I already wrote a full review on my Goodreads page, so I'm just going to give you a few of the highlights. If you want to read it, go check it out! (And friend me, too! I can never have too many reading buddies.)
Maybe it's because I'm a huge character person - I could not care less about plot as long as the characters are delightful - but nothing about these characters made me root for them. At all. Elias is a whiny, self-righteous pig 90% of the time and I have no idea who he's supposed to be the other 10% of the time; Laia is like a sheet of cheap watercolor paper that you accidentally sprayed too much water on and now your floor is wet and it's all disgusting and floppy and even when it looks right it looks... wrong, and when you try to paint on it to make it pretty, it looks like inappropriate body parts. Keenan - who the heck is Keenan? He has red hair, I can tell you that. And he's got some kind of pain. Because... ??????????????????? Helene was the best character in the entire book - a tough survivor with a general's brain, sort of like a leveled-up Annabeth Chase. But she still gets sidelined as the Incomprehensible Beautiful Single Female in a crowd of BOOOOYYYZZZZZZZZ and Tahir never. lets. us. forget. that. she. is. a. female. You would think Helene was a mop of shining beautiful curling silver-blond hair on a broomstick, from all her descriptions.
Helene's treatment makes me particularly angry. This is the closest thing to a real character that we have in the book - a good, well-rounded character, with thoughts and motivations of her own - and yet she is constantly downgraded to nothing but her gender. The flippant and casual threats of rape are tossed around her just as much as they are around Laia, a slave girl. One of her major conflicts is dealing with a psychotic rapist antagonist, and yet Helene - a girl literally raised for violence, courage, and hardness - is reduced to fear and cringing? BULLCRAP. Her "pretty blonde hair" makes her less intimidating when she's furious? BULLCRAP! She gets hormonally jealous of a slave girl when Elias is 20 years old and has probably been fooling around with slaves and prostitutes for years?
It's all the same shtick we've been forcefed for 10+ years. It's the "I see sparks fly" line from the T-Swizzle song set on repeat for seven hours. For all the attempts that are made in the name of Beauty and the Beast, in the name of "love comes from the inside," all I hear is a lot about how beautiful Laia is (she has to cover herself up with a cloak or else she'll get raped) and about how strong Elias is. Laia can apparently see the "hard lines of Elias's stomach" even while he is clothed and "at a distance," presumably at night at a town festival of sorts. Anatomy, man. It's a conspiracy.
Nothing ever comes of the mythological bent. Some wraiths are part of the Trials that Helene and Elias go through, but Elias doesn't fight them. It sounds like the Commandant (the kick-ass Main Villain who actually WORKS, God bless) has a business agreement with one of the creatures, but that's tacked into a verbal info-dump in the last 100 or so pages and promptly forgotten. And, most inexplicably, Laia is plagued by... fear wraiths? Anxiety wraiths? Guilt wraiths? I don't know. They're just there and they torment her until she just can't bear to hear... words. And she lays screaming on the ground or in corners. I don't know why. I mean, it's not like everyone else in this godforsaken world is free from guilt. Good grief, Laia's wraiths made me want to stab myself because it was so mind-bogglingly unimportant! Nothing came of those flipping wraiths! They made no difference - if you took them out the story would be the same - I'm so angry at those dumb wraiths for causing maybe twenty or thirty extra pages of USELESS ANGST for a character I couldn't care less about! In fact, the wraiths made me hate Laia even more.