Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
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.
Review: Short version: this book was amazing!!!!
This book has been on my radar for a while, but I had never gotten around to reading it. Boy, was I missing out! I absolutely loved it. It was so well written and well paced. The last several chapters especially were very hard to put down.
First, let’s talk about our main characters. The book switches back and forth between Laia’s and Elias’s points of view, each of them telling their own first-person narratives. What was great about this was that each had their own distinct voice. That’s not always easy to do, but Tahir did it brilliantly here. Laia is such a sweet character and I absolutely loved her. She is terrified in her situation, but determined to do what she can to save her brother. Elias is a much more complicated character, born into a privileged role, but also able to see the inherent evil in their society. His compassion is what is able to set him apart from the others around him.
This complexity is what really made this novel great. There is a resistance movement working against the corrupt and power-hungry government, but they are not necessarily good people. The groups that are in power are doing what they can to stay in power, but there are those who recognize that their system is flawed at best, dangerous at worst. There is no black and white, just lots of gray, which always makes a story more real to me. That’s how real life is. Nothing is strictly an absolute.
There were also plenty of twists and turns, particularly with Hellene, Elias’s friend at Blackcliff. She was probably my favorite character and I would love to see inside her mind, just once. There’s something going on there.
GoodReads rating: 5 stars. Read this. Read it now.