REVIEW • An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

TITLE: An Ember in the Ashes

AUTHOR: Sabaa Tahir

SERIES: An Ember in the Ashes #1

PUBLICATION: April 28, 2015

PUBLISHER: Razorbill

FORMAT: Hardcover

PAGES: 446

SOURCE: Owned

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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.

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I read an Ember in the Ashes as soon as I felt a slump coming, and I’m really happy that I did because the slump didn’t continue and it didn’t eat away my precious reading time. I found myself just reading and reading for hours that I didn’t want to do anything else in between, because I just wanted to read it so bad. At some times, due to the intensity of some scenes, I find myself peeking through the next chapters, and then kind of hating myself for reading so slow because it was just SO GOOD.

For a debut novel, Sabaa Tahir created an enthralling world that made sure to suck you in and make you enjoy every page. As a fast-paced read, the novel also slowly built this world based on Ancient Rome on two point of views (Laia’s and Elias’) so beautifully and so haunting at the same time. And looking through the internet, I saw that this was supposed to be a standalone. I couldn’t believe it. It’s because its storyline is so perfectly made for a series, or a trilogy at least, since the story ends with no resolve well, but it leaves a pretty long list of set of questions needed to be answered. That is why I am also really happy because it was already announced that “A Torch Against the Night” will be released in April 2016.

Throughout the story, I almost always keep getting the impression that I’m reading through June Iparis’ and Daniel Wing’s point of views, only that June has no skill at all and really has no bravery in her, and Day is in the military group, at the top of his class and wants to be free. Then, there were also the Augurs, the spooky “people” who, the characters believe can see the future, never die, and read people’s minds. Some other “creatures of the night” include the ghuls, jinns, and efrits, which really gives the fantasy feel to the novel, although I can really sense some dystopia to it.

The story also has these Trials to find out who should be the new Emperor and his Blood Shrike (the Emperor’s right-hand), which was really awesome messed up and freaky, and this is one of the reasons why this book is worth reading. To be honest, I really wished that they just didn’t happen because those Trials were so haunting and sad and intense, and it felt like I couldn’t handle it. Also, the romance part of the book wasn’t too much, and it makes the book more interesting since it focuses on what really happens in the messed up world they’re in. There was literally a rollercoaster of feels on this book. I highly recommend this book to those who loved the Legend trilogy by Marie Lu, and those who love novels told from two point of views.

* THE SPOILER-Y PART BEGINS HERE. READ AT YOUR OWN RISK.*

Laia has one of the best character arcs ever. She had so much character development throughout the book, and I found her really awesome because of it. Laia is not your typical YA heroine. She was literally ‘zero’ who became ‘hero’. Having a weak and cowardly character at the start, I really wasn’t expecting too much from her, but I was really impressed by her passion to save Darin. This is also one of the reasons why I believed that this novel could not be a standalone, since the general problem which was to save Darin, wasn’t really resolved through the end of the book. She did everything she can for her brother so that she can save him, and that makes me really love Laia as a character because she is willing to do EVERYTHING for her family.

Elias on the other hand, is one character I really adore since he is also willing to do anything for freedom. For a top student and an heir to a very respectable family, I found his want to be free from it very intriguing. He is a student from Blackcliff Academy who trains to become a Mask, and since Masks are really not good people, Elias loathed to become one. He then helps Laia at some points in the novel which made me really adore him even more (especially their dance), and does everything he can to avoid hurting other people. He was actually the only real person I knew that went into the academy along with the next character I will be talking about.

A character I didn’t really know if I should like or not at first, (but I mostly like her) is Helene. She follows the rules so much that at first I really felt that she would be the one to blow up Elias’ entire plan, which was to desert, but being the best friend that she was, she didn’t report it to their Commandant, which was also Elias’ mother. I was really impressed when she had her deal with the Augurs. She was willing to risk everything, even her entire self, for the sake of her love for Elias. I really adored her for this and she made me guilty that I even doubted her at first.

As for the Commandant, I really feared her. Whenever she was in a scene, I knew that torture would follow. She has no soul, which showed when she even wanted to kill her own son even when he was still inside her womb because she believed that he was a mistake. But at one point, she made me empathize with her when she said she’s only doing things because she wanted to make her father believe in her. Although. I would really like to know what made her soul-less. Was her soul used as an exchange for something in return from the Nightbringer? That, I hope to see in the next book.

And for the ending, which I really found no resolution at all, I was not that happy. Although I was happy because they escaped and all, but there were just so many questions and mysteries brought up near the end that I wasn’t able to believe that it really is the end. It literally left me hanging and wanting for more. And this is why I am really really happy that there is going to be a book 2 for this wonderful book, which I will be waiting for, Sabaa.

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