Author: Sabaa Tahir
‘LAIA is a Scholar living under the brutal rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who vow to save her brother from execution. ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor. When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they will find that their destinies are more intertwined that either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.’
This is another great dystopian debut, with an interesting world and a good balance of action and romance.
I loved the alternating first person narrative, as it gave an insight into the two very different sides of this society. Laia was a particularly interesting character, as she experienced a lot of self-doubt when it came to her brave, borderline foolhardy mission to infiltrate the empire’s military academy. This made her feel believable and relatable, as I find some self-sacrificing heroines too selfless to be true! She seemed like a ‘normal’ person without powers or superior ability and battle, and I liked that a lot.
I also enjoyed Elias’ character arc. It was interesting that he’d been raised with a conformist, military background, and came to question it.
Another compelling aspect of this book was that the war and revolution were described in very real, brutal terms. In my opinion, a book about these violent subject matters should tackle them head-on, in a realistic way. Otherwise, what’s the point?
One thing I liked less was that I was confused by gender roles in the book. Women were considered to be massively inferior, and rape was a commonplace experience for female slaves (with very little being done about it). Yet the military commander and one of their best soldiers were women. This struck me as a bit contradictory. I also felt that this series covered little new ground when compared with similar books in the genre.
Even though the subject matter of this felt quite familiar, I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and I hope the sequel comes out soon!
If you liked the sound of this, now try:
-The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J Maas
-The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen.
-The Divergent series by Veronica Roth