This book is so hard to talk about that I’ve been sitting on reviewing this for a month now. Oops. I honestly kept coming back to this but I couldn’t find the words to explain how this book gutted me in the best ways possible. Really you just have to read it. But, I’ll try!
Rating: 5 stars!
Thanks to Orbit for the eARC of this book. It has not affected my honest review.
Content Warnings: threats of rape, past attempted rape, violence, gore, torture, colonisation, conscription.
About the book:
Touraine is a soldier. Stolen as a child and raised to kill and die for the empire, her only loyalty is to her fellow conscripts. But now, her company has been sent back to her homeland to stop a rebellion, and the ties of blood may be stronger than she thought.
Luca needs a turncoat. Someone desperate enough to tiptoe the bayonet’s edge between treason and orders. Someone who can sway the rebels toward peace, while Luca focuses on what really matters: getting her uncle off her throne.
Through assassinations and massacres, in bedrooms and war rooms, Touraine and Luca will haggle over the price of a nation. But some things aren’t for sale.
What did I think?
I completely, whole-heartedly adored Touraine. The whole way through this book, she is an absolute shining light of a character. The complications she faces are unbearable, and I honestly don’t know how I would have handled a single one of them if I was in her place, let alone all of them hitting her back to back. Touraine was stolen from her homeland as a child, conscripted into the army of the empire colonising her own people, then sent back to her homeland to quash a rebellion. It hurt my heart, honestly. Watching Touraine come back to a place she barely recognises, with a language she doesn’t speak, was incredibly powerful. Her loyalties are constantly torn. Between the rebels she ‘should’ help, the people she grew up with and the woman she’s drawn to, Touraine is constantly having to make decisions on a knife’s edge. I was breathless with anticipation for her next actions at all times. I actually ended up listening to the audiobook of this, and I listened to it in one sitting, completely ignoring my fiance so I could focus on the story.
This book is brutal. It’s not a fluffy rebellion story where ‘good’ conquers all and changes hearts. It’s a raw look at the ugly realities of colonialisation, of racism, and of the consequences of rebellion and warfare. Touraine isn’t ‘drawn to goodness’ or any of those usual cliches, instead she spends a lot of time conflicted over who she should help, what side she’s supposed to be on, and whether she should act at all. Even just reading along with her I was caught in indecision, and I can’t wait for more in this incredible series.
I’ve seen reviews complaining about the relationship between Luca and Touraine, and I guess that’s fair, but it’s important to me to point out that they’re a mess for a reason. These are two women who are diametrically opposed in a lot of ways, and more importantly the power disparity between them is a huge factor. Luca doesn’t want to dismantle the empire. Luca wants her throne back, to rule the empire. I personally adored the complicated relationship between them and the struggle to balance feelings with the realities of a rebellion that’s so much larger than either of them. Touraine’s choices are so, so complicated, and I’m so glad that this book didn’t lean into the ‘love conquers all’ narrative and instead highlighted how complex their power dynamic truly was and how much needs to change before they can fit together without rubbing on each other’s sharp edges.
Release Date: 23rd March 2021