Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Genre: Young adult, fantasy
My Rating: ★★★★☆
Not sure what this means? Learn more about my rating system here.
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.
I really enjoyed An Ember in the Ashes! Here’s why:
The story felt very original, and it’s super intense and actiony! There’s lots of suspense, which I think is in part because the book switches between two perspectives, Laia’s and Elias’s. The perspective-switching seemed to work really well for the book.
The characters felt very realistic. I especially loved Laia’s character; she was brave, but she was also scared, which made her seem like a real person. Another plus is that, if I’m not mistaken, Laia is a poc. I’m always looking for more diverse books! I also thought that Helene was such a complex, interesting character! I totally ship her and Elias.
An Ember in the Ashes is very thought-provoking; the characters are sometimes faced with really hard decisions, and I found myself constantly wondering what I would do in their situations.
Overall, I think so many people like this book (myself included) because it’s a super exciting read with an interesting, action-packed plot and complex characters.
THE ROMANCE! Now, don’t get me wrong, if the author does it right, I have no problem with some romance in a book. But the romance in An Ember in the Ashes was just annoying.
There was basically no emotional connection between Laia and Elias OR Laia and Keenan (a side character/the other love interest.) The whole romance was just “omg s/he’s so hot” and literally NOTHING ELSE. Ugh.
And yes, there is a love triangle. (More like a square, but you know.) So if you’re one of those people who hates love triangles with a fiery passion, then this book might not be for you. I mean, I’m not even that opposed to love triangles if they’re written well, and the one in this book STILL annoyed me.
The one pairing that I actually liked was Elias and Helene. They’ve been best friends for forever, and they have so much chemistry. But something tells me that it’s not going to happen. It’s so predictable that Elias and Laia would end up together because they’re the two main characters, and I sincerely hope that that doesn’t happen.
Another thing that bothered me was that Darin, Laia’s brother, is incredibly crucial to the story, but he’s only actually in the book for a few pages. He is captured 20 pages in. No joke. He is the driving force behind the entire plot (like, there is no story wihout him,) but the reader doesn’t get to know him at all, aside from a few of Laia’s memories. I wish I was able to get to know Darin better before he’s whisked away and Laia spends the entire book trying to find him.
Another major flaw is the world-building. The world is super unique and magical and full of potential, but there isn’t that much background about the history and how the magic works. Also, the book is fantasy but there isn’t that much magic? It feels weird that there wasn’t very much, and it isn’t super important to the story. And we don’t really know anything about how it works.
Things I liked:
- actiony, lots of suspense
- perspective switching
- complex, realistic characters
- the thought-provoking-ness
- almost everything about the plot
- Helene x Elias
Things I Didn’t Like:
- THE ROMANCE
- not enough world-building or magic
- Darin not being in the story even though he’s super important
All in all, I enjoyed it!
I would recommend this book if:
- you are a very plot-driven reader
- want something fresh and new
Be cautious if you:
- hate love triangles
- are looking for lots of magic and world-building
All in all, this is a good story about sacrifice, guilt, and ultimately, hope, with an exciting plot and interesting characters. There are some problems, but the plot is so good that I think An Ember in the Ashes deserves 4/5 stars, and I will definitely be reading the sequel.
I was inspired by Aimal’s (@Bookshelves and Paperbacks) beautiful collages to make this little aesthetic for An Ember in the Ashes. Hopefully this will give you a feel for the mood of the book!
Have you read An Ember in the Ashes? What did you think? Do you like love triangles? Would you consider yourself to be a more plot-driven or character-driven reader? Let me know in the comments!