Masks, trial, and a forbidden love, all woven together into Sabaa Tahir’s debut novel.
I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.
IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW
AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.
Laia is a slave.
Elias is a soldier.
Neither is free.
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. 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.
Okay, I was never really interested in this book when I first heard about it. I thought, “Yeah, maybe I’ll read it”. I never really took an interest until I heard about it on Booktube. I think it was Sasha who said that it was really good, and I tend to trust the opinions of my favorite Booktubers. I also heard that there was a movie in the works for this book, and at the time it hadn’t even been released yet, so I thought, “Wow, this book must be really good if it already has a movie deal and it hasn’t even been released yet”. So, a few days after I heard about it, I pre-ordered it. Let’s get on with this review, shall we?
“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.”
What I really liked about this book was the dual POV. It features the point of view of Laia, a Scholar girl willing to risk it all to save her brother, and Elias, A Tribal boy who’s the best mask the academy has ever seen. I think that the dual POV really helped me to learn about both of the characters, and it kept the story very fluent, and it kept it from becoming boring. What I also didn’t like about each of the characters experiencing different things at the same tie was that there were only about six or seven scenes that they were even in the same room. I would’ve liked to have seen more interaction between Elias and Laia. I love when there is at least a little it of romance but this book really didn’t have any, it was very minimal, which I didn’t like very much.
I really liked the writing style. Some people would complain about the prevalent lack of detail, but I think that Sabaa Tahir’s writing was not flowery, which I like. It was action packed, yet descriptive, and I think she got the right amount of prose, without it becoming poetry. I liked the use of symbolism in this book, especially the Masks. The Masks represented the death of their old life, and the birth of their new ones as the physical masks melded into their skin, obscuring their faces. I thought that that was a really nice, touch, very interesting and new. What I didn’t like was the ending, though. It left so many unanswered questions.
“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”
I give this book five stars, despite the ending, that felt unresolved and resolved at the same time, which was a little weird. I definitely think that this standalone could be turned into a series, and I certainly hope it does, so that my questions can be answered. I would really like to read more from Sabaa Tahir, as this book was nothing short of excellent. If I give it five stars, but was not satisfied with the ending, you know that it had to be good. This book is definitely one of my new favorites, and I would recommend this book to pretty much anyone who like fantasy or dystopian YA, due to the minimal romance inside the book. I also really liked how each character had their own agendas that often conflicted with one another’s which made things very interesting. If you haven’t picked up this book yet, I recommend that you do immediately, as it was absolutely fantastic, practically sensational. Go pick up this bad boy ASAP! I hope you enjoyed this and that I’ll see you back here soon! Have a great day!