Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publication Date: 9 February 2015
Genre: Fantasy, Dystopia
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Buy it: Amazon|Book Depository
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.
Y’all, this novel was phenomenal. It literally had me on the edge of my seat from start to finish.
First and foremost, the world creating in this novel was inspiring. Sabaa Tahir has created one of the most nuanced and intriguing worlds of any recent book that I’ve seen. The Roman inspiration for the novel is very apparent throughout the novel, which added a realistic quality to the fantasy. More importantly, the world was presented in a really interesting way. At the start, there was a lot of world building which was a little boring at times. However, most of the world building occurred as the story progressed so that readers were learning more about the world as the story unraveled itself. And, quite frankly, I enjoyed that.
Another thing that Tahir nailed perfectly was the character development. Each of the characters presented had a personality that they owned. It was clear that Tahir had spent time crafting these characters and the changes that they would experience throughout the book. My personal favorite is the transition that Laia made because it was realistic. She was drawing strength, amongst other qualities, from the people around her.
Elias was another character that I found incredibly interesting. He was also a realistic portrayal of a person who doesn’t want to be doing what they’ve been raised to. His growth was more subtle than Laia’s because he was already such a strong character. Despite being subtle, it was still a prominent feature throughout the story which illustrated – in my opinion – Tahir’s ability to crate characters who mimicked real life changes. Because, in reality, people don’t make giant changes in their personality. Usually, change is subtle and mostly internal before being seen externally.
Tahir handled both types of character growth in a way that highlighted their differences while not allowing the growth of either character to overpower the other. It was easily my favorite part of the entire novel. Well, that and the plot.
You guys, I will say it a million types. The plot was marvelous. It was fast paced with a lot of purposeful action. It made it so difficult to put the book down which I always say is a good quality in any book. My attention was captured from the very beginning. There was always some new twist that would pop up and throw a wrench in any assumptions I’d made of the novel.
So, if you can’t tell I love this novel. Sabaa Tahir is absolutely amazing and I highly recommend it. For anyone who’s given up on dystopia, I would say read this. Tahir has reworked the dystopian genre with this one. And if you’re looking for a good fantasy, I can’t recommend this enough. Everything about it, from the characters to the writing style, is wonderful. It should be a ‘must-read’ for everyone.