For once a book that was actually worth all the hype surrounding it! This book was really fast paced and each chapter ended in a great cliff-hanger that was made even more awesome because of the changing perspectives. Yes, this book had a lot of elements found in other YA, like the trials and the dictator society, but the book was unique and interesting. I only have two problems with the book; it didn't really remind me of ancient Rome and that it is a stand alone. The book was pitched as ancient Rome and I didn't see that at all. It isn't a huge deal, I just feel like it was advertised wrong. Also there is no way that this book can be a stand alone. There were so many loose ends and problems that need to be resolved! I am giving this book a five star rating but only on the assumption that there will be a second book (if not the book would get lower ratings because it wasn't wrapped up well enough).
SPOILERS TO FOLLOW...
I have to start off by saying that this book was quite violent for YA. Most YA characters have some sort of trauma in their past but Laia and Elias's pasts are f-ed up. Laia's parents and older sister were arrested and tortured to death, then she watches her grandparents get murdered right in front of her. Elias was abandoned at birth and then forced to attend a school to teach him to kill people when he is six. The school leaves his in the desert to die when he is like eight and makes him watch other kids get beat to death. Also in the third trial he has to kill his friends in order to prove he is strong. Don't get me wrong, I loved the drama but WOW.
I also liked the not so romantic romance. At first I was surprised because it seemed like Laia would end up with Keenan and Elias would be with Helene. It surprised me because normally when there is a male and female characters whose story lines cross they end up together. I liked how there was the conflict with the attraction with people besides Elias and Laia. It was interesting and something you don't normally see in YA. I still am pulling for them to ed up together though because Helene is just to ruthless for Elias.
The main thing I have to say about the book though, is that IT CAN"T BE A STAND-ALONE!! There are so many problems that need to be solved. For one thing, the whole reason Laia went to Blackcliff was to help free her brother, which didn't happen in this book! If it was a stand-alone we could assume that Elias eventually helps her free her brother but come on, I want to know how. Also the Teluman blacksmith tells Laia that he and her brother have a lot of work to do to help overthrow the empire. AND Marcus can not remain emperor. I also want more of the Elias/ Laia romance. We still don't know who the spy is in the resistance, although it could be Maven. We don't know the whole story about Cook. Also, there is a chance that Laia's parents are still alive. She never saw their bodies and someone told her that people can survive for years in Kauf because they are tortured not killed there. I can't believe they would leave all of this unresolved. The author says she has their stories planned out til the end, she just needs someone to publish the next book!
MY RATING: *****