Published on: April 28th 2015
Published by: Razorbill
Series: An Ember in the Ashes
Genre: YA Fantasy
Buy UK . Buy US. Goodreads
This book is part of the An Ember in the Ashes series. You can find reviews for the rest of the books (in their reading order) below:
An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1)
A Torch Against the Night (An Ember in the Ashes #2)
(summary from Goodreads)
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 realise that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
I am always up for a bit of YA Dystopian, but I think my excitement for this book far outweighed my excitement for all other YA Dystopian’s! I was so disappointed by the delayed released date for the UK that I paid extra to have it shipped from the US so I didn’t have to wait until June! And you know what, it was totally worth it!
This book took me so far out of this world that I had to remind myself a couple of times that it was fiction. The world building was incredible, and the addition of the maps really added to the already fantastic images I had in my mind of this world that Tahir had created for us. This world is also deliciously nasty. The Commandant is pure evil and the Masks (basically the soldiers) are totally creepy. It gets dark with scenes full of murder, torture and the threat of rape and it really raised the stakes for Laia and her spying. Everytime she did something even remotely sneaky I was so scared for her. Some fantastic ‘on the edge of your seat’ tension!
“The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release.”
Laia wasn’t a typical bad-ass heroine but a scared girl going against her every instinct to save her brother. Sabaa Tahir gave us a young woman whose personality rings true. She’s not skilled with weaponry nor is she the smartest but her bravery and loyalty makes her that little bit different from most other YA Dystopian heroines we are seeing at the moment and it puts her up there on par with the best of them. I loved watching her grow as a character through this first book, and I can’t wait to see how she develops further in the next book and the next trials she suffers through.
“I look up at the stars hanging low in a sky that makes me think I’m seeing the infinite. But beneath their cold gaze, I feel small. All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”
Elias got most of the action packed chapters in this book, but also some of the most heartbreaking. As a Mask the things that Elias and his peers are forced to both witness and do, not just to pass out of school but to survive are horrific and you really feel how unjust this world is through Elias’ eyes. I think if I had to chose that I enjoyed Elias’ chapters more then Laia’s just because it felt like he had so much more to loose. Laia had pretty much already lost the little that she had, but Elias had so so much to loose. His future should have been easy, he had done all the hard stuff, he was just about to graduate, but instead of just going with it and living the easy life expected of him he chose to fight back, which made him (in my opinion) the braver character.
“This life is not always what we think it will be,” Cain says. “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 hint of romance was there, it was subtle and not really all that important or obvious to the characters but for us readers who take note of every little thing noticed it! Now, I am not a fan of love triangles, but we may possible end up with a bit of a ‘love square’ in this book, or would it be classed as two triangles joined together? Kick ass Mask Helene is in love with best friend Elias, who has only ever thought of her as a friend and doesn’t feel the same physical chemistry that him and Laia share, but Laia is totally intrigued by redheaded rebel Keenan. It’s enough to make anyone confused! As for me, I’m totally routing for Elias and Laia.
“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.”
An absolutely Outstanding debut from Sabaa Tahir and it really lived up to all the excitement surrounding it. Her world building is amazing and (as horrible as it sounds) I really loved that Tahir is not afraid to let her characters suffer real and permanent pain. Some authors wimp out when it comes to hurting their characters and it always affects the story but she didn’t do this, and it really showed her strength as a writer. Overall An Ember In The Ashes proved a good balance of action, romance and those totally intense moments that we all love so much.
Sometimes you read a book and you know instantly…this book is MAGIC! The writing, the freshness of the story, the characters, the world… it is all just right and you just know that this book is something special.
Re-Readability: Yes! Yes! Yes!
I would recommend this book to fans of: YA Dystopian, The Winners Trilogy, fantasy worlds, rebellions, military themes, kick ass characters, unlikely romances.