Author: Sabaa Tahir // Published: April 28, 2015
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.
“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. Such moments are tests of courage, of strength.”
I finally picked up An Ember in the Ashes. And I am not okay. I predicted that this book would be a five star read but I’m also sitting here looking like the Pikachu meme. I was supposed to be following the reading schedule for the readalong. The goal was to finish the chapters for week two but next thing I knew I had already read into week threes chapters and then read the entire thing. I just couldn’t put the book down! I drew me in so quick and I just had to finish.
This book. This book right here is a masterpiece. It started off fast paced which really surprised me. I thought it would start off really slow but all of a sudden we were digging into the action and our story was ready to start. I will mention that the story was a lot darker than expected. I knew it would be dark but it was more than I thought we would get. The world was just merciless and I just know this wouldn’t be anyone’s fictional world of choice to visit.
“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that’s a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again. You have a soul. It’s damaged but it’s there. Don’t let them take it from you.”
But the characters, oh the characters. Before I get into that I want to talk about the names! a lot of the names felt so familiar and many of them were ones I grew up hearing and I just loved it so much. Back to the characters, I got attached to Laia right away! I’m used to reading books where the main character is brave from the beginning. You’ll hear about their fears every once in a while but goodness was Laia a surprise. She was one of those characters who gets braver along the way. She went through so much in this book but she persisted for her brother. She felt so real and I appreciated that so much. There was a lot of character development and she was just easy to love. Another character I loved was Elias. An absolute cinnamon roll and one I would do anything for. I loved reading his chapters, I loved how close we got to him, I loved that he wasn’t just like every other character you’ve read about. These two made onto my favorite characters list, hands down.
I hated the commandant the moment she was introduced. I feel like I haven’t felt this much rage for a character in a while. I’m just hoping someone gets rid of her soon because this woman has to go. I was hesitant about one characters, Helene. I genuinely don’t know how I feel about her. I didn’t understand some of her actions. She was so prejudiced, especially when it came to slaves. I felt like there wasn’t even the tiniest bit of compassion there. I get the fear of being punished but sometimes that didn’t feel like her reason to be honest. That was another things that I loved about Elias, is that he was ready to put his safety on the line or to at least help where he could, getting discovered be damned. I just hope I have some change of heart in the next book for her or to at least understand her a bit more.
“Fear can be good, Laia. It can keep you alive. But don’t let it control you. Don’t let it sow doubts within you. When the fear takes over, use the only thing more powerful, more indestructible to fight it: your spirit. Your heart.”
I will admit that I was anxious throughout the second half of the book. Which might explain why I put the book down and picked it up and then put down again in the span of a few hours. I did however end up binging the last 300 pages in one day. That was how addicting it was. The book did get very violent and the world overall is brutal. I was on edge the entire time and that ending had me scrambling to order the next two books.
Overall this book was everything. I didn’t expect to love it this much but here we are. I can’t wait to read the rest of the series. I just found a new favorite author and a new favorite series.
Trigger Warnings: Mentions of rape and sexual assault, violence, torture, death, and slavery.
About the Author
Sabaa Tahir grew up in California’s Mojave Desert at her family’s 18-room motel. There, she spent her time devouring fantasy novels, raiding her brother’s comic book stash and playing guitar badly. She began writing An Ember in the Ashes while working nights as a newspaper editor. She likes thunderous indie rock, garish socks and all things nerd. Sabaa currently lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her family.