Release Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Razorbill; 464 pages
I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.
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 your friendly warning - this review may not make sense. It may just be me flailing about, talking about everything I loved and gushing and most importantly, demanding more books. This, my fellow readers, is the book I have been waiting for. I can not even put in to words the way this book has made me feel. You may not believe some of the descriptions on how I was feeling because, let's face it, it's all over a book but I can assure, these feelings were real and honestly, they're still there. This book brought a lot out of me. A lot. That being said, let the gushing and nonsense go forth . . . consider yourselves warned.
I will say, I'm angry at myself. I've had this book since July (thanks to my co-blogger picking it up at SDCC) and I only just picked it up a month before it's release. I hit a major reading funk for the past few months, I should've picked this book up. I think it would've helped. Regardless, I am super happy I finally did read it. I've heard quite a bit of hype behind this book and that scares me. A lot of those overly hyped books are disappointing and with my funk, I was not in the mood to be disappointed. Thankfully, I was anything but. In fact, this is one of the best books I've read in awhile. That's saying something because when I looked at the books I've read recently, a lot of them I really loved but none of them made me feel the way this book did.
There's this thing called the Trials and there are four of them. Four stages and four contestants. Basically, whoever wins will be the new Emperor, the second place winner is named Blood Shrike (whose basically the Emperor's bitch or more commonly, second in command). Elias is one of the four contestants. Let me just say, I struggled, emotionally, during the third Trial. I was in near hysterics. I could barely control my emotions. They were bubbling just below the surface and I was waiting for them to boil over. I actually put the book down shortly after that because I just couldn't handle it. My nerves were shot, I was so stressed I felt like I could puke (no lie) and all I wanted to do was cry. My heart was absolutely and utterly shattered. There is no repairing the damage that has been done to it. All over a book, I know . . . but that's how insane this book is. Absolutely drew me in, made me connect with not only the main characters BUT a lot of the supporting characters.
For instance, Helene, I absolutely love her. She's another contestant in the Trials but she's also Elias' best friend and the only female student at Blackcliff. She's fierce and she isn't one to mess with. She's hard to read at times and I think that's part of the appeal. Then there's Keenan, whose a supporting character to Laia's side of the story. He's broken and he's fierce, too, in a different way.
Ugh...there just aren't the right words to describe how much I loved this book and how much I am willing to beg for more. Seriously, Penguin, I will beg, if I have to. You can't just have this book as a standalone. You will not make anyone happy this way. Especially with how it ends. There's no way that is an ending you want us to live with for the rest of our lives. There are too many possibilities and too many things left unsaid. And undone, actually. Too many people are still alive, if I'm being honest.
The characters, the world, the story, the writing - everything about this book spoke to me. Everything about this book latched on to my being with all it had and it still hasn't let go. It will never let go. This is definitely a book I would recommend to fantasy fans. Now I'm going to do all I can NOT to fangirl when I meet the author because of my love for this book. We shall see if I succeed...
Thank you so much to Penguin* for allowing me the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review. *book was provided at SDCC