For all this book's good points (and there are many), it still fails because of one thing: I was rooting for the 'bad' guys the whole time.Bell created a kingdom, Farsala, which has no redeeming qualities. The peasants are treated like shit, their technology is stale, their legal system is so corrupt it has more holes in it than swiss cheese. Every part of every facet of every system they have is flawed.On the other side, we have the Hrum. More commonly known as the Romans. They have a fair everything. A fair legal system, a fair tax system, and their military and government is a meritocracy instead of a noble/royal system. Sure, they conquer neighboring countries, but they do so with a minimal loss of life and improve every country they take over. This isn't just a lit told to one of the characters, it's confirmed over and over and over again by multiple sources. These are the good guys, but we're supposed to hate them.We're supposed to hate them because they keep slaves. Really, that's the only reason. Roman slaves. I don't think this author knows what that means, or knows what the life of a Persian peasant was like. She says that the nobility treats their peasants "almost as bad as slaves" but, no. It's worse. Roman slaves are protected from violence and being overworked, whereas in this story a main character is maimed by the whim of a noble and no one bats an eye.So, the life of a Roman slave is safer and better than the life of a Persian peasant, but the Roman stand-ins are supposed to be the bad guys because...reasons. The author couldn't find any good reasons, so she harps on the slave thing and tries to make the commander out to be a monster, even though we never see the commander do anything bad-guy-worthy. He's just...sort of stern, but that's it. We're told he's terrible, but never shown it, so the whole thing falls incredibly flat.If I bother to read the second two books, I'll be cheering for the Hrum the entire time. Really, there's no reason not to.