Holy horseshit. That would be my two word review of this book. It was just so dumb and terrible, it's hard to get angry about - other than I wasted my Sunday reading it.
So, it takes place in what seems to be a dystopian version of European pre-Reformation Europe. There are some super-holy ridiculously religious zealots, who buy children, beat them, starve them, sometimes kill them, over the course of many years to become soldiers in some holy war. But the military stuff is all mixed up and makes absolutely no fucking sense whatsoever.
The world starts out, at least in the weird Sanctuary where all the horrible monks live, like some unbelievably (and I mean in the sense of it was quite fucking unbelievable) horrible place. So like Dragonflight and Final Empire you just can't really get into it because you basically go "oh fuck off" every five pages as some new and horrible way of treating people is described. It gets a little better when Cale and his friends escape to Memphis, there's still a deeply entrenched class system that makes you hate everyone, but at least they don't murder people quite so capriciously. It just makes everyone an absolute prick.
So the plot is Cale and his friends escape the horrible Sanctuary, somehow end up guarding the head of the big empire's daughter (Cale of course, ends up doing quite a bit more than just guarding her) but then all the crazy bastards from the Sanctuary start a war just to get Cale back. Which is...fucking unbelievable. There's also some bizarre side-plot that goes nowhere that involves evicerating women alive. CHARMING.
Suffice to say, it doesn't pass the test. Also, at one time or another the only two female characters are referred to as sluts, bitches, useless etc. They basically are there to look pretty and be ogled by the male characters or to be sworn at. I could go into great detail describing on utterly sexist and horrible this is but you'd get bored of ME TYPING IN ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME.
Also, Cale is a young teenager, troubled, a bit of a moody toss-pot but of course, he shags the improbably beautiful Arbell (who is referred to as Swan Neck for some stupid reason BUT THEY CONSTANTLY REFER TO HER AS ARBELL SWAN NECK, WHICH WAS THE MOST AGGRAVATING THING IN THE BOOK).
It's all so formulaic and sexist, double-whammy.
Anyway, it doesn't even have a happy ending because clearly, they're angling for a sequel where there's more improbable and ridiculous shit to happen. A very unrealistic outcome of a battle occurs where a massively equiped army, outnumbering another army to a great degree is effectively routed. Sorry guy writing this book, you don't have a massive empire and then have some amateurish bullshit like that happen (also what army wouldn't have fucking archers if they existed - one paragraph of explaining that doesn't fly in the face of a) empire b) military fucking tactics).
Arbell also unceremoniously dumbs Cale (there's also the empire in the balance) but there's this ridiculous paragraph where's she's like 'but I want to dump him anyway, so whatevs' (I paraphrase). So Cale gets taken back to the Sanctuary, gets thoroughly heartbroken AND THE WHOLE BOOK DOESN'T EVEN FUCKING MATTER.
God. -5/5 stars. What a waste of fucking eyeball motions.