In the Martial Empire, is it the soldier or the slave who's truly free?
Laia is a Scholar living under the brutal rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia must embark on a quest that takes her from the haunted catacombs of her city to the halls of Blackcliff Academy, the Empire's most elite military academy. There she'll she go undercover as a slave, spying on the Martials in exchange for helping her brother. But Laia doesn't realize that this bargain will put her own life at risk and thrust her into the center of a conflict with global consequences.
Elias is Blackcliff's finest soldier and, secretly, its most unwilling. Sickened by his orders to kill Scholars, Elias plans to desert the military. But before he can, he's ordered to participate in the Trials, a ruthless contest for choosing the next Martial emperor. Elias must wage war in the Trials while struggling with deep inner ambivalence. For while losing the Trials might cost him his life, winning them could cost him his soul.
When Laia and Elias's paths cross, they find their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined. Their choices will change the future of the Empire--and with it, their world.