Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publication Date: April 28th 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopia, Romance
My Rating: 9/10
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.
“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”
My friend recommended this book to me a while ago and she told me that she really enjoyed it so I started this book with high expectations. I must tell you guys that it really was an epic unforgettable read! It had complex relatable characters, a dark foreboding atmosphere, gripping plot twists, and a hypnotizing way of wording that had me experiencing everything as if I was part of the story! It won’t even take you too long to read An Ember in the Ashes because it’s fast-paced and captivating so you won’t ever be bored of reading; in fact I had to stay up all night to get through a particularly intense part!
This book is unique, there’s something that’s very raw and real about the story that makes it stand out from the rest of the books in its genre. It doesn’t only appeal to young readers, it has enough dark evil material to make it suitable for adults too.
This book had 2 different POVsLaia and Eliasand that gave me a bigger picture of the world they lived in and how the different peopleScholars and Martialslived. I loved spotting the parallels between Elias and Laia’s stories and how their journey was meant to be taken together.
“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be. Too much fear and you’re paralyzed. Too little fear and you’re arrogant.”
Laia is a 17-year-old ‘scholar’ girl who lived with her grandparents and older brother until the Martials raided her home, killed her grandparents, arrested her brother for collaborating with the Resistance, and left her on the run. She then starts searching for the Resistance who might help her rescue her brother if she invokes Izzat. Laia’s parents were the best leaders the Resistance ever had until they were betrayed, tortured, and killed. The Resistance leaderMazenagrees to aid Laia if she spies for them and delivers valuable information. For that, she must become a slave to the most cold-blooded inhuman woman in existencethe Commandant.
Laia doesn’t think she shares any traits with her legendary parents in any way, she believes that she’s a coward who always runs away to save her own skin. I could deeply connect with Laia because of all that self-shame coming from her and I’m even more thankful that she wasn’t like those typical brave, fierce females who just seem to be born awesome and talented in everything. I loved watching her change and develop due to the experiences she faced, because that’s how people are shaped.
The fact that Laia and the other women in their world where constantly under the threat of rape set me on edge so much, I bit all my nails! It showed that Sabaa’s not afraid of giving us all the cruel severe details of their miserable lives no matter how horrifying they are.
Elias seemed like the typical noble strong man who always blames himself for everything. I knew that he was going to put me in a lot of emotional pain and he did! Elias was the first in his class but didn’t seem to be proud of that, he’s modest and has an unexpected funny side that I adore. He also has a HORRENDOUS pathetic excuse of a human being for a ‘mother’ and my heart just has to accept Elias as a permanent resident there because of that. Luckily he had the wonderful Mamie Rila as a proper motherwho I want to read about. His childhood being spent with Mama’s tribe really shaped what kind of man he was going to become and that’s why he thinks differently from all his friends in Blackcliff. Whenever he thinks himself evil for sharing blood with that demon, I want to rip him out of the book and punch some sense into him again!
There disappointingly were interconnecting love triangles in this book (sighs with exasperation), when will they end? I DESPISE love triangles and whenever I encounter one, I automatically lose interest in the whole relationship until the conflict is resolved. Whether Laia ends up with Keenan or Elias and whether Elias chooses Laia or Helene, I do NOT care in the slightest. I’ll start enjoying the love interests after the tension diffuses and the stage of love triangles.
“It has no hero or heroine. It has no happy ending. But it’s a story you need to hear.”
One thing that really stood out was the villains. For example: the Commandant who was the main evil in An Ember in the Ashes was PURE evil! I couldn’t detect a single shred of goodness in her, whenever I think of her, I have to suppress the urge to shiver! Why? Because she tortures her servants and relishes in inflicting pain upon the weaker, she doesn’t bat an eyelash when females around her get raped and killed! She abandons her son believing his existence is a mistake and feels relieved when he is to be executed! What makes her so uniquely terrifying is that she’s a tiny woman yet she still manages to scare the bananas out of everyone!
“I don’t need to believe in the supernatural. Not when there’s worse that roams the night.”
An Ember in the Ashes also had its fair share of fictional out-of-this-world creatures that sure gave me the creepsespecially the Augurs! The story with the jinn, the Nightbringer,ghuls, wraiths, and efrits was very fascinating and it really contributed to the world-building. I have a feeling that the element of magic will be very important for the coming books because of the Nightbringer’s presence. I wonder what it’ll do to the humans now as revenge.
“Courage to face their darkest fears. Cunning to outwit their foes. Strength of arms and mind and heart. Loyalty to break the soul.”
The trials the 4 Aspirants had to face where what made this book so action-packed and intriguing. The first trial where Elias had to walk across all the corpses of the people he will kill was a very powerful scene, seeing Elias sink into depression and losing hope in everything made me understand his character much more. The second trial was filled with more fighting and that’s where the supernatural creatures were introduced to Elias and Helene. The third trial broke my heart, because at first I was just confused as to why friends were fighting each other and when people started dying, I just hoped it was some sort of illusion but then it turned out to be true. After that, all the Masks in their legions where haunted by their dead friends and that made the book so rough but real, no magically coming back to life characters! The fourth trial was stupid, I bet the Augurs just got lazy and decided to mess with Elias because as he said: that trial only tested him! Now Marcus is a puppet emperor and poor Helene is eternally bound to him so basically we are doomed!
Overall, An Ember in the Ashes was a pleasurable emotional read with an I-can’t-wait-for-the-second-book ending which I think made this book so popular. Wait for my next review on A Torch against the Night!
Hope you guys enjoyed my review! Let me know what you thought of my review in the comments! Don’t be shy 😛
Until next time my lovely readers!