Courtesy of Smash Attack ReadsI've been wanting to read this series since I met Veronica Rossi last year in Miami. Seeing her again just recently, I was reminded that this book is soooo up my alley, in terms of genre and world- building. And then Amanda and Cassie decided to do a read-along, and well, it was destiny. I went into it expecting fantastic characters, intense world-building and a simmering, intense romance. I got that and so much more!The world-building in this book was so great! The world has been burned and mutilated by Aether storms. Aether is some sort of fire/lightning combo that is wild in the sky, uncontrollable and lethal. Humanity built pods to house the populations in, and with that came some interesting and creative uses of technology to keep humans from going stir crazy. SmartEyes whisk people away to virtual reality Realms, and since they are connected to your brain via your...wait for it....eye, they are able to take over your senses and trick your mind into believing that you are truly experiencing whatever you are currently doing. Everything, apparently...Roar leaned across the table and smiled at her seductively, his dark hair falling into his eyes. "When you say everything happens in the Realms, do you mean everything?'Aria laughed nervously."Yes. Especially that.There are no risks in the Realms."Roar's smile widened. "You simply think it and it happens? And it actually feels real?""Why are we talking about this?""I need a Smarteye," he said.I think the SmartEyes are hella cool, but as with any crazy futuristic setting where technology is overused, I strongly feel like we can easily lose ourselves to it and eventually, lose our personal connections. Nobody really knows anyone, nobody touches or feels or smells anything real because it does not exist in the pods. So, when Aria finds herself on the outside for the first time ever, her senses are overwhelmed. It makes for an intense and horrifying experience as she struggles to survive in harsh terrain. As with many heroines in these stories, however, Aria gets her shit together eventually and surprises the characters and reader alike. I ended up loving the hell out of this girl by the end of the book.Peregrine (because I do not like the name Perry) is a beautiful specimen, both inside and out. He encompasses many of the qualities that I look for in a male lead. He has to overcome great odds, he loves with all of his heart and he is a fierce opponent. Growing up on the outside in harsh conditions, Peregrine's life has been anything but easy. He has constantly struggled to feed himself, has an intense connection to his nephew and challenge's his brother's authority at every turn. His honest, protective, vulnerable soul set my heart ablaze. I love this guy! I also absolutely adored his friend, Roar. There I go loving the secondary characters to pieces again! He brightened the pages with his presence. ♥I loved the world-building, but I think the best part about this book is the connection between Aria and Peregrine. They are enemies, at first, hostile, prejudiced and unwelcoming towards one another. I think most of it stemmed from fear of the unknown, and plain ole ignorance. Aria has been in the dark about reality her entire life, and Peregrine has intense feelings about Dwellers and how they view and treat Outsiders. As with any biases and stereotypes, they can be broken down if the people are open to the idea. I don't think either character was consciously open to it, but curiosity got the best of them, not to mention all the incredible things they learned from one another. The attraction, respect and dignity that grew out of their time together was a beautiful thing to watch unfold, and I am rooting for these two 110%.Favorite Quote"Perry. I want to see your back."Another surprise, but he nodded and turned away. Dropped his head forward and took the moment to try and calm his breath. He jerked when she traced the shape of the wings on his skin, a groan sliding out of him. Perry silently cursed himself. He couldn't have sounded more savage if he'd tried."Sorry," she whispered..."He's magnificent. Like you," she added softly.That was what did it.