Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Your Caste Does Not Define You

"There are no beginnings, because everything is connected.
There are no endings, because nothing ever truly ends.
There is only where you choose to start the song,
And where you choose to stop."
--Miriam Foster, Empire of Shadows

Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: Harper Teen
Pages: 496
Publication Date: November 4th, 2014
Source: eARC provided by publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review
Previous Books in Series: City of a Thousand Dolls (companion novel)
Goodreads Description

Cast out of her family three years ago, Mara turned to the only place that would take her—a school where students train to protect others. But Mara is stunned when guarding a noble girl in the Empire’s capital turns out to be more dangerous than she could’ve imagined. More shocking still, she finds the boy she thought she had lost forever outside the gates of her new home.

Mara knew her life in the dizzying Imperial city would hold dangers. How could she have known that her heart, as well as her life, would be at stake?

Empire of Shadows will take readers on a spellbinding journey into the world Miriam Forster first introduced in City of a Thousand Dolls—a world with a divided society, deadly courtiers, heroic traitors, and deeply laid conspiracies.
The World

I loved the world building in City of a Thousand Dolls with the different castes and hierarchy of things. Because this is a companion novel and set in an entirely different part of this world, it took me a little while to connect and remember the castes. Regardless of that, the world building is beautiful. We start out meeting Mara, who is running from something terrible that has happened to her. She seeks out sanctuary at an order of trained warriors who pledge their lives to protect a single person after their training is complete. This order exists to take away shame from those who seek their training. Thus, Mara fits right in. We are then taken outside the main city, in the woods with the Kildi, people who live off the land and trade their goods. There we meet Emil and his brother Stefan. Emil is poised to take over the leadership of his people, Stefan is the hot-headed brother who acts before thinking thus and can never do anything right in the eyes of his father. Because of Stefan's actions, Emil must follow him into the main city where Mara also is (can't give away too many plot points). The visualization of the city is gorgeous. The houses, the flowers, the palace, the bridges, it is all brought to life in my head. I loved this Arabian feel to the place and kept picturing the movie the Prince of Persia (is that the right name?) in my head. I loved it.

The Heroes

I loooooved Emil and Mara. Their connection might be instant but it is real. It isn't lovey-dovey or over the top, it just is. I really liked this. They both connect to the one good feeling they've both had in such a long time and that is meeting each other, and trust me, it gets them through a lot. Their love and devotion to those they love and choose to protect was inspiring and just lovely. They are selfless, even though they don't want to be, and I really liked seeing how their actions played out in the overall plot.

The Story

In hindsight, I liked how the story was developed in the overall scheme of the entire plot (see below for details).  It all came together at the end and there the main conflict of the story was really interesting if not a bit predictable. I especially loved the ending and how everything came really makes me want to re-read City of a Thousand Dolls to be honest. At the end I was all, OH! I need to re-read!!

The Pacing

I had a hard time connecting to this story and really feeling involved in it. The premise was interesting and I liked it but it just didn't have the *oomph* that made me want to keep reading. I felt like the beginning of the story, probably the first 60% to be honest, dragged on and it wasn't until the 60% mark that things really sped up and I was invested. That's a long time to wait to pick things up and if I didn't have this for review I might have put it down. I don't know, in hindsight I liked it so I don't know if I was in a mood or what but it just didn't grab my attention like I wanted it to.

General Admission
I love this world, I wish the plot was a little more intense and grabbed my attention but if you liked City of a Thousand Dolls, you'll enjoy this. Maybe do a re-read prior because I know I missed a lot of subtle details because I read it so long ago.
If you like good world building, noble causes, and familial loyalty, this book is for you. 

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