Hi Book Lovers!
This is a spoiler review so proceed at your own risk if you haven’t read the story yet!
I’d apologize for being MIA recently, but honestly, life happens and sometimes that is more important than typing up a blog. Still, I’ve been reading a ton and have quite a few books I wanted to sit down and chat about. It just so happens this one is not only super hyped again right now, but that I’m also super excited to talk about all that is held between the pages of this book!
An Ember in the Ashes
By: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: YA Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
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 loves 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 rish 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.
“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.”
“I don’t need to believe in the supernatural, now when there’s worse that roams the night.”
“Safety is an illusion never to trust.”
First, can we talk about how poorly the book’s description does to this story? Personal opinion, obviously, but after reading the story several times it seems so bland in comparison to what lies ahead for Laia and Elias.
Let’s start with our characters.
Laia – I see so many reviews of people who absolutely adore Laia for her strength in this book. While I can understand this affection for her, I actually don’t agree with it here. Sure, she does grow a lot, but admittedly, I find her a bit on the cowardly side for the first part of this story. Granted, her situation is bleak, but I still found myself wishing I could urge her on to do certain things or stop her from doing others I didn’t understand. Regardless, I do love her character development over the story and find she’s got a large, tender heart and a will to survive.
Elias – is a character that is easy to love. He is masked (literally) as a cold, tough soldier, yet yearns to be free and love without restraint. What isn’t to love about him? I enjoyed watching his tenderness come out as the story went on and found his relationship dynamic with so many different people to be an interesting part of his journey. I always wanted to see what he would say or do next with a character, especially Helene.
Helene – I actually do not really enjoy her much in this book. Perhaps it really is the way she is presented at being the Mask she was made into? Whatever it is, she always irks me in this book, although I do enjoy her interactions with Elias. Also, I forgot about her power until I re-read this and I did enjoy seeing her rare tender moments in healing – especially with Laia which was highly unexpected.
As for everyone else, need I say much about the Commandment? She’s a sociopath. Keenan irritates me to no end and I don’t understand his point in most of the story. I really enjoyed our short interactions with Spiro Teluman. Cain and the other Augers are…interesting. Lastly, the Cook and Izzi are lovely.
The story itself is somewhat brutal, scary, and intriguing all the same. I truly enjoy Tahir’s writing: it doesn’t move too fast nor does it move too slow. I always get enough information to know what is going on, the details seem to be in the most appropriate places, and her way of getting us to love her world and these characters appeals to me so greatly. I devour her work so quickly when I pick up these books. Despite not being the biggest fan of torturous scenes, I still appreciate the way the story doesn’t shy from the brutality of this world and its comparison to the Rome-like world of our own.
My favorite part of this story was the scheming at the end that, upon my first read, I never expected and it was actually a surprise for me. I enjoyed the fierceness of characters to push through in tough times and even dare hope for a better future.
Every time I pick this story up I cannot put it down until I finish as quickly as possible (this one was also good on audio). The world, the story, the characters, and everything in between makes this story worth it again and again.
So, tell me. Are you one of the many who have read this book?
Did you enjoy it?
Did you not?
What was YOUR favorite part?
Who is YOUR favorite character?