Format Read: Kindle Edition (453 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy/ Romance/ Dystopia
Series: Book One of the Amber in the Ashes
Rating: FOUR POINT FIVE 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.
REVIEW:I tend to shy away from Young Adult Fantasy, but this rocked my socks off. I understand why there are mixed reviews about this book. But it worked for me because it had just the right amount of brutality and unique elements to balance out some common Young Adult tropes. This was fantasy done well. Although the characters Laia and Elias both start off skeptical about the supernatural, they quickly learn the world has so much more to teach them. Laia was not always a likable character to me, but her courage and will as the book went along out shined her naivety. Elias struggles against knowing the right thing to do, and having the strength to do it.
“I'd rather die than live with no mercy, no honor, no soul.”
The only thing that is keeping this from being a five star book for me is that I wanted a bit more world building. I would recommend this to everyone, there is something here for readers of all ages. I enjoyed the diversity here and the changing points of view flowed together seamlessly. I haven't read much fantasy set in a middle eastern setting, but this was a great glimpse into that place even though it was fiction. There is enough complexity with the characters, supernatural elements and ruling class to keep the series exploring new and interesting relationships and situations along the way.“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”