I hopped on this one as soon as I read the description on NetGalley because it sounded so up my alley that it hurts. That was before this *gorgeous* cover appeared too.
So, thanks to the author, as well as Del Rey via NetGalley for the review copy.
A young pilot risks everything to save his best friend–the man he trusts most and might even love–only to learn that he’s secretly the heir to a brutal galactic empire.
Ettian Nassun’s life was shattered when the merciless Umber Empire invaded. He’s spent seven years putting himself back together under its rule, joining an Umber military academy and becoming the best pilot in his class. Even better, he’s met Gal Veres–his exasperating and infuriatingly enticing roommate who’s made the Academy feel like a new home.
But when dozens of classmates spring an assassination plot on Gal, a devastating secret comes to light: Gal is the heir to the Umber Empire. Ettian barely manages to save his best friend and flee the compromised Academy unscathed, rattled both that Gal stands to inherit the empire that broke him and that there are still people willing to fight back against Umber rule. As they piece together a way to deliver Gal safely to his throne, Ettian finds himself torn in half by an impossible choice. Does he save the man who’s won his heart and trust that Gal’s goodness could transform the empire? Or does he throw his lot in with the brewing rebellion and fight to take back what’s rightfully theirs?
Some friends pull you out of the trash when they find you facedown in it. Gal was the kind who lay down next to you until you were ready to get up on your own.
Man. This book. Get ready for a bit of a squee here, because this book was just phenomenal.
This is the story of Ettian and Gal. They are pilots cadets in an Umber Empire academy located in former Archon Empire territory. They are best friends, roommates, and… in Ettian’s mind, perhaps something more than that. Ettian pulled himself out of the ashes of his homeland when the Umber Empire invaded it and took everything from him. Gal, despite being born and raised in the Umber interior, has always made Ettian feel just like another normal cadet.
When a group of students suddenly tries to assassinate Gal out of nowhere, his secret gets out. He’s not Gal Veres. He’s Gal emp-Umber, the heir to the Umber Empire. With Ettian’s help, Gal flees into a neutral territory where they find a base full of Archon rebels who are gearing up to attempt to take back their land. Ettian is shocked to find people still willing to fight for an empire that Umber so thoroughly conquered. He’s rightfully finding it rather hard to reconcile his feelings for Gal as well. So, does he side with Gal and help him get home, or does he side with the rebellion, and help take back his own home?
I started this book late one night, which was really my mistake because I didn’t get much sleep that night. It’s really quite riveting right from the start. Ettian is such a well written character, and I found him rather easy to cheer for. He’s got a brutal past that he doesn’t like to go in to (this is told in first person from his POV), but those events still shape him and the decisions he makes. It gives him a huge dose of angst, but not annoyingly so, in my opinion. Gal is another character that it’s hard not to cheer for, since he is so charismatic (when he wants to be). He has depth as well, which you see as events happen throughout the story. Their relationship has many ups and downs, as information comes to light, or events take place, but it’s also thrown a bit with the inclusion of a third character, a street urchin named Wen (who carries a rainbow umbrella as her primary weapon), who Ettian takes under his wing, more or less.
The relationship between Ettian and Gal was really well put together (and often adorable). It had a fair deal of the ‘will they or won’t they’ in it, while actually making me both want them to and want them not to (which is super uncommon for me, who typically thinks all characters with even a little bit of chemistry should definitely mush bits of each other together a bunch ^_^). It is one of those romances in which these two really, really don’t communicate as well as they should though. I found this frustrating, but in a… compelling way? It made me want to read more, to see when and how they resolve their problems. I can see this being a sticking point for some people though.
The prose was fantastic, and the world that was built was a very realistic-feeling one, with a great attention to little details. The entire book is quite compelling and fast-paced, but man, the last quarter of this book was an actual emotional thrillride. I highlighted so many quotes that I’m a little surprised that there are still un-highlighted bits of this book left. This is definitely a book that I will want to read again. And again…. and again. 5/5 stars!