Title: An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Publication Date: 2015
Page Count: 446 (Hardcover)
Age Recommendation: 16
Trigger Warnings: Rape, abuse, extreme violence
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. ~ Goodreads
Woooo boy, I did not expect this book to be this dark or violent. The moment I finished this book, I could actually feel the tension in my neck loosen a little. Wow. I sped through the pages filled with extremely dark torture methods and actually evil characters all the way to the thrilling
*shivers* I got this book at my local book thrift store. I had it recommended to me a while ago and so I was super excited to read it! It definitely did not disappoint. The book was not necessarily fast paced, but it felt like it was going down a hill without brakes. The writing and story had a tension that was kept throughout the book that made it feel fast paced when it actually wasn’t. This was probably because of the high stakes that were introduced in the beginning of the book and the fear that the main character would fail. It wasn’t one of those books that tried to have high stakes, but you knew that everything would work out in the end.
I really loved how the author set up a pre-dystopian world. Honestly it was super refreshing to see the events leading up to the end of the world. (Or is it?) Wheneverr I read a post-apocalyptic book it always ends up following the same formula and after a while it gets a little exhausting. But this book seems to be setting up for a collapse of everything and I think that sometimes that is more interesting than following characters who are trying to survive in the aftermath.
With so many dark topics and evil characters, this book actually had some hope in it. All of the characters were well developed and had complex relationships with the main characters. There were some amazing friendships and family bonds that were present throughout the book. An Ember in the Ashes could have easily just turned into a violent and overly gory book but the author manages to explore humanity and horror in a way that isn’t too overwhelming.
I’m a sucker for characters that can fight really well. It’s probably because of my (unaccomplished) dream of becoming a ninja. Blackford Academy is an extreme military school who’s original purpose was to train the next emperor. So once we got to Elias’s point of view, who is about to graduate in his last year of going to that school? I already knew that I was going to enjoy this book.
I didn’t think that I was going to like Laia too much. She seemed too much like the average YA action/adventure character. But as the story went on, she faced so much so bravely I immediately liked her. I was also constantly surprised by her actions because I underestimated her courage and loyalty to her brother.
An added plus if you’re unsure about whether or not you’d like to read this book is every single character’s backstory, thoughts and actions are well understood by the author it adds an extra layer and realism to the series. There are so many plots going on and betrayals it is quite a wild ride.
One amazing thing about this book is it made me care. A lot. There was this tension that wasn’t just from the violence. All of the characters were being put in high stake situations and I was stressed and worried that they would get hurt. I almost cried even though no one died. And I was absolutely horrified by the actions of the antagonist and the protagonist.
I felt such a huge sense of relief once the book was over probably because it finally had released me from its grip and I was free to worry about real life problems instead of the lives of fictional characters.
All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.
There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.
“I don’t need to believe in the supernatural, not when there’s worse that roams the night.”
What Does the Cat Think?
I give this book 5 stars out of 5!