Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Synopsis: 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.
This book has been so hyped up for the last couple of months that I’d be truly shocked if you’ve never heard of it. Sometimes when books are too hyped, it makes me not want to read them. This wasn’t the case for An Ember in the Ashes. As soon as I heard this book’s synopsis, I immediately put it on my TBR. It sounded so intriguing and different from other books I’ve read. I can tell you straight up that I wasn’t disappointed at all.
However, the book started off sort of slow for me. Since this pretty much was the only negative quality for me, I’m not complaining too much. In fantasy books, I need time to get accustomed to the world, the characters, and any new terminology that may be used. After I got more comfortable in understanding these things, I really got interested.
I ended up loving a majority of the characters in this book – apart from our villains of course. Laia and Elias were strong main characters. The way they interacted with one another was very realistic considering the world they live in. Also, I liked how the author didn’t push a huge romance angle on them right from the start. Sometimes in novels, one character will excuse every other negative quality the romantic interest has just because that person is attractive. I thought it was very refreshing that Laia didn’t do that. Laia was always taught that Masks weren’t to be trusted, so it took her a long time to trust Elias.
As for Helene, I didn’t think I would like her. However, even though she made some questionable choices, I ended up really feeling for her. She probably had it the hardest of any other students at Blackcliff Academy. She was the only girl so she constantly had to prove herself. She also had to deal with ignorant, pig-headed guys like Marcus who see her as someone who needs to be conquered. Helene did an excellent job at holding her own and I really respected her for that. As for Keenan, I didn’t completely love him, but I didn’t dislike him either. Like Laia, he has experienced so much pain and loss. He’s trying his best to move on and make some change. For some reason though, I just couldn’t truly connect to his character.
Whether it be having their eye cut out at age 5, being abandoned by their mother, losing their whole family, being enslaved for years and being tortured every day, etc, each character experienced some sort of tragedy. While the things that happened to them were horrible, I found that they helped me to connect emotionally to each character. Sabaa Tahir did a wonderful job of making her characters feel very authentic. She is such an excellent writer that she even made me feel a moment of sympathy for one of the book’s most horrible characters, Marcus.
Overall, I really loved this novel. The writing, characters, and plot were fantastic. I’m so glad there is a sequel because the ending was just not complete! I’m very much looking forward to seeing what happens next.
Recommended to: Those who enjoyed The Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski, and Red Rising by Pierce Brown.