Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Shelves: Young Adult, Fantasy, 2015-release
Published: 28th April 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.
“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.”
An Ember in the Ashes was one of the the most highly anticipated books of 2015. However, the problem with hyped books is that sometimes they tend to disappoint. This was one of the reasons why I avoided An Embers in the Ashes at first. But now that i have finally read it, I’m glad to say that i was horribly wrong. This book is an absolute page-turner.
An Ember in the Ashes tells a story about Scholars who have been oppressed by the Martial Empire for hundreds of years. The Scholars has once been very learned people. They were philosophers and thinkers but when the Martials conquered their lands five hundred years ago, they were stripped of all their former glory. Now, they are poor, illiterate people who are often taken into slavery. Major themes of the book are centered around oppressive rule, slavery, abuse and a lot more. An Ember in the Ashes does not sugar coat any of the above mentioned and tells it like it really is.
The story has a dual POV. One belongs to Laia, a scholar girl living with her brother and grandparents. When her grandparents are killed and her brother captured and arrested by the Empire she is left with no choice but to approach the Resistance to help save her brother. However, the Resistance agree to help her only if she infiltrates Blackliff Academy (a school where Masks, the elite soldiers of the empire are trained) as a slave and spies on the Commandant for them.
“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.”
The second POV belongs to Elias who is a Mask in training at the Blackliff Academy. Unfortunately, he also happens to be the son of the commandant and even though they are related, trust me that there is no love lost between them. Elias is a reluctant soldier of the Martial Empire. He hates the brutal ways of the Masks and longs for freedom. But the only way he can achieve it is by escaping.
The Commandant is a piece of work. Ever heard of the saying “there are worse things than death?” Well, I’m quite positive that it was exclusively meant for her. She is made of EVIL. She is sadistic and completely psychotic and i am pretty sure that she has an empty cavity in place of a heart. She is a horrible person and yet there is something about her which makes me want to get into her head and try to understand what makes her the way she is.
“Fear can be good, Laia. It can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you. Don’t let it sow doubts within you. When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible to fight it: your spirit. Your heart.”
I really loved Laia’s character development. In the beginning she seems like a timid girl. I think that Laia’s character is something i really appreciated. She is not your usual badass main character with fantastic fighting skills. She is just another normal teenager. However, that does not mean that Laia was not strong because in my opinion, anyone who is willing to give up their freedom to save their loved ones and slave for a person who inflicts the worst kinds of torture is really tough and is not to be messed with.
Im not a fan of love triangles and this story doesn’t have one. What it has is a love square instead but, it seemed to have fit quite well into the story which is a plus and even though An Ember in the Ashes does have a romantic aspect, its not the main focus of the story.
Overall, this book was a page turner. It was packed with action and I was entirely absorbed in the world that Sabaa Tahir created and I will surely pick up the sequel when it comes out next year.
Final thoughts: I really enjoyed this book. Sabaa Tahir is a really good writer and I am very much looking forward to reading more from her.