- My rating: 4.25/5 stars
- Amazon $12.61 USD
- Pages: hardcover, 452
- Publisher: Razorbill
- Release Date: August 30, 2016
I’m so conflicted right now…wow is all I can say. This book made me want to rip my hair out and scream and cry because Sabaa Tahir has no mercy.
Warning: this will have minor spoilers for An Ember in the Ashes. There will also be a spoiler section for this book because I can’t help but rant about it.
Elias and Laia are running for their lives.
Following the events of the Fourth Trial, an army led by Masks hunts the two fugitives as they escape the city of Serra and journey across the vast lands of the Martial Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—and save her brother, whose knowledge of Serric steel is the key to the Scholars’ future. And Elias is determined to stay by Laia’s side…even if it means giving up his own chance at freedom.
But Elias and Laia will have to fight every step of the way if they’re going 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.
Helene’s mission is horrifying, unwanted, and clear: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
This book begins right where AEITA left off. There is no opportunity to ease back into the brutality of this world- it is just as stark and bleak as the last book. This was something I enjoyed (but you know, hated what it did to my baby Elias), because it’s not often that you see such uncensored violence in YA. It’s not too gory, but it definitely feels very real. The world-building is complex and elegant. I love how it’s based off ancient Rome but it doesn’t involve the mythology like one would expect to see. The Empire is an entity all its own.
This is furthered by Tahir’s excellent imagery. She can paint images, sights, smells, sounds, and feelings with her words. The way she phrases her descriptions are extremely powerful. There were a lot of simple scenes that gave me goosebumps, and had they been written by a lesser author they would have been mundane. Tahir knows how to enrapture readers and make them feel as one with her characters.
The characters, were of course excellent, although Laia did start to annoy me. She was missing the spark that I loved from her in the first book. She was dependent on other characters, always subconsciously waiting for their approval of her actions and emotions. Overall, she was a bit of a weak character to me (but there is justification for this, see the spoiler section). Elias was brave and compassionate and amazing as always, but if you love him as much as I do then you are in for some serious pain in this book. Like, a lot of pain.
I was also pleasantly surprised by how much I liked Helene. in AEITA, I was a bit annoyed by her jealousy and her relationship with Elias, but I think this reveals more of her true character and how strong she really is. Tahir adds a lot of depth to her that made her much more realistic and enjoyable as a character (I have one complaint, and this will be in the spoiler section as well).
The aspect that brought this from five to four stars for me was the plot. Like AEITA, it took a couple hundred pages for me to really get into it. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t boring or slow, but I wasn’t in frantic page-flipping mode. However, I turned into major page-flipping monster when 300 hit. Because oh. my. god.
The last couple hundred pages were insane, action-filled, heartbreaking, and beautiful. Imagine the last hundred pages of ACOTAR, and then times it by a thousand. That’s how much this book escalated. Everything started happening at the same time and people died and betrayed and… I may have hyperventilated the entire time while I was reading it.
(One more quick note: the use of “skies” as a curse-what do you guys think of it? I was personally a little annoyed. It didn’t sound like much of a cursing-type word, and I thought it was a bit overused. It sounded a little too censored, like saying “oh fudge” instead of “oh you-know-what”. I was a little tired of seeing, “skies, *insert name here*” every few pages. Especially Helene. Bleeding skies, Helene, think of something more creative to say.)
Overall, this did not disappoint. I highly recommend to anyone who loved AEITA. This book doesn’t show any signs of the second-book syndrome, and was just as good (if not better) than the first one. The feels were almost overwhelming. Do not expect to leave this book without scarring your heart. With this and EoS coming out Tuesday, I will literally be a hollow shell by the end of next week.
Thank you for reading!
Check out the spoiler section below for more discussion 🙂
GUYS. WHatt. WHat:1;221.?!?!@?!? WHajerj aowe hjkdjfklajf’sjfoweihgoa`eljv’msdl;jvfd;kjg.
I’m sorry, but this was me ever since Laia got to Kauf. Because, seriously, wow. Plot twist? Several plot twists? Plus pain?
I can’t believe Izzi died, first off. I knew that someone of importance had to die, but I was really sad that it was her and not Keenan, because boy, do I hate that guy. Even before I found out he was the big bad enemy. Then, my hatred multiplied. He messed everything up.
Number one: he was purposely trying to make Laia weaker and more dependent, which, overall, made me like her less. Plus, he was basically taking away her power :_(
Number two: he split up the dream-team/number-one OTP, and my sweet Elias was sad because of it. I mean, it doesn’t explicitly say that but when he hears about him and Laia, you know, SLEEPING TOGETHER, I think he’s going to be a little upset.
I’d also like to talk about Laia in this book? She was definitely much weaker, but I don’t think it was completely Keenan’s fault (but mostly it was). She seemed to lack backbone. She was always screaming, waiting for Elias to come help her. She showed no willpower of her own. And what’s up between this love triangle? Why in ten burning hells would she choose Keenan over Elias? Seriously?
And Helene. Helene, Helene, Helene. She went through so much pain, but I can’t help but think that she brought a bit of that onto herself. She kept choosing not to capture Elias. I think even telling Marcus that he was at Kauf instead of exposing Keris in the throne room could have saved her family. Also, poor Livia. And Hannah. I really wish they had had time to make up, because they fought over such petty things. I also partly blame this on Helene.
Oh, and can we talk about ELIAS DYING. SERIOUSLY. I COULD NOT BELIEVE THIS. THANK GOD THERE WAS A SOMEWHAT SOLUTION, BUT CAN HE EVER REALLY LEAVE THE FOREST? CAN HE AND LAIA BE TOGETHER WHEN HE’S STUCK HELPING PEOPLE CROSS? CURSE YOUR GENTLE, GUILTY HEART, ELIAS. YOU MADE THIS SO DIFFICULT.
Also, when Tristas forgave Elias in the forest was Tahir implying that Tristas was actually just waiting for Elias to forgive himself before he revealed that he had forgiven him? Because that was pretty instantaneous. I think he was just making sure Elias forgave himself before he left and faking all his anger. I could be totally wrong though.
Okay, and last thoughts, but how cute were the last lines in the book? It literally made my broken heart mend back together when Darin was all “look at you”. Ugh, such family bonding. IT WAS ADORABLE. OH YEAH, AND ELAIA (I DON’T KNOW THE SHIP NAME) MADE OUT BEFORE THIS SO THAT WAS GOOD.
Well, thanks one more time for reading if you got through the spoiler section 🙂