I have been hearing about this series for a long time, but I didn't really feel that I wanted to read it until the last book was released, because around that time everyone started to talk about how amazing it was and about the last book being a great conclusion to the series. As someone who is always scared that the last book of a series is gonna suck, knowing that it had a good ending definitely was the last push to read this. Anyway, I decided to read this as part of the TBR Takedown readathon and I quickly realised that it was gonna be a highly entertaining and fast read.
I want to begin by saying that for me it's strange calling this a fantasy series, because there wasn't really a magic system and I feel that's such an important part of the fantasy genre. But at the same time, there was a belive system that was really interesting and unique even if it wasn't explored that much in the books. What I'm trying to say is that this felt more like a historical fiction series set in an alternative universe, because it had elements of greek and roman culture but it was set in another world.
Before reading this book, I knew that slavery was gonna play an important part in the story and I was really worried about how it was gonna be addressed; the fact is that Arin was Kestrel's slave and I was worried about how the relationship between them (the main characters) was gonna be handled. At the end, I think it was done really well, because there was always an underlining tension because he was/ he had been her slave and I think it would have been easy to put that aside and pretend like he had forgave and forget, but Marie Rutkoski didn't do that. It was something that was addressed the entire book, it wasn't about blaming or not blaming, it was about recognizing that it shaped their relationship.
What else can I say about their relationship? Well, even if I really liked them together I have to recognize that there were times when there was A LOT of angst and pining. I got really frustrated, particularly in book 2, because there was so much drama that could have been avoided if only they had communicated just a little bit. On the other hand, I think what was great about the two main characters is that they were complex and interesting when they were separeted from each other and having those type of characters in a book is always great, but it was more impressive to see how the individual characteristics made the dynamic between them so engaging. Also, I think the characters as well as the relationships between them evolved so much from one book to the next and that made this series even better.
Another thing that made this a fascinating series was the fact that the world expanded from one book to the next. The first book focused on a kingdom that was part of the empire, the second book focused on how the empire worked and who ruled it, and the third book showed a kingdom outside the empire that was in a war against it. The fact that there was a constant world building defenitely kept me captivated. Something else that I think it's important to mention is that there was a lot of political intrigue and war strategy throughout the series; the staked for all the plans and schemes kept getting higher and higher. This aspect of the series made it more trilling and gripping, nonetheless, there was a point in book 3 were I have to recognize that I felt like it was too much war strategy and battles, and it dragged a little bit.
At the end, I would recommend this to someone who likes YA fantasy, but wants something a little different in the sense that it doesn't have magic and it focuses mainly on strategy. Also, someone who enjoys really character driven stories.