An Ember in the Ashes
I tried not to get too hyped about this one because everyone seemed to love it and that usually means I get overexcited and expect too much, but I think this one deserves the praise it gets. Go into this blind if you can.
As usual, I'm not really a fan of the dual perspectives, but it does help for us to see things from each side, a rebel and a mask who doesn't necessarily side with the martials. I do think it's important to sympathize with Elias, otherwise we would just see Laia's life and assume all masks are bad (which they mostly are from what we can tell).
I liked Laia, for the most part. She's stronger than she realizes, but she just seems so naïve. She believes everything the resistance tells her the second it comes out of someone's mouth. She assumes that they're working to break her brother out of jail instead of ensuring that they have plans or that what they're planning will work. She willingly puts herself in the WORST spot without second guessing; that's how much trust she puts into people she just met (who also betrayed her mother and father). That just seemed daft to me. Other than that, I did like her I just hope she grows up a bit mentally.
I liked Elias. Learning about the masks and the background of the war was pretty cool. Having a heartless mother really took its toll on him, but it made him a better person. I think that the love 'square' was really well done. It wasn't like omg who do I choose? Or while the war is going on they're only thinking about their love situations, it was more subtle than that.
Most importantly, I really felt for the characters. I was scared for Laia that she was going to get caught or raped or tortured. I was scared for Elias' being found out. I felt hopeless for the slaves and beyond angry at the commandant. If the writing can make you feel something, you know it's done well.
Excited for the next book. I hope there's more of the monsters in there.