While there are some standards to this book, the writing and character-building take it beyond "individual starts the revolution to overthrow the evil overlords." The first difference is there is already a rebellion in place before Laia becomes entwined with them after the death and jailing of her entire family, but can she trust the rebellion?
She will do anything to get her one surviving brother out of prison, and she has to do that- nearly anything. It reminds me of Star Wars IV when the needle is coming near Princess Leia's face but nothing comes of it. That's not the case here. Here the violence is gut-wrenching and personal. Not a bedtime story for the kiddies. Everyone, good and bad bears the marks of the empire that trains them or enslaves them.
As the lead characters, Laia and Elias are faced with whom to trust and what freedom really means and what it costs. The rest of the cast is interesting too. From the evil Commandant, to Cook, to Zak, the grandfather, the best friend, or the sword maker who doesn't make swords to all the other characters, nothing was one-dimensional. Everyone had a story, or a hidden agenda, sometimes both. I docked a star for not being a standalone novel, but I don't feel like I wasted my time and I can't wait to read the next in the series.