Spoiler warning! Some spoilers for the early parts of the book in this review (although some of it is already spoiled in the book’s blurb).
We’re back to me reviewing books I read a month ago, so Goodreads will have to help me out here:
Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those that 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 realise that their destinies are intertwined – and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
I read a lot of YA fantasy (and the occasional sci-fi) and after a while, the tropes start to feel a bit repetitive and a lot of the stories feel rather samey. This book reminded me somewhat of Marie Rutkoski’s The Winners trilogy, Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, with some elements from Mary E. Pearson’s The Remnant Chronicles (which reminds me, I have yet to track down and read the final book in that series). You’ve got the brutal empire, modelled on ancient Rome. You have some sort of oppressed underclass, possibly enslaved. You’ve got the various neighbouring peoples, who have different and seemingly barbarian customs. Not all the evil ruling class are necessarily evil (where would be the fun in that) and most of the oppressed underclasses are too afraid to mount any sort of rebellion, because they’d surely be defeated and soundly crushed. Yet of course there are rebels, because in such a situation, there will always be people who try to fight.
Full review on my blog.