Rating: 4 out of 5.

This is a good first book in a new YA Fantasy African and Arabian-inspired trilogy. The Empire is ruled by four rulers. Every ten years a trial of combat and skill is held to determine the Empire’s new rulers, who will intern with the current rulers until it’s time for them to take over.

The Empire is ruled by blood:

Red is the blood of the elite, of magic, of control.
Blue is the blood of the poor, of workers, of the resistance.
Clear is the blood of the slaves, of the crushed, of the invisible.

Years ago the resistance stole 12 red blooded children and replaced them with blue blooded children. Their plan was to raise the children and train them in all skills so that they could take part in the trials, win the seats of power and change the world. Sylah is one of the stolen children and trained to be part of the revolution, until the day she watched her family murdered before her eyes.

Anoor has been told she’s nothing, no one, a disappointment by the only person who matters: her mother, the most powerful ruler in the Empire. But dust always rises in a storm. Anoor is one of the replacement children and her entire life is a lie. She “kidnaps” Sylah and they strike a bargain wherein Sylah will train Anoor for the trials and Anoor will train Sylah how to use bloodwork, a form of magic that uses blood as an active ingredient.

Hassa moves through the world unseen by upper classes, so she knows what it means to be invisible. But invisibility has its uses: It can hide the most dangerous of secrets, secrets that can reignite a revolution.

The book started out really slowly for me. Sylah is in a huge downward spiral and the author goes over and over this until I was sick of reading about how messed up she was. The book started to pick up once she meets Anoor, but doesn’t really start to get exciting until the trials begin. I really liked Anoor and sympathized with her abusive upbringing and her desperate need to be seen and loved by someone. Once she and Sylah started to work as a team, the duo was really great together.

Hassa was a mysterious character and I really enjoyed her practicality and humor. She definitely had layers to her and she was one of the more interesting characters in the book. I enjoyed learning more about her and finding out more about her role in the Empire.

This is the first book in a fantasy trilogy, so it’s to be expected that it will be a bit slower due to the necessity to worldbuild. The book was really rolling along toward the end, so I anticipate the next book will be a rollercoaster of action and emotions. Once the story started to pick up, I really enjoyed this book. If you like diverse characters and epic fantasies, this is the book for you and I recommend you read it.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from NetGalley and Random House Publishing Group, Ballantine, Del Rey. All opinions are my own.