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.
My Goodreads rating: 5 FANTASTIC STARS
It’s been ten days since my last blog post. Holy crap, where have I been? Even I don’t know. It’s worrying, yes. Regardless, after rolling around in a happy bubble upon completing my dreadful college exams, I got down to some reading and finally finished this book about ten minutes ago. AND I HAVE SO MANY THINGS TO SAY.
For anyone who read my review of An Ember in the Ashes, the first book in this series(?), you’ll know that I had a less than friendly opinion of it. I won’t get into the details again because I’m lazy, but just know that I couldn’t force myself to give it more than a 3 star rating. I was bored silly because it was a cliche-fest. But this book? Oh boy, did it shock the living hell out of me. Not only did I get the surprise of my life, but I got smacked around in the face with all the feels, until I had no choice but to give it 5 stars. Let’s discuss.
This book is everything the first book isn’t. From the world-building, to the action, to the characters, and even the writing, it’s all a huge improvement. The Ancient Rome-Gladiator aspect that was supposed to be evident in the first book, but fell completely flat for me, was so much more potent in this sequel. It was BRUTAL. There were moments when I felt my heart stop and I sat there biting my nails in terror. And don’t even get me started on the amount of times I cried. I need three hands to count that.
The book starts off with a bang. I admit, I wasn’t really feeling it at first, because the remnants of the disappointing predecessor were still fresh in my mind. So I wasn’t too invested to begin with. But the first chapter was crazy good– we’re thrown right into a continuation of the events of the first book and swept into a mad dash with our protagonists. And I couldn’t get over how cool the opening was.
We follow three separate perspectives, which could have gotten tedious but never did, because it was so important to the plot. Can I hear a cheer for Helene? My god, that girl is so bad-ass but she just can’t catch a break, I mean Christ. No happiness for Helene.
Elias and Laia became a little more realistic in my eyes, and I loved following them. And I liked how we weren’t beaten around the head with that ridiculous love triangle/square/pentagon again; it was better done in this book, and played a key role in literally everything.
As well as this, this book had more deaths, twists and huge reveals to give me heart palpitations all the way through to next June. Honestly, what are these feels I’m feeling?
This is not the first sequel that I’ve this year which far surpassed its disappointing predecessor. And I’m becoming very suspicious. It’s making me regret not reading on with series in the past when I hated the first book. Because who knows what I’ve missed out on? Damn it.
Elias in this book gained my respect so much. He grows as a character and is more mature, and I was so upset about what he has to go through. And Keenan? Oh man. Keenan. Grrrrrr.
The final quarter of the book was OUTSTANDING. I was in a state of shock at how evil people can be, and I was pleasantly surprised at how Tahir completely outdid herself with the events in this book. It was maturer, broader, edgier and downright amazing to read. Hats off to you! Marcus and the Commandant are seriously terrifying. As well as that, the introduction of a few more sinister characters really gives the book a kick, and the magic elements finally make sense in this book.
DARIN MY POOR BABY I LOVE YOU SO MUCH I FEEL SO MUCH PAIN. Just had to get that out there.
So, whether you liked the first book, loved it or hated it, I suggest you definitely give this book a try. It takes a completely different turn, far less cliches, more unexpected turns, and more moments of OMFG, THE FEELS, particularly page 361 (shhhhh, not saying what happens 😉 ) Go on. Read the book.
That’s all for today! I’ve been absent for quite a while, but I have some Christmas-themed things planned, plus a bunch of books to read and review. So I’ll be back soon. Thanks for reading!