely on these characters more.
As for the characters I am screaming for a Helene novella. Out of all the characters she is the one that has the most mystery and iron will. Her faith is steadfast and she has one of the most intriguing plot lines out of the characters. Elias and Laia in comparison felt somewhat flat and lacklustre. This isn’t to say they are bad characters – oh no – they grow and develop as it comes clearer that their futures are entwined and that there are many wrongs to right. The dual point of views are good as they let you into both worlds and see how they are beginning to collide and why.
There is a few plot points I’m not a fan of at all. There is the casual rape references. In a society where law enforcement are begging victims (both female and male) to come forward this could potentially set in the mind that there is nothing to be done if you have been raped. This is a sensitive subject and should be treated as such.
The, sadly, usual young adult love triangle/square/hexagon/how-ever-many-agon. Please. If done well over a couple of books it can work but all squeezed into one book where the consequences of both are far reaching its a bit – eh. Why bother?
Also another nit-pick. Please highlight it as it is a little bit spoilery; There is inconsistency between that the current Emperors lineage will end due to no male heir yet – lo and behold Helene could be an Emperor? This was a major annoyance for me. The leader of the school is a female so there should be no issue of lineage if the heir is female. This could have been written better to make it clear that due to no heir the Emperor’s lineage has failed.
The negatives are always easier to talk about than the positives yet all things considered this is the sort of book that will have you keep reading into the night. Sabaa’s writing is so smooth and silky it slips through your brain and into your heart. The story is unique and interesting with more to be read into upon a rereading. I will be getting the second book upon its release, it was very, very fun read.