Of the Persecuted (Legends of the Woodlands #1) by Angie Brashear is an imaginative story that captivated me from the beginning. Pulling elements from fantasy, christian fiction and romance, there was a lot to like about Laila's tale.
Written from main character Laila Pennedy's POV, we follow from her time on the execution block and her amazing escape, to her journey as she follows Lars Landre and joins the other Faithfuls in Tuveil. Although much of the dialogue and Laila's thoughts/actions are in reference to the Maker, I didn't find this story to be overtly religious. To me, it mostly felt like a fantasy story based on the tone, as well as where we meet some incredible creatures, both good and evil.
'What greater purpose did he serve? To defeat Vatten Rendow and the Clan? Whatever the answer, the Maker united her with Lars for a reason. Whether leader, friend, or more, the union captivated her.'
I thought the personal relationships that grew over the course of this book seemed believable and were quite heartwarming. From young Finney who was full of energy and curiosity, to Lars, the one said to be the Chosen who would lead the Faithfuls to victory over the evil Rendow Clan, each character was well developed and made an impact on the story. Lars in particular played a huge part in Laila's life as she fell in love with him more and more as they grew to know each other.
Lars brushed fingers along her cheek. "I'm drawn to you. Your breath is my breath now. From the instant our eyes met at the gallows. No matter what circumstances brought us together, we must appreciate where we are now."
The only issue I had with the story was very mild and to do with Laila's lack of self-esteem. It seemed that even when people's feelings about her were staring her right in the face, she downplayed it and wouldn't believe herself to be good enough, over and over. Thankfully Laila did grow emotionally and mentally as a young woman and gained more confidence by the end of the book, owning those feelings and actions a bit more. It was lovely to finally see her blossom into an adult and take charge.
Book one in the Legends of the Woodlands trilogy was exciting and had of a wonderful cast of characters. If you're looking for a unique story to lose yourself in, this would be a great choice.