When Thom Anteros is arrested after breaking into the Building of Historical Records, he demands to be taken before the King. A laughable demand for anyone else, Thom’s request is granted and the King spares his life. Yet what’s to become of him is left in the hands of the one person Thom truly fears – Mickey Taenia, the King’s Hangman.
Infuriated by Thom’s refusal to reveal the whereabouts of Nate and Catherine, the Hangman sends Thom to one of the worst places in the Kingdom – the slave markets of Muntenia. It is there that Thom is bought for the Red Arena: a barbaric, gladiator-type competition where the children of convicts and other unlucky souls are forced to fight to the death.
Twenty wins is release. One loss is death.
With the help of Charles Thoreau, a fellow captive, Thom begins not only to survive, but to thrive. A master of words becomes a master of death, and Thom’s prowess in the arena frightens even him.
But death isn’t the only thing haunting Thom. As the days go by, he dreams of his brother, and the promise he cannot forget.
I will return.
My Mini Review
I don’t think it is a secret at this point that I love this series. The previous two books both received five stars from me, and I was greatly anticipating reading this one after the cliffhanger of the second book. Unsurprisingly, this book exceeded all of my expectations. The writing was as engaging as ever, and the pacing kept me glued to the pages waiting to see what happened next. I’ve also really enjoyed getting to see the story through the eyes of the different characters. It has kept things fresh in a way that I didn’t expect. At first, I was a little worried that this book goes back all the way to the beginning to tell Thom’s story, but I ended up loving it so much. His journey illustrated the immense growth of a citizen content with the status quo, who primarily used his looks and manipulation to get his way, transforming into a tough fighter who wanted to burn the whole system down. The events that catalyzed this growth were brutal, and I’m convinced this author enjoys torturing her characters. Thom’s story also allowed for the exploration of some pretty heavy topics/themes, including slavery, sex work, and morality. I especially enjoyed the philosophical aspects of the shifts in Thom’s moral reasoning from conventional to post-conventional. The romance in this book was also well done, and I loved Thom’s new partner. Their relationship seems like it will continue to provide an interesting backdrop to the debate between doing what is best for you vs. what is best for society. Additionally, this story provided a little more information about the mutant civilizations and proposed some interesting ideas about how to structure society to avoid tyranny. The ending left off with unsettled arguments between the characters that will decide the fate of the group, as well as seriously impact all of society. I’m excited to see how it all plays out over the last two books. If you like dystopian stories with great characters, LGBT rep, and cringeworthy torture scenes, you will love this series. I rate this book an enthusiastic 5 out of 5 stars.