Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Reviewed by: Cassie
Genre: young adult, fantasy, romance
Summary (from goodreads.com)
AN EMBER IN THE ASHES is a thought-provoking, heart-wrenching and pulse-pounding read. Set in a rich, high-fantasy world with echoes of ancient Rome, it tells the story of a slave fighting for her family and a young soldier fighting for his freedom.
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 wasn't too sold by the summary and cover, and went in skeptical. But then the chapters hooked me in and I was shocked by the quality of the writing!
An Ember in the Ashes is a riveting read, one thy I could not put down. Seriously, I finished it in a day.
Is it without its flaws? No. The characters are somewhat predictable and lack depth at times. The scenery and world building could have used more details and work. The storyline was a bit cliche.
Yet despite all that, Tahir's writing pulls you in with instances of strangely alluring beauty- it gave me some shivers at times. Her style has a darkly romantic, slightly haunting feel to it at the best moments, and adds an intriguing trait to the more evil characters.
Not only that, but her characters - though at times dull and predictable- often were enjoyable. Elias was a mystery- he had moments of stark cruelty, where his tyrant genes showed true- and other moments of shocking vulnerability and gentleness. He doesn't want to be evil or a killer, but realizes some part of him will always be that way. (Please become a Darkling, Elias. Please please please become deliciously evil.)
Laia was more frustrating. She was shortsighted and ignorant... Or rather, she wanted oblivion and wouldn't face the facts. Sometimes she was so stupid my eye twitched, but all in all she was honest and a real person. If a bit cliche. The whole "I'm such a good sister I'm sacrificing myself to save my brother it's so hard and oh I'm gorgeous I have two fantastic lads vying for my attention" bugged me. Just... Something about her bothered me.
As for everyone else? Eh. Not very noteworthy. I should mention Keenan, Laia's other suitor, and Helene, Elias's best friend who's in love with him... But I didn't feel they were worth the effort. (AKA unspectacular.)
WAIT. I forgot!
The Augurs. They were like all-knowing and immortal Viseryses (from GOT) because they were always pulling strings, watching, and made you just a tad concerned for your safety. FANTASTIC. Even with their odd red eyes.
A bit underdeveloped but still fascinating, in a sense. I'm not sure I got "Ancient Rome" from the whole thing, but definitely some ancient civilization, what with the wars and emperors and enslavement. Could have used some backstory, maybe?
GOD. Cliche? Perhaps. So many young adult novels about rebellions that all the stories seem to blend together and I can never quite tell what's original and what's been used in ten different books. Since I can't really tell with this one, I'm going to say it's not super original. But I mean, I really enjoyed the Trials.
They were psychological and dark and made me so happy at times . . . And then other times they didn't, because something stupid would interrupt a pivotal moment.
But all in all, I'm happy! Try it out. Even if it's just for Elias.
Kisses and hugs~