I loved the world and all the twists and turns in the book! It shifted from Laia's point of view to Elias and back, but always in a way that wasn't confusing and easy to understand.
I really liked how strong Laia was, even when she thought she wasn't. She grew a lot from the scared girl we first met, into a woman who was able to see her mother in herself. I also loved reading about Elias. How he presented multiple faces to the world depending on who he was with and what role he had to play.
I wasn't as attached to Helene. I liked her sometimes and didn't like her others. Her personality made sense based on the world and how she'd been raised. But she was too inflexible about things, rules were made to be followed, but there's also a certain flexibility at times. And while she occasionally bent them because of Elias, you got the sense that she wasn't happy about it. On the other hand, she was a strong character with a fiery personality especially when she was angry. She struggled a lot with her choices, and with the strengths and weaknesses she had, she felt like a real person.
I'm not sure what you'd call the love angles in the book. It wasn't a triangle really, but it was complicated. I could tell who the girl was going to pick, but I'm not sure if that was just because I liked him better! *laughs* I had no idea who one of the guys was going to pick, it felt one way, but since it was a story, I figured it could just as easily have gone the other way. (And I'm not using names because I don't want to slip and spoil anyone!)
There is a lot of evil and dark moments in the book. The Commandant has no redeeming qualities what so ever. She's the kind of evil character you keep hoping something even nastier is going to come by and have her for a snack. The school and instructors are just as bad in their own ways. There is torture, child abuse, threats of rape and needless and cruel killings.
But there are also sweet moments. A slow burn and fall into love. Best friends who have each others backs. A friendship in dark times, and lots and lots of hope.
I also liked the fantasy creatures that appeared in the book. There weren't a lot of them, but they fit the plot perfectly. If only the magic had been addressed more. You have magic metal that melds with people's faces like a second skin. The power to heal with a song, and of course the magical creatures that appear. But very little is explained about the magic. Not even where it comes from or why it seems so absent from most of the world. There's a tiny little blurb of explanation about it in the book, but it was such a small blip I've already forgotten what the explanation was. And even while reading about that, it wasn't enough to really explain.
I did like the book over all, and I want to read the second one already to see what happens next!
This review was originally posted on Fantasy of the Silver Dragon