Date Read: November 9, 2015
Final Score: 9 / 10!
This is easily the best book I've read in YEARS, and it took me completely by surprise. It took me a bit to get caught up in it, but I'd reached the end of the book well before I'd realized I was addicted. I went out and bought the sequel right away and read that one in a single sitting. It's absolutely enthralling.
The setting is a wonderful rendering of the traditional High-Fantasy vaguely medieval world with a fresh twist mixed in that's reminiscent of the Roman Empire (one of the best depictions of Ancient Rome I've ever read, honestly). There's not much in it that's truly Magical or Fantastical, so I wouldn't classify it as 'Fantasy' per-se, but the world is developed with every bit of the detail expected of a fantasy creation. The political atmosphere of the reality the characters in habit is intricate and believable, utterly gut-wrenching for its impact on the main characters. Both sides of the story are well developed and relatable and you find yourself torn between sides.
What really got me is the relationship between the two main characters. It's a romance novel in many ways, and it has the best relationship development I've ever seen, especially in YA Fiction. The narrative is in 3rd person and switches POVs between Kestrel and Arin to give a delightfully nuanced understanding of the situation; both of the developing relationship and of the obstacles keeping the lovers apart.
It's an absolutely FANTASTIC read.