Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Posted February 1, 2016 by @Angelized_1st in 2016 Dystopia Reading Challenge, Books, Entertainment, Reading Challenges / 2 Comments

Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa TahirAn Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes, #1
Published by Penguin Group USA on April 28th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Action & Adventure, Survival Stories, Fantasy & Magic, Politics & Government
Pages: 464
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
ISBN: 9781595148032
Buy on: AmazonBarnes & NobleiBooks

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’ve been wanting to read An Ember in The Ashes since its release, and I wasn’t disappointed. While the novel wasn’t everything I hoped it could be, it was a pretty good beginning to a series. The story centers around two people: Laia, a slave, and Elias, a soldier. Both of these characters travel on separate journeys, but their paths end up crossing when Laia sets out to save her brother from the Martial Empire. Both Laia and Elias were really complex characters, and I can’t wait to see where their journey takes them next.

“Life is made of so many moments that mean nothing. Then one day, a single moment comes along to define every second that comes after. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”

Lana’s life isn’t perfect, but it’s pretty nice. She lives with her brother and grandparents. While the family is swimming in dough, they make do, and make up for the lack of cash with love. However, while Laia strives to keep her head down, her brother Darin, on the other hand, wants to see his people, the Scholars, rise up from under the boots of the Martials. Readers don’t get a chance to see these two interact as siblings much as Darin gets arrested pretty early on, but he does help show how much Laia changes over the course of the novel.

“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”

Elias has lots of growth as well, but I don’t think it was as much as Laia. Unlike Laia, Elias appears to live a great life, but everything isn’t what it’s cracked up to be. As a student at Blackcliff Academy, Elias has been trained to kill, but doesn’t relish the thought of killing innocent or harmless citizens. I liked that Elias had dreams beyond being wealthy and powerful, but I don’t think he was as smart as he thought he was. Elias may be a good guy, but he is not the best at seeing the big picture.

Being a novel about teens, you’d think romance would abound. While there were shades of romance, it sat on the back-burner, and wasn’t a major plot point. Instead, readers get the opportunity to fall in love with both these characters as individuals, and not as a pair. Though I do believe Elias and Laia may be headed towards a romance, I also wouldn’t be surprised if they didn’t become more than friends. The development of their relationship was well done, and I find I’m really invested in what becomes of them.

As for the villains of the novel, The Martials, I still don’t feel they’ve been adequately developed as a people, and I don’t really feel the desperation of the other people in these lands. While the Commandant of Blackcliff is a great villain, I feel as if the other villains of the story are caricatures of what a villain should be. Though they did horrible things to other characters, there seemed to be no motivation behind their deeds except because it caused drama. I hope this gets rectified in the second novel.

About Sabaa Tahir

Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.


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2 responses to “Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

    • @Angelized_1st

      I’m hoping #2 ups the ante a bit more. Even though there were things I wasn’t too into with the first book, I’m still eagerly anticipating the sequel.

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