I’m going to start by saying this is the best YA I’ve read in a long time. It was written gorgeously, the characters shared real, believable connections, and it was beautifully plotted. I picked this novel up because of all the hype surrounding it, and it was well deserved.
The peppering of Roman culture, ideology, and language was a special treat. I’ve been taking Latin for a few years now because I enjoy Roman culture and history. Although some of the ideas that are presented are inaccurate, it’s fun to read about it all from a different perspective than from the historians who related them the first time.
I definitely enjoyed Elias’ perspective more than Laia’s because his story involved more action. Learning about the Masks and their brutal training was exciting, in a horrifying way. I enjoyed his relationship with Helene, although I was very frustrated with his cluelessness when it came to her feelings. Elias was such a well developed character; he had feelings and thoughts and fears and they all felt so real.
Throughout the novel, Laia found her strength through different people. Through Darrin, her mom, Izzi, the Resistance, Teluman. I’m hoping that in the next novel we’ll get to see Laia find her inner strength, the part of herself that she wants to fight for.
This book also presents some really important lessons about hope and regret. Laia finds the hope she needs in Blackcliff. Again, she finds that hope and that strength in the people she cares about.
Elias’ hope comes from a different place. He finds his hope in something he was promised. He’s been put in this unique situation where pressure is being applied from all sides. He (much like us college students) has been assured there is a light at the end of this very long tunnel, and that if he makes it he will finally be free.
The swordmaker tells Laia there are two kinds of guilt, “The kinds that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose.” That’s relevant to the story, sure, but it’s also relevant to real life. By refusing to learn from mistakes we’ve made or wrongs we’ve done, we are settling for the burden guilt. But when we choose to embrace the guilt that teaches, guides, and gives a purpose to future choices, we can learn to be better, more fulfilled people.
- 5/5 stars; will fo sho re-read
- Seriously so good!!!
- Romani roots
- Great character development on all fronts
- Strong themes of hope and redemption