Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Source: ALA Midwinter
Age Group: Young Adult
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.
I had the amazing chance of meeting Sabaa Tahir at the Penguin Teen tour stop at my local indie bookstore. She is so sweet, funny, and overall amazing. I do have to admit that when I first bumped into her I did have a fan-guy moment and might have dropped a phrase that may have contained the words “You are perfect!” Just saying. But enough on how to embarrass yourself with authors and onto the book.
The story is split into two perspectives, Laia, a girl spying inside the Empire for the rebels in exchange of them rescuing her brother and Elias, the Empire’s finest student who wants nothing to do with the Empire. The two cross paths and from that moment they must work together if they have any hope of escaping the tyranny of the Empire.
Let me just make note that the first couple chapters reminded me of the “Red Wedding” from Game of Thrones. With Sabaa’s descriptiveness I could picture everything as if I was watching it right in front of me. I have to give mad props for this. Seriously, this book caught my attention with the synopsis, with people non-stop raving, but this…this one scene had the book forever etched into my brain and I knew I was not going to do anything till I had finished this book.
Laia is a strong-willed female protagonist who has to overcome obstacles of torture, deceit, love, etc. She takes a big risk when placing herself as a salve in the Empire for the price of the rebels rescuing her brother. However, while in the Empire there is information uncovered that is leading Laia to believe that maybe she cannot really trust the rebels.
Elias on the other hand, I feel is in much more of a tight situation. Being one of the top students in the Empire’s program, he has expectation to uphold. However, when he does not stand for what the Empire to consider ruling to be right, Elias makes a plan to escape. However, his plans are pushed back when he is entered into the Trials and failure to complete a trial is punishable by death.
This book brings up heavy topics of abuse, parent neglect, and death and with these topics, the reader is filled with emotions that have no excuse but to be let out. Romance was not a big component in this story even though there is definitely a love triangle happening. I am curious to see where this goes in the upcoming novel.
Overall this was an extraordinary read in which I apologize for taking so long to read. I am excited to read A Torch against the Night and see where the adventure continues for our two main character. Sabaa Tahir writes a brilliant debut that will leave a mark on the reader making them want only more.
I give this book 5 souls!