(Review) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

An Ember in the Ashes
by Sabaa Tahir

Publication date: April 28th 2015
Genres: High fantasy, dystopia, romance
Age category: Young Adult
My rating★★★★ 
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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My thoughts and what not:
“You are an ember in the ashes, Elias Veturius. You will spark and burn, ravage and destroy. You cannot change it. You cannot stop it.” “You are full, Laia. Full of life and dark and strength and spirit. You are in our dreams. You will burn, for you are an ember in the ashes.”
I've never been a fan of fantasy let alone high fantasy. But this book proved to be a page turner. It was easy to delve into the story.

As a new reader of high fantasy, I thought it would be hard for me to imagine out of this world phenomena such as ghuls and augurs (they can read minds which reminds me of the Silent Brothers), but with Sabaa Tahir's vivid explanations, it wasn't really hard at all. I love that it was told in two perspective, Laia's and Elias.' That way, I get to know more about the things that the Masks and the Resistance do.

I adore the two main characters. Elias is not the typical Mask but when he's with Laia, he's just a quintessential boy—hormonal yet dependable. Laia, on the other hand, was a hybrid of the the original damsel in distress, a waif minus the abandoned part, and the untypical heroine—just a normal person in an uncommon world. While Elias' character was properly matured, Laia, I think, was yet to be developed.

In a classic dystopian world, there should be a romance, specifically, the love interests of the main characters, more specifically, the clich├ęd love triangles. This book has one or two. The romance here is really weird. The two main characters are hung on two love triangles. To be honest, even without romance this could be great — which is a first for me because I normally liked reading books with romance. But adding complicated love interest would probably make this more interesting, I guess. And yes that's me being sarcastic.

At first, I was glad that this book is a standalone. I've never heard of a standalone high fantasy novel because normally, you need more than one book to cover the world building. This information, together with the fact that: even before this debut novel was published, it was already set for a film adaptation, was enough excite me. But as I was nearing the ending, I decided that I want a sequel. Yes, the ending was unique and great, but a sequel would be nice, too.

I adore Sabaa Tahir's writing style; it was superb. She's pretty good at character development, too. I couldn't really evaluate the world building because I'm a bit stuck between with loving it and hating it. But overall, this is a very enjoyable read.

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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.
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  1. Wonderful review, Jane!
    I've been wanting to read this but I am hesitant because of the hype. Hopefully I will love this one. :)

    1. Thank you!
      I was also uncertain in reading this book because of the hype but it proved to be a great book. Let me know what you think after reading it. :)