All Torian men are soldiers and Theos may be the greatest of his generation. As an elite Sacrati, he has the respect of his brothers at arms, plenty of men and women to warm his bed, and now he has been given his first command. During his first foray as the Sacrati leader, his squad discovers a group of Elkati within Torian borders. Considered enemy combatants, the Elkati are captured and enslaved. Theos pays a little attention to them until one, a defiant man called Finnvid, saves the life of a fellow Sacrati.
Finnvid was supposed to make his way into enemy territory and handle the delicate politics of keeping Elkat safe from the always-invading Torians. After he and his men stumble across the Sacrati, Theos takes Finnvid as his prize, despite having no interest in owning a slave. As he adjusts to his new life, Finnvid quickly realizes the Torians are not the barbarians he believed and that with Theos he has found a kind of freedom he never imagined existed.
Soon, politics and treachery embroil Finnvid and Theos in a battle that has no clear enemy and little chance for survival. Finnvid struggles to determine if he can be a man of both worlds without betraying either, while Theos must challenge the traditions that have defined his entire life. Together Theos and Finnvid may have a chance to create a lasting peace, but not before losing everything.
I really enjoyed Sacrati, for a variety of different reasons. It’s a well-written book with strong characters and it raises some great questions about gender roles and the nature of freedom. The plot moves at a steady pace, though it does drag a little towards the end. The relationship between Theos and Finnvid is allowed to evolve in a realistic fashion most of the time and fits well into the wider context of the story. Sacrati has a natural voice and the narrative is smooth, without ever becoming stale or tired.
Theos and Finnvid are fascinating and made more so by their less-than-easy road to romance. Theos is a powerful warrior, and while far from arrogant, he is a loyal cog in the Torian war machine. Prior to Finnvid’s arrival, Theos has never questioned that there could be more to his life. His willingness to change is slow, but his reluctant acceptance feels realistic. Theos sees the world through concrete glasses, but he is not afraid to confront his fear or his own ignorance and this gave him an inner strength that I loved.
Finnvid comes from privilege and has spent most of his youth studying language and philosophy. He initially finds most aspects of Torian life abhorrent, especially their anything goes attitude toward sex. His narrow mindedness was understandable, but it made him a little annoying at times. Finnvid makes a terrible slave and, while I adored his defiance, the author did a good job of balancing that against his youth. Some of his actions have harsh consequences and his struggle to remain true to himself while learning to measure the cost of his actions made him wonderfully real.
The secondary characters are generally well fleshed out and important to the wider narrative. The only exception to this is the warlord. He is the cause for so much tragedy, but he’s never given dimension. The rest of the book is so descriptive, but the warlord seems only partially rendered – evil enough to be the bad guy, but without much more depth.
Sacrati does a great job of exploring the idea of gender roles and the occasional inflexibility of tradition. It is revealed that in Torian culture, the men are soldiers and the women are everything else. They are the political leaders, the city reeves, the farmers, and the weapons makers. They choose their own mates and raise their children without help of men and control the flow of reproduction in the process. In reality, they hold most of the power in that culture, while in Elkat, the women are without voice or choice. But the roles of men in each culture are reversed. Men have the power and freedom to choose their paths in Elkat but the Torian men have no choice to become anything but soldiers, regardless of whether or not they are any good at it. This juxtaposition made for great conflict between Theos and Finnvid and brought up the very real challenge of trying to find balance without sacrificing equality or freedom. The author doesn’t give us any easy answers, but that Theos and Finnvid dare to ask the question of how to change their worlds for the better, make them all the more heroic to the reader.
Overall, Sacrati is an excellent book. Theos and Finnvid are amazing and the plot is complex enough to keep most readers intrigued. The social themes push the reader to think about some big questions, but do so in a way that feels natural and never detracts from the book. Sacrati is definitely worth checking out.