Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Goodreads Rating: 4/5 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.
This was…not what I was expecting. I kept pushing this off because it had such HUGE hype and I wasn’t sure if it would live up to the expectations. Then a fellow blogger read and reviewed it and I just had to after that.
I was completely sucked in with this story. This story is brutal, like, seriously ruthless.
In this society, it runs on violence as acceptable with whippings, brutality, oppression, torture, rape and execution. A Society where children are ripped from their homes to become enforcers of the law, reigning with force and terror. They are broken and torn to become Masks where even their very faces are changed in order to serve the Empire. Where you are nothing but workers of the Empire and anyone who challenges that is tortured till you become nothing but these puppets. Stripped of all individuality. These people are ingrained with violence that what else is there to become but that which you are taught to become?
I found that to be fascinating and tragic especially as we see this actually happening in our own world, today.
This story you will see violence run throughout the storyline because it is about ONE man, ONE soldier who refuses to become what this society wants him to be. When his chance to finally leave is stripped from him he is faced with awful choices where he will battle what is needs to do with what he wants to know and then constantly question which is right. Elias is a GREAT character to read and follow as you ache for him and suffer alongside him as he tries to keep that one aspect of humanity which has kept him alive and sane. Yet he is also just a man, a man who refuses to stoop but also a man who makes mistakes. He is human in this story and I loved that especially with all that he has had to go through and conquer within himself in order to survive, yet he is real and faulty.
Laia is the other character who was not brought up the same way Elias has. She is not a soldier, she was raised with her brother by her grandparents with
love and yet with an understanding of what they are suppose to be to the Empire. She lives in constant fear of possible rape and life taken from her. When her brother is taken and nothing left for her, her guilt-ridden self seeks out the one possible group that could help rescue her brother. The Resistance who betrayed and killed her parents. With that she is asked in return for their help to spy for them. She is to become a slave to the most ruthless, heartless and truly evil person in this book- The Commandant.
The Commandant is the one person you never want to cross, she will torture, maim, rip you apart just for being late. And she takes pleasure in it.
The attraction between Elias and Laia is slow and perfect. With their relationship they find moments of tenderness. Yet because of who they are there is also confusion and fear which help cause conflict in the relationship. But, with everything against them they are able to find themselves and a beautiful blossoming relationship that is sweet within this horror of a story.
Overall I LOVED this book, a little redundant with the whole constant mention of rape and possible raping that I kinda had to roll my eyes. Ok, we get it. Thank you. But the tragedy and world-building was so well done and fascinating that I couldn’t put this down.
Sexual Content: Heavy (mention throughout the book of rape, possible rape and the overall acceptance of it- also some light kissing)
Violence: Heavy (scenes of torture, death, killing, maiming, whippings, execution)
Language: I can’t remember I don’t think there was much
*If any of the content concerns you I would recommend ‘obtaining’ the book first.