An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Review)

Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: Young Adult, Dystopia, Science Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Razorbill
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Pages: 446
Source: Purchased
Format: E-Book
Rating: ★★★★☆

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.

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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!

42 thoughts on “An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir (Review)

  1. shiviigoesrawr

    Yes! You read it! I’m so glad you liked the book. Personally, I wasn’t too fond of the love square either because it got a little complicated. Also, it doesn’t end on such a cliffhanger because Sabaa Tahir didn’t intend on this to be a series, which is weird considering there were so many unanswered questions by the end of the book. Can’t wait for your spoiler discussion! 🙂

    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      I heard about that too! I’m so glad this book did well enough for her to write another one. Do you know how many books there are in the series? I couldn’t find a definite answer for that. I’m looking forward to you joining the book discussion!

  2. bookwormwholived

    Such a good review you mentioned so many things and opinions about the stories without ruining anything for me. I just started this book last night and I really like it so far. I’m looking forward to read your discussion once I’m done!

    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      Thank you! I’m really glad you found my review helpful. I hope you continue enjoying the book, and I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts in my book discussion! I’ll probably be posting it this weekend, so there’s still some time. You can join the discussion whenever though!

  3. Alyssa

    I just started hearing about this author, because she’s coming to BookCon in Chicago this year, so I’ve been trying to find good reviews of her books. I’m also not a fan of any sort of love triangles or squares (so overdone, in my opinion), but the overall story sounds like it more than makes up for it. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      I’m so jealous! I wish I could go to BookCon this year, but it’s bad timing because it’s during my graduation weekend. I hope you have fun there!

      I definitely think the overall story makes up for the love square – I would definitely recommend this book. If you end up reading it, let me know what you think of it!

  4. booksblurbsandbeyond

    Great review, it’s making me want to find a loophole in my book ban and just buy this. It’s on sale at the bookstore I get my books and it pains me that I can’t buy it. If I find a loophole I am definitely going to buy it.

    I was never a fan of love triangles and I despise them even more now. The love square does not sound appealing, but the rest of your review makes me want to overlook that..

    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      Thank you so much! Haha, let me know if you do end up finding a loophole and buying it – I’d love to hear what you think about this book. I’m terrible at holding off on buying books. I don’t know if I could ever do a book ban that lasts a few months like you are!

      The love square was definitely my least favorite part of the book, but I thought that the rest of the book made up for it. I absolutely loved the story and the intricacies. Had it not been for the love square, this probably would’ve been a 4.5 or 5 star book for me.

  5. Beth (Reading Every Night)

    Great review! I’ve heard a lot of good things about this book and I can’t wait to start it. I’m glad it know it doesn’t end on a huge cliffhanger. I’m terrible at waiting for sequels to be released, especially if there’s any kind of cliffhanger I needs answers to! Also I completely agree with you about the love triangle thing; I’m not sure about the love square but well I’ll still be picking up this book 😀

    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      Thank you so much, Beth! I also really dislike it when a book ends on a cliffhanger – I actually tend to avoid reading books if I hear that it ends on a cliffhanger and the sequels aren’t released yet. I’m so happy you’re going to be reading this book. Definitely let me know what you think of it once you finish it!

      1. Beth (Reading Every Night)

        That’s all right. I am terrible when it comes to waiting for sequels, cliffhangers just make it all the more unbearable! I’m not a patient person. I try and do that but most times I hear such good things about the book in question I read it anyway and then complain the sequel isn’t out yet!
        It’s on my to-read list for next month, it’s currently sitting on my bookshelf waiting for me to get around to it!

    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      Ahh, I hate it when that happens! There have been a handful of times where I didn’t enjoy books that everyone else seemed to love. It’s always a let-down. I hope you enjoy An Ember in the Ashes when you give it another shot though!


    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      I would recommend reading it! It has an immersive story and is fairly fast-paced. I get what you mean though – I’ve felt like that about some hyped up books. Maybe you’ll decide to read this once the sequel comes out!

  6. Becca @ Becca and Books

    A+ REVIEW *high fives*
    I completely agree about the beginning. Her cowardice actually drew me in! It really bothers me how so many authors just put they’re protagonists into the “strong female character” mold and just leave it at that. No originality! Which is why this book was so refreshing 🙂

    1. Jorelene @ Page Chronicles

      Aww, thank you so much!

      I wish more “strong” female protagonists didn’t start out in that mold. It’s a lot more refreshing watching the character reach her potential and grow as a person to become strong. I’m glad you enjoyed that aspect of An Ember in the Ashes as well!

  7. Jenn

    MUST. READ. NOW. lol This was such a great review! I love that the protagonist starts off “weak” and develops as the story progresses and you’re right. Not many stories take approach in YA. I will definitely be adding this to my TBR list

    Thanks for sharing! 🙂

  8. hiraethforthepages

    I have this book on my bookshelf and I’m glad you enjoyed it 🙂 Wonderful review! Definitely looking forward to this one now! I was a bit cautious because I’ve heard so much mixed reviews but it sounds really great!

  9. theclumsybookworm

    I had this in my hand the other day, and ended up putting it back in favour of something else. Your review has made me want to get it for sure. Luckily, I’m heading to the bookstore tomorrow, so I’ll probably get it then. 🙂

  10. keepareadin'

    This was such a fun review! I loved this book so much, and even though I was glad that the end wasn’t a cliffhanger, I can’t wait for the next book to come out this year! I would love to know who your ship is!

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