Published: April 2015 by Razorbill
Rating: 4 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.
I did a buddy read on this book with some fantastic ladies I met on Instagram. We all had the book and had kept putting it off and so we banded together to tackle this one. I really enjoyed this book. The only reason it didn't get 5 stars from me is because of Laia. She has done everything so she can save her brother, but at the same time she kind of half-asses it. If you're going to spy, then spy. Don't tip toe around it.
Other than that, the world building aspect of the novel was on par, as were the characters' personalities. I could easily understand and feel the emotions that each character portrayed, which is something I think every book needs. I do wish I could've known more about Helene. She isn't mentioned in the summary of the book or even in most reviews that I've read. She is not one of the two main characters, but I believe she had a HUGE role in this book and overall... she was just badass. She's like the female equivalent to Braveheart's William Wallace.
This was a wonderful debut and everyone is excited that this will not be a stand-alone novel. I admit.. I'm excited too. I just know I'll forgot everything and have to re-read this before the sequel comes out. This gets taxing, but more often than not.. it's worth it.