By: Sabaa Tahir
Published: April 28, 2015 by Razorbill
Source: Personal Kindle Library
(Goodreads / Amazon)
"I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.FAVORITE QUOTES:
THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.
IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW
AND I WILL DESTROY YOU."
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 is one of those stories that I let the hype surrounding it get to me too much. I really try hard to not let the reviews of others (which I don't read before I've read a book) influence me too greatly. This was one book though that was hard to avoid comments about it. Everyone, everywhere, seemed to love it. So I had it built up really high in my head. Don't get me wrong - I enjoyed this story a lot. But unfortunately it didn't quite live up to the massive amount of (positive 5 star) hype that I had seen.
The world building is incredible! This is one of those stories that has many plots going on at once; many characters with individual backgrounds; many groups of people all fighting for survival of a different purpose or cause. Within the story itself there are myths and rumors and stories of old that the groups of people pass around. It was incredible really to think that Sabaa has all of this mapped out in her head in a way that's both entertaining for the reader and interesting without being overwhelming.
Before you read the story, check out the maps in the front (for me they were in the beginning of the Kindle version book). Study it enough to familiarize yourself with the world these characters live in. It was very handy for me with trying to picture and imagine what was being described throughout the story. I can't begin to explain the depth of what comes along with these characters and what they are going through.
The one piece that was lacking more for my personal taste, was a deeper romance added in the story line. There are romantic interests but its nowhere near the focus of the story. But even within those romantic interests, I would've like to have seen more development with them. Both main characters have a connection with someone else and they also find themselves having a connection with each other too....but neither romances were really satisfying to me as they weren't explored more. With one character you had the connection with the lifelong best friend but the feelings don't seem to be fully reciprocated. Then you've got the other character who has an insta-connection (attraction?) with someone they really know nothing about. Both of those scenarios left me with a "meh" feeling...until the two main characters meet each other and my hopes soared for the possibilities only to be let down. Again, this is MY personal preference for what I like to see in books - I don't have to have romance be the sole purpose of the book but I definitely like my love stories to take at a minimum semi-center stage.
For those who may not know much about the story, Laia is a scholar (lower-status free born person) whose family is murdered and her only brother arrested. To help rescue him she seeks out the help of the Resistance and agrees to pose as a slave for them in the Empire's military academy, where no spy has ever lived to tell about the secrets within its walls, in exchange for their help. It's heavily fortified and the 3,000 military students within it are taught to not show any mercy, especially to slaves and those beneath them. While there Laia meets Elias, one of the top students, ruthless in battle but is battling an inner war of something much greater.
If you love Young Adult Fantasy stories, and stories historically inspired, stories with battles and inner-self struggles, this is one you don't want to miss out on!
"The Foretelling is truth. A truth you will soon face. You seek to run. You seek to abandon your duty. But you cannot escape your destiny."
"But there are two kinds of guilt, girl: the kind that drowns you until you're useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose."
"Fear can be good, Laia. 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. You heart."
Language Rating: 1 (light)
Mature Content Rating: 0 (none)
Final Rating: a very strong 4 stars