Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way to outsmart their enemies: the bloodthirsty Emperor Marcus, the merciless Commandant, the sadistic Warden of Kauf, and, most heartbreaking of all, Helene—Elias’s former friend and the Empire’s newest Blood Shrike.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
I received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange of a review. No compensation in any form was received for the review of this book.
Oh boy! This book was a great ride! The story picks up immediately after the events of Ember, which was a relief because the first book ended in a cliffhanger.
For this book, we get three POVs, now including Helene which is really amazing because I like her equally as the main characters. Another thing I like about the characters is that they have equal exposure, and the conflict that arises between them, against them, and the Empire brings so much depth to their character’s story arc and development. I really enjoyed Helene’s chapters and she’s one of the most interesting characters I’ve ever read.
“You are a torch against the night – if you dare to let yourself burn.”
As usual, Tahir’s writing style is excellent and the story was gracefully executed. It’s fast paced, yet consistent and the character’s voices are distinct. I think the romance was explored more here, compared to Ember and I like it that it’s slow-burned, which of course led me to feeling warm and fuzzy at times. I like the little cute banter Laia and Elias have sometimes, but at the same time I enjoy Helene having feelings towards Elias too, which leaves her character in such complex situation, and in a good way, it’s cool to see it unfold.
I remember in the first book, I had a little problem with the world-building but I think I got settled more because of this book, since I’m already familiar with the setting of the book. Basically, I can imagine them clearly now.
“So long as you fight the darkness, you stand in the light.”
Overall, I love this book more than I did Ember and it’s such a joy to see the writing and the story elevate more. I think I just had a little problem with Laia’s character, like I felt she got a little too naive at times, which is okay for a character but I’d say she needs to be better. I’m sort of guessing that I’m liking Helene’s character compared to her, but I think that’s because Helene’s story got explored further in this. Anyway, this is a solid sequel and I cannot wait to read the next ones!