Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
Release Date: April 28, 2015
Acquired Via: Around the World ARC Tours
I WILL TELL YOU THE SAME THING I TELL EVERY SLAVE.
THE RESISTANCE HAS TRIED TO PENETRATE THIS SCHOOL COUNTLESS TIMES. I HAVE DISCOVERED IT EVERY TIME.
IF YOU ARE WORKING WITH THE RESISTANCE, IF YOU CONTACT THEM, IF YOU THINK OF CONTACTING THEM, I WILL KNOW
AND I WILL DESTROY YOU.
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 had high hopes for An Ember in the Ashes, and it pretty much met every one of them. One of my favorite things is finding a debut or new to me epic fantasy, and even though An Ember in the Ashes is more dystopia than high fantasy, I thoroughly enjoyed it.
An Ember in the Ashes uses a lot of the typical dystopian tropes, but still managed to keep me hooked. I was over 100 pages in before I considered even trying to put the book down. At first, I thought that it might be a little too much like Legend by Marie Lu, with the similar academy training the empire's best soldiers, but the more brutal, Romanesque world helps to set it apart. The slight fantasy elements with the hints of jinn, ghuls and wraiths also help.
Laia was an extremely interesting character, and not the typical dystopian/fantasy heroine who are mostly the strongest/chosen-one type. Laia thinks she's a coward, not strong enough to do what she must, and would only consider her dangerous plan in order to save her brother. Laia goes undercover as a slave to the leader of the academy. She's to ferret out secrets for the revolution in exchange for their freeing her imprisoned brother. The Commandment is pure evil and likely to disfigure her slaves at the least provocation. Laia is in terrible danger, and my stress levels were skyrocketing as Laia sneaks around. I just knew she was going to get caught and tortured by the commandment at any time.
Elias was an interesting character as well. Although he was the normal golden boy on the inside wanting freedom from the empire and trying to rebel against the empire's wishes, he is a little tarnished gold. He is the apple of his grandfather's eye, but his mother, the evil Commandment, is alternately indifferent or hateful to her only son.
There is an infuriating love-square, yes, not just a triangle but a square in An Ember in the Ashes. Laia is torn between the boy in the resistance and the boy soldier who only wants to escape. BUT, the boy soldier also can't make up his mind between Laia and his best friend. Why couldn't they just be best friends instead of trying to add in the romance?
My main complaint is the ending. Supposedly An Ember in the Ashes was written to be a standalone, but it does not remotely read like one. It's setting up a world, and there are sooooooo many unanswered questions because of it. The author said it's written like a standalone, and the publisher had only bought one book, but that if it sells well they may buy others and the author already has characters and plots planned. If it's the first book in a series, it's amazing, and I can't wait to read more. If it's a standalone, I am disappointed and wanted more. There should have been less of a focus on the love-square and more of a focus on the world and it's mythical inhabitants.
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository| Fish Pond | IndieBound
To satisfy FTC guidelines, I am disclosing that I received an advance copy of the book briefly for reviewing purposes through Around the World ARC Tours in exchange for an honest review.The book was likely provided to the tour by the publisher or author, which has in no way affected the outcome of my review.