Synopsis (From GoodReads):
Elias and Laia are running for their lives. After the events of the Fourth Trial, Martial soldiers hunt the two fugitives as they flee the city of Serra and undertake a perilous journey through the heart of the Empire.
Laia is determined to break into Kauf—the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison—to save her brother, who is the key to the Scholars’ survival. And Elias is determined to help Laia succeed, even if it means giving up his last chance at freedom.
But dark forces, human and otherworldly, work against Laia and Elias. The pair must fight every step of the way 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.
Bound to Marcus’s will, Helene faces a torturous mission of her own—one that might destroy her: find the traitor Elias Veturius and the Scholar slave who helped him escape…and kill them both.
I have only recently listened to the first book in this series, An Ember In The Ashes, and was blown away by it's imaginative setting inspired by ancient Rome. So I was delighted to learn that the next adventure came out on August 30th of this year. This audio book did not disappoint. It was filled with adventure, heartbreak, and gut-wrenching plot twists.
What I liked:Characters:
In the first book, the chapters alternated between Elias and Laia. But now Helene's viewpoint has been added to the narrative.
Helene: This character is so tortured. Helene must juggle with her dread of Marcus (now the Emperor), her anger at Elias, her jealousy of Laia, and her fear for her family. Can she hunt down and kill one person in order to save more?
The Warden: The leader of the prison at Kauf where Laia's brother, is held, he is a creepy, sadistic, and enjoys tormenting his prisoners. Of course, I did not personally "like" him. But I found his character to be a very convincing symbol of all that is evil in the empire.
Keenan: We only got a glimpse of Keenan in the first book, but now we get the treat of learning all about him. I was totally hoping for he and Laia to get together... What happened was so surprising that I gasped.
In this book, Elias begins to have experiences with in the afterlife (he is not dead). Whenever he sleeps, he seems to go to a realm where the recently departed go before "moving on". He needs to confront some of the people he has killed. This is another reminder of how senseless war is. Life is so short, especially when we hold on to fears, hate, and guilt.
Audio Book Performances:
The three performers were so versatile. They didn't just voice their own character, but any other that was a part of their chapter. That meant that actress Fiona Hardingham (who portrayed Laia) also embodied Afya (the female tribeswoman) and Keenan (the tough Irish sounding rebel), and she did a wonderful job of each character!
What I didn't Like:
Although I loved the alternating viewpoints in the book, this style has it's drawbacks. Several characters that I would love to learn more about can't be covered unless one of the three main characters has a direct interaction with them.
Marcus and the Commandant are mostly out of the picture as the action takes place as the other characters are careening toward Kauf prison. I was surprised that Marcus didn't seem to want to marry (or at least bed) Helene (this threat was heavily hinted at in the first book).
And we learned nothing more about the Commandant. She was such a force in the first book that it was a let down not to learn more about who Elias's father was or more about her relationship with her own father.
I also waited to learn more about Darin (Laia's brother). We do meet him in this book, but it is very brief. I can only assume that he will be more fleshed out in the next book in the series.
With it's action, romance, and strange plot twists, I was very happy with this book. I can only hope all is resolved in book three and that we don't need to wait too long for it!
Release Date: August 30th, 2016
Genre: YA fantasy
Source: Public Library
Format: Audio Book
Recommendation: If you have read An Ember In The Ashes first, then you will enjoy this sequel. Filled with new characters, it is a fast-paced adventure.