Genre: High fantasy
First published: 2015
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Goodreads synopsis: When Laia’s grandparents are brutally murdered and her brother arrested for treason by the empire, the only people she has left to turn to are the rebels. But in exchange for their help in saving her brother, they demand that Laia spy on the ruthless Commandant of Blackcliff, the Empire’s greatest military academy. Should she fail it’s more than her brother’s freedom at risk . . . Laia’s very life is at stake. There, she meets Elias, the academy’s finest soldier. But 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 finally read this book and it was awesome! I don’t know why I din’t read it sooner. I loved the world. It’s based off ancient Roman society which is really cool and not something I’ve seen much of. I really the world-building, I loved the feeling of the setting.It felt really authentic to me, so Tahir did a good job with that.
Another one of those little things that I absolutely loved about the book were the masks. Such a cool idea to have them mold to the wearer’s face. I remember I read a preview of this book about a year ago and the masks stayed in my memory and were actually part of the reason why I decided I wanted to read this book.
The story itself followed a pretty standard oppressive society type plot. But it had this really cool Oriental magic about it. I really love Oriental mythology and there was a striking contrast between the Roman society on the one hand – sober, disciplined, military, – and the Oriental mythology on the other – magical, mysterious and wild somehow. And I think that, more than anything, made the book remarkable.
I liked the characters, I didn’t love them, but I liked them. The Commandant was interesting. I’m curious about her. I’m curious what screwed her up. I was a little bit annoyed with Laia, because she’s one of those annoyingly clueless characters, the “I have no idea how gorgeous I actually am” type of character. That’s not the only way in which she was clueless, but I can’t say more without spoiling anything. But there were some glaringly obvious things that she missed, presumably because if she hadn’t, the story would have ended after like chapter 5.
More than anything though, I am curious about the Augurs and the magical aspects of the story. I’m really looking forward to learning more about the world and about the mythology.