this book, which I don't usually mind. Even here, it was interesting enough to keep me reading, even if some of the directions the story took were...strange... Cohesive for the most part, but one major development involving Elias and the Forest seemed sideways. I guess he was too strong a character and needed a handicap? I don't know.
If I sound disinterested, it's because I left this one feeling a bit lukewarm. A large part of that was Laia's obnoxious flip-flopping between Keenan and Elias. She doesn't seem capable of identifying what (or who) she actually wants, and it grated on me pretty hard throughout the first half of this book. I still don't like her much.
Elias and Helene, on the other hand, I enjoyed quite a bit. Elias eventually takes matters into his own hands and sets off on his own to try and reach Darin before the Martials purge the Scholar population of the prison. Did I mention genocide is a big part of this book? Hard-core, merciless, cultural genocide, folks. Though the MCs only brush against the fringes of it, Sabaa still describes it in unflinching terms. When Elias reaches the prison, he witnesses these atrocities up close, along with all the 'ordinary' terrible goings-on inside that have been occurring since he was stationed there as a child (and long before). It's Sabaa's unapologetic approach to these difficult topics is part of what keeps me coming back.
While Elias tries to infiltrate the prison and Laia is off making doe-eyes at Keenan and stumbling along toward Kauf, Helene is fighting an impossible battle of her own. Her family's very lives are at risk if she doesn't deliver Elias to the emperor for execution, and the Commandant has a spy in her ranks. While she works on tracking down the man she loves, she must decide what to do with him once she finds him. I really liked how much we got to see of Helene in this book, and her chapters were right up there with Elias' on my favorites. And the ending. Ugh. My heart bleeds for you, Helene...
I'm already well into Book #3, so hopefully I'll have a review for that in the next week or so.