In the cold, treacherous land of Vesimaa, children are stolen from their families by a cruel emperor, forced to undergo a horrific transformative procedure, and serve in the army as magical fire-wielding soldiers. Pran and Oksana―both taken from their homeland at a young age―only have each other to hold onto in this heartless place. Pran dreams of one day rebelling against their oppressors and destroying the empire; Oksana only dreams of returning home and creating a peaceful life for them both. When they discover the emperor has a new, more terrible mission than ever for their kind, Pran and Oksana vow to escape his tyranny once and for all. But their methods and ideals differ drastically, driving a wedge between them. Worse still, they both soon find that the only way to defeat the monsters that subjugated them may be to become monsters themselves.
I came across this book because the cover knocked me off my feet. My friend is friends with the author, so when she showed me the cover, I was enthralled. It’s gorgeous and a little bit frightening and a kind of powerful. Plus, it sounded amazing too. Armies of children forced to undergo transformations to fight for a cruel king. It definitely sounded like something I would like to try out. Trigger warnings: grief, torture
This book was so much more painful than I expected it to be. Really, it was a whole lot more than I expected it to be.
Starting off, I’m always a bit wary of books that start out with an established romantic relationship. I feel like it can really work; it’s something to be invested in right off the bat. But other times, it doesn’t work that well. It feels like something I wasn’t privy to, and I don’t quite get the connection. With this one, it did not fall on the bad side! The romance of the book actually had a lot smaller of a role than I thought. That said, it was still quite well done. It added another emotional aspect to the book (aka another way for this author to provoke pain haha) and I loved seeing how much Pran and Oksana cared about each other.
Speaking of pain, this book was painful. It was kind of heavy, but it didn’t feel like a heavy book. Yes, it has a lot of hard and painful moments and the book is literally about children being injected with serums and being forced to serve in an army. But this is the kind of book that hurts, but it didn’t lay heavy on my shoulders. For me, that made it easier for me to read and it made the book have more of an impact.
There were times in this book where I would think maybe it could have been expanded to a six book series or maybe the world could be explored more, but I found that I actually liked what the book was doing. I felt like this book was so tightly strung together, that imagining anything else happening would just make it weaker. Usually, I want the world to be bigger and I want the big expansive story line, so for a book to be crafted so securely and tightly that I don’t want that is a book that is written incredibly well.
This world was one that I was just amazed at. It was dark, really, really dark. Not just in actions, but it felt dark literally to, like dark hallways made out of dark materials. It felt like the whole world was scorched by the fire of the Tullis. It’s also such a cruel world. They way it was constructed was brilliantly done and there were a lot of times that I was just in awe of it.
I’m not quite sure how I feel of the writing of itself, which I think is one of my only criticisms. The way things were executed and constructed were very, very well done, but the actual sentences that were strung together just felt a bit heavy to me. I know that’s weird, but my descriptions are usually weird haha.
This book felt like fire, through and through. It felt like the suffocating smoke, the sear of a burn, and the ash of the destruction left behind. It’s a book about fighting for what you care about, for trying to escape the darkness and cruelty that is so prevalent in this world. It was a book that was painful, but one that I really, really liked as well.