Synopsis: Laia is a Scholar, and, in the Martial-ruled empire, she must keep her head down and stay out of trouble. Unfortunately, trouble follows her brother Darin home. Now, Laia must align herself with the rebels to help Darin. But doing so could cost her her life. She becomes immersed in Elias’s world of Masks and brutality. Elias is a soldier who desperately wants out. But the Augurs have roped Elias into staying for the Trials. Laia and Elias both struggle to survive and achieve freedom. Will they die trying?
I definitely felt like this was a character-driven story. At some points I wanted to skip to Elias’s perspective, but at other times I felt myself wanting more of Laia. Both of these characters were written so realistically, I couldn’t decide who I wanted to hear from more.
Laia and Elias both share a common internal struggle of attaining freedom and keeping their souls intact. Laia grows so much throughout. At times I wanted her to snap out of her fear and be strong like Helene, but if I were in her shoes, I knew that I’d be just as scared, probably even more. They both also have huge hearts. Laia puts herself through hell and back for her brother. Elias wants so badly to leave the Commandant’s harsh reign over the Blackcliff school and he puts up a front. But behind the Mask is a caring and thoughtful character. He loves, and that is saying something given that he was taught to be a murderer.
The story brings Empire legends to life (Elias and Laia can hardly believe jinns and wraiths even exist at first) and the fantastical element has only begun. It’s clear that book 2 will bring more of this to the forefront.
I’m looking forward to what Sabaa has for readers, especially now that Laia is stepping up and Elias’s interests align.
5 out of 5 stars!