Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Romance
Release Date: April 28, 2015
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.
All book reviews I write are spoiler-free!
I discuss this book more in-depth (with spoilers) in my book discussion.
Rating: 4/5 stars
An Ember in the Ashes is the first in a relatively new series. I loved this book. There was an incredibly immersive plot and easily likable characters.
This doesn’t start out like a typical young adult novel. I think that’s what truly drew me into the book. While the typical young adult novel has a hero/heroine that starts out mentally tough and ready to fight anything, this book has a protagonist that’s everything but strong at the beginning. It was very refreshing and made me really want to root for the protagonist throughout the book.
I loved the character development and growth. I thought it was very realistic and impressive. The characters all had their own weaknesses, but they tried getting past them and it wasn’t easy. There were challenges along the way, near-death events, and a constant trepidation throughout the book. I love reading books like this because I’m able to vicariously experience situations that I’m not sure if I would be brave enough to go through myself if I were in their places. Although it’s not a book that’s a direct comparison to An Ember in the Ashes, I also loved The Hunger Games for this reason. As you likely know, Katniss from The Hunger Games was strong and never gave up because she was fighting for the people that she loved and a world that she believed in.
This book isn’t all rainbows and butterflies – there are some truly horrific occurrences in the book. They’re not bad enough to be considered an adult book, but they definitely made me wince and feel incredibly bad for some characters. I consistently felt very heavy emotions throughout the book, but the story also breeds a glimmer of hope.
The world-building is very well done. The parts of the world that are visited and explored are vividly explained and it makes the reader feel present in the scene. I know that I would personally hate living in this world – this made it even more fun for me to read about.
There were plot twists that came out of the blue, a couple of smaller “surprises” that were obvious, and some plot twists I hoped would happen but didn’t. It was a really great mixture of all three that had me guessing the whole time I was reading. I thought that this showed how unique the story was.
As for the romance portions of the book, I’ll just issue a warning that there’s a love square and I really disliked it. This is more of a personal preference because I used to really like love triangles when I was in middle/high school, but then grew to find them unrealistic and irritating once I got to college. If I read this book a few years ago, I probably would have loved the love square, but it didn’t really do it for me now. I know that a lot of people have several of their own ships and really enjoyed this aspect of the book though.
I would highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys reading dystopia. I would’ve rated this higher than 4/5 stars, but the love square didn’t appeal to me and was prevalent throughout the book. There were also a couple of parts of the book that I had a question mark for, so I took one star off because of those factors. That being said, I greatly enjoyed this first book overall, so I’ll definitely be picking up the second as soon as it’s published.
The second book in this series has a scheduled release date of August 30, 2016. This first book doesn’t end on a large cliffhanger, so I would say it’s safe to buy and read this before then.
If you’ve read this book already, I’ll be posting a book discussion that contains spoilers on An Ember in the Ashes in a few days, so be on the lookout for that. In the meantime, leave your non-spoiler thoughts on this book in the comments below! If you haven’t read this book yet, feel free to ask questions or let me know if you plan on reading this!