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 life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”
I have to say I was a little worried about this one since it’s a pretty hyped up book but it was definitely worth the hype in my opinion! This book is very intense and just all around amazing!
As I said this book is intense that’s honestly the best word to describe it! It’s very fast-paced and action-packed with a plot that grows more and more complex as the story progresses. I actually really enjoyed reading both perspectives, Elias and Laia, because it added a lot of depth to both “sides” of the story even though I preferred Elias’ a bit more since it was more eventful. There’s plot twists, betrayals, secrets and even a little politics as well which all adds to the excitement.
I also really like the world building, I like the Roman inspired bits and pieces as well as a bit of the mythical and magical being tossed in for good measure. It’s also a pretty dark, nasty world as well which I loved (I’m not weird, I promise). The punishments and trials the characters face are gruesome and the threat of torture, violence, and even rape are almost constantly hanging over there heads. This book was EVIL but it also kept me turning pages because I was honestly terrified for the characters and that’s exactly what all the brutality in this book wanted was to shock and infuriate us, it succeeded!
That ending killed me though, talk about a cliffhanger! I am really curious to see how the story will further develop though since we were left with many, many questions regarding a bit of the world building and just what will happen next in general!
The characters were easily the best part of the book and they aren’t the usual, run of the mill YA Fantasy characters either. I loved how complex, well developed, and unique each character was even the secondary characters were interesting! I also really loved and appreciated how realistically badass all of the women in the story were, not always with weaponry or fighting either but with their wits and compassion as well.
Laia isn’t the secretly badass heroine we always seem to see, she’s “weak” and “cowardly” and constantly thinks these things of herself as well. I feel like Laia’s trials were a lot more challenging for her because nothing came surprisingly natural for her, she wasn’t a “special snowflake” in disguise at all which was very refreshing! Overall I loved how her character felt very real she wasn’t weak or cowardly she was normal, I think it’s safe to say most of us would act the same way if we were put into similar, horrifying positions!
Elias was also a very likable protagonist and really differed from the usual YA male characters we see. Like most YA characters we see he’s trying to get away from his “fate/destiny/what’s expected of him” but what makes Elias’s story a little different is that he actually has really good reasons to feel this way that also makes him feel very real and relatable.
Like I said earlier, the secondary characters were really great as well but two that are well worth mentioning are Helene and the Commandant. Helene is a badass and I adored her ferociousness and skills, she’s just an all around great female character! As for the Commandant she is the head of Blackcliff Academy and she is a vicious bitch that I loved to hate, honestly she’s one of the most cold-hearted characters I’ve ever read about. Just so many great characters!
First off I’d like to say that the romance in this book is some sort of weird love square? It’s odd but honestly I didn’t mind it at all, which is really saying something! I actually like all of the potential couples in the story and thought they’d all be great together which really kills me because if certain characters are together they break the other’s hearts, awwwww feelings!!!!!
I also like the fact that there weren’t really any other tropes concerning the romance, there was a case of instant attraction but NOT insta-love. The romance didn’t ever really feel like it was over-taking the main plot line either, it felt like a bigger part of the story after a while but never actually overshadowed anything else which I LOVED!
I actually really enjoyed this book and am eagerly waiting to get my hands on the next book because I need more of this world! Overall I think this was a wonderful, unique YA fantasy book.
What I Loved:
- The characters, all of them!
- Female representation
- All of the action, fast-pacing, and brutality of the plot
- The world building
- The romance didn’t really take precedence over the plot
- I like all of the potential romantic couples!
What I Didn’t Love:
- I don’t really have anything to complain about!
Yes! I highly recommend checking this book out, especially if you’re a YA fantasy lover! It’s a very actio-packed, fast, unique book!