Strikers work in pairs and call their partner their Shield. The pairs are as close as humanly possible, living and breathing together so that they can always anticipate the other's moves on the battlefield. When Talin's Shield dies, she is set adrift in her grief. Then, she sees a Federation prisoner who is being sentenced to death unless he provides information about the Federation. As she watches his execution, she sees something that causes her to unexpectedly intervene. After she does so, she is set on another path to really discover the Federation, its machinations, as well as her own desires and goals.
What I loved: The storytelling here is really masterful and the landscape, and characters really come to life throughout the book. The characters were the strongest part of the story, and Talin, in particular, is multifaceted and compelling. Through her, we are introduced to some intriguing themes of external and internal motivations and the many reasons which may compel us to choose certain paths. These themes are repeated in the other characters. Other themes such as the right of decisions over others, treatment of refugees, and the power of psychological injury resonate throughout the story.
I also really liked that there are deep and fulfilling relationships without overt romance (though with space for them to develop). This is really a sci-fi/dystopian novel with fantastic world- and character-building. The story moves relatively quickly, and I appreciated the fast pace combined with just the right amount of explanations.
Final verdict: Overall, this is a lush and compelling YA sci-fi/dystopian told in Lu's lyrical and enchanting style. Highly recommend for fans of her earlier books - this is a new series not to be missed.