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 read this book a few months ago and I know, I know, I’ve been lagging on review writing but I’ve actually been so excited to review this novel. An Ember in the Ashes was a novel that gripped my attention from the very beginning and I ended up really, really enjoying it. Last year (which is really weird to say because I’m still not used to it being 2017) was definitely one of the best book-discovering-years that I’ve ever had and I found myself diving into so many young adult fantasy series and, even though I read quite a few of them, this book was definitely one of my favorites.
The rest of this review is spoiler-free.
The plot of this book definitely took me by surprise, to say the least. It felt like a mixture of so many books that I’ve read and sometimes I don’t like when books do that because it makes the plot feel somewhat overdone or unoriginal, but I think that the author took elements from different stories and combined them together and really made them her own.
The action scenes in this novel were so intense. I felt like I was literally there, watching these scenes play out and it was so gripping and thrilling. I didn’t expect this novel to be as brutal as it was, but I think that these underlying themes of this horribly vicious world that these characters live in really added to the vehemence that this book had.
I’ve found another bookish couple to ship! And, since it’s probably obvious from the synopsis who the couple is, I will just say right now that it’s Laia and Elias. The way that their relationship blossomed really made me fall in love with them both. I wasn’t really enjoying the different love triangles that were occurring, but it did create this angsty and emotional theme that really impacted the plot, particularly the ending of this book.
I really enjoyed Laia and Elias, the two main characters within this novel. I think that their character development was executed flawlessly and I loved seeing how different they were towards the end of the book when put into comparison with how they were at the very beginning of the book. When it comes to dual-perspective novels, I sometimes find myself forgetting whose perspective I’m reading from, however, I didn’t have that problem at all when I read this. I think that Laia and Elias were given these distinctly separate personalities and thought processes and I absolutely loved that aspect of this book.
The character that I didn’t grow quite fond of was Helene. I don’t know what it was about her character, especially because I really wanted to like her, but I never really did. I’ve heard that the next novel in this series features Helene’s point-of-view, so I’m hoping that her character grows on me in A Torch Against the Night.
I really love Sabaa Tahir’s writing style. I think that it flowed really nicely and she’s obviously an amazing storyteller. I would tell myself to only read a few chapters but then I would find myself reading for hours on end until I eventually finished this novel rather quickly. I’m looking forward to where she ends up taking this story and I have a really good feeling that her writing is going to develop to be even more amazing than it already is.
I think if I had to have one critique for this novel it would probably be the world-building that occurred. I wish there had been just a bit more of it. In terms of the world-building that did happen, I absolutely loved it! But I found myself wanting more world-building and more descriptions. I really hope that the next novel helps me get a better visual image of what this world looks like.
Overall, this was definitely a thrilling read. I love reading young adult fantasy novels that have these really intricate plots and characters and An Ember in the Ashes definitely didn’t disappoint me when it came to those elements. As I said before, the only real problems that I had with this novel were the world-building issues and perhaps even the love triangles, but aside from those I found myself extremely enveloped within this story and I cannot wait to read A Torch Against the Night soon!
“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.”
So, have you read An Ember in the Ashes? What did you think about it? Comment below!