Book Review: An Ember in the Ashes

 Title: An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1)
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Format: Physical
Source: Book Signing (Purchased)

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).

An Ember in the Ashes is unlike anything I've read this year, and I want more!

 Plot: An Ember in the Ashes opens with Laia's brother being ripped from his home by Martial soldiers, known as masks, and Laia having to deal with the death and destruction around her. Without any options, she agrees to become a spy for the Resistance in exchange for her brother's freedom but not everything is like it seems, and she finds that the creatures of old may still exist.

This book is long, and even though it's almost 450 pages, there isn't anything that I would take out. The dual perspectives of Elias and Laia keep the story moving and we are fed just enough information to keep us glued to the pages.  After finishing the book I found that I had more questions than I had answered, but I guess I'll have to wait for the sequel.

Characters: What I liked most about An Ember in the Ashes is that it's not just about Laia and Elias. Sure they are the central characters, but there is something bigger than the two of them that kept me rapt. Each secondary character plays a big role and live in shades of gray. Everyone has their own history which Tahir alludes to and expands on throughout the novel, and it's great to see that these characters actually have a pretty big role in the overall conflict and don't just exist to move Laia and Elias.

You want romance? Well, don't get your hopes up. There is definitely something brewing between Elias and Laia, but their position and situation won't allow them to fall in love all willy nilly. I'm excited to see how their relationship grows in future books and learn more about both of them as they come into their strengths.

World Building: I know this one is being likened to the Roman empire, but I was unable to picture Rome in Tahir's writing. There is the standard betrayal and deception, but I don't align that with Julius Caesar's Rome exclusively. The way that the soldiers are raised to be soldiers first and foremost reminded me more of the Spartan ideology. Regardless the world was immense and Tahir clearly took a lot of time (6 years!) creating it to perfection

Short N Sweet: An Ember in the Ashes is a bit on the mature side, but is not to be missed. Sabaa Tahir's prose and in-depth world building will leave you craving more!

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