Recently, I've been picking up alot of books quite spontaneously rather than planning out and reading some of the books high on my TBR, and this is another of those. I'd first heard of this one a while ago actually, but at the time it wasn't really something I was too interested in and so I didn't think it would be one I'd ever read. However, I did recently pick it up after I've been trying to read and enjoying more fantasy, and I am so glad I did. I absolutely loved this and found it took me completely out of my reading slump, and adored the story, the characters and everything else about this book.
There are a fair number of characters that a play a part, no matter how small, in this book. I really enjoyed seeing how many different characters were mentioned and also liked the variety they gave. I also surprisingly found that I wasn't too confused at any point as to who was who, something which was such a relief as it allowed the story to continue without confusion as to who each character was. This was also helped by the fact that I actually really liked each character, and didn't find myself particularly disliking any of them, and only hated the characters you were meant to.
The entirety of this book is told in split POV, with half the story told through Laia's, a Scholar who turns to the resistance for help, eyes and the other half told through Elais, a Martial on his way to becoming a mask but who plans to desert before he can do so. I actually found this to work really well, particularly at the beginning when their lives hardly intercepted at all as it gave two entirely contrasting stories that eventually weaved together. I also loved them both as characters, with Laia's motivation and determination and strength coming from her family and Elias' loyalty to his friends making them both such good characters who were also quite different. Personally, I did prefer Elias, particularly as he continued to stick by who he was even if he did sometimes make mistakes, but not so much so that I didn't thoroughly enjoy Laia's sections as well.
The split POV also allowed for us to see the characters on both sides of the story, something I thoroughly enjoyed as I really liked all the key side characters from both. By the end of the book I loved so many of them, with Helene being one I surprisingly grew to love as it all went on. I also adored the relationships between the characters, such as Helene's with Elias and Laia's and Izzi and how strong a friendship they both had. My only ever so small bugbear however was with some aspects of the romance when Elias and Laia meet, without trying to spoiler anything, although this was definitely not something that took anything away from the book and honestly I think my personal opinion on the characters relationships did obviously affect it.
One of the things that I love in a book is a good plot twist - and this one certainly had a few of them! Instead of having one central twist, this had so many little and sometimes pretty big twists along the way that just made everything that little bit more unpredictable, something I adored seeing. Not only this, but this book certainly wasn't afraid of much at all, with the story going ways I never thought it would dare to. By the end, I never knew what was going to happen next and honestly was pretty scared of what the next twist would bring, but ultimately really liked the uncertainty this brought to the table.
Carrying on from that, the story as a whole and the backdrop to it were both done so well for me. As I said, I loved how unpredictable the story was and also complex but interesting a storyline there was. I haven't come across a book in a while that brought out as much emotion as this did, and I found myself so attached to the world and the characters by the end because of how well the story had been told and just how good a storyline it was. The brutal backdrop then also worked so well with this plot and I loved how no character was let off or no situation made easier simpler just because the character was a key one.
Another element that I absolutely adored was the fantastical element of the story and how it slowly wove into the key storyline of both of the characters. I loved how this gave it a lot more of a fantasy element and really added to the world and the setting for me. A key part of this which I particularly enjoyed were the Augurs, who helped not only with the fear of what they could do but also how they could predict and almost tempt fate and how influential they could become.
So overall, I think its safe to say this is definitely one I would recommend to almost anyone, even if you're not usually a huge fantasy fan. It's a great story, with some amazing characters in it and will you have anticipatingly waiting the next unexpected plot twist.
Scene: The Moon Festival/ Trial of Strength
Quote: 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.
Song: Silhouettes - Of Monsters and Men
Other Book: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo