Books, YA Fiction

An Ember in the Ashes, by Sabaa Tahir


5 stars. I would rate this more if I could. 🙂

The Blurb: Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.

Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.

It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.

But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.

There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.

I’ve been holding out on reviewing An Ember in the Ashes because I wanted to keep it all for myself(bwhaha >:)). But it’s an absolutely wonderful book, and definitely deserves to have more people read it.

An Ember in the Ashes is the story of Elias and Laia, two teenagers from completely different sides of the war in this ancient-Rome-like city. If you read the blurb, you’d realize that it sounds a lot like Marie Lu’s Legend, which I loved, but they are not similar in almost any aspect. Yes, both feature a dual-perspective narrative from people of opposite sides, but that’s about where the similarities end. For one, An Ember in the Ashes is a fantasy novel, and the story takes a completely different path.

What I loved most about this novel is the plot. It’s super-fast at times and slower at others, but anyone who read it will read the whole thing with their heart pounding and knuckles clenched. It’s intense and dramatic the whole time, I absolutely loved it. It does have some pretty dark elements, though. This is not a lighthearted read. Within just the first few chapters we have threats of rape, the whipping a 10-year-old to death, and the gruesome murders of a main character’s grandparents(not really a spoiler since it happens so early on in the book). To me, this makes it all the more intense, and I loved every second of it.

The characters were well done. Elias was very 3-dimensional, with his inner conflict, and Laia was too, with her loyalty and strength. I initially disliked Laia at first, as she was quite whiny, but she eventually grew on me and developed overall as a character. Both go through some seriously intense stuff, but it’s wonderful to see how they developed.

The romance was practically non-existent, it was that minor a plot device. Sure, attraction was involved (the only insta-loveish part of this novel, as the characters were practically gaping at each other the first time they met), but it is kept minimal, barely moving the plot along. The ending holds so many implications for the direction the romance will take, but I hope it stays close to what it is now, a minor plot device.

An Ember in the Ashes has been getting a ton of hype, but this is one of those times when it is rightfully so. The book is pure perfection, with a perfect blend of everything. It’s a great addition to the YA world, and I am extremely glad that Tahir decided to write a sequel. 🙂



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