Summary: Laia is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
This book is told from two points of view. Laia is a Scholar, who, in order to save her brother, joins a resistance group and goes undercover at the empire’s military academy. Elias is a Mask, a student at the academy about to graduate, who hates the academy and everything it stands for.
The two characters struggle with their roles throughout the book, especially when Laia begins to suspect the resistance isn’t all that it seems. She grew up in a loving environment with her grandparents and life as a slave is shocking to her. She befriends a fellow slave and offers to help her escape when she does. Laia is a fully fleshed out character. She is afraid all the time, but keeps at it to save her brother. She has to convince herself to stay the course many times throughout the book and she is a very sympathetic character. I really enjoyed reading her chapters.
Elias was raised by tribespeople and brought to the academy as a child. He’s never really fit in with the other Masks and begins to question their ways and philosophy. When he meets Laia, he does what he can to help her without getting caught himself and therefore killed. His fellow Masks are well defined, most especially Helene and Marcus. He goes through all the steps of the trials, but has no intention of winning or gaining any power.
I wish they didn’t add the love triangles in the story. Laia is drawn to a resistance fighter who seems to truly care for her, but is attracted to Elias. Elias realizes he has some feelings for his longtime friend Helene, but likes Laia for how she looks in a dress. These relationships were not really necessary in my opinion. It didn’t detract from the story, but I didn’t feel they needed to be part of the plot.
The ending is left open for the sequel, A Torch Against the Night.