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.
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Part of a Series: An Ember In The Ashes #1.
Release Date: February 9, 2015
No. of Pages: 446 pages
Genre: Young Adult, Fiction, Fantasy, Action, Romance
I remember the first time I fell in love with an Action-Dystopian novel. It was with Marie Lu’s Legend Trilogy that I felt the utter need to read this genre. The writing was impeccable with that one, and after completely reading all the books from that trilogy, I was in a constant search for my next favorite Action-Dystopian series. That is until I discovered the beauty that is Sabaa Tahir and her An Ember In The Ashes.
Reading this book began as a way to get ready for it’s sequel, A Torch Against The Night. I went in blind on this, and I had no idea that I would fall deeply in love with Sabaa’s writing, as well as Laia and Elias’ story. It made me feel and root for them all throughout the entire book and, as a reader, I couldn’t have asked for a better way to fall head over heels in love with a book than that.
To say that the story was action-packed is nothing but an understatement. I loved how from the first page to the last, the story was filled with intense action and thrilling pursuit scenes. Elias, a soldier molded by the Blackcliff Academy for the Empire, wants his freedom. Laia, a Scholar brought to the Academy by The Resistance for a mission, longs not only for her freedom, but her family’s as well. With that just said, you’ll know just how exciting their story’s going to be. Sabaa was able to tell a magnificent story by putting her characters under threatening circumstances, making them spontaneous in terms of moving forward and making life-changing decisions. It was amazing how strong both MCs were in their own ways, making me believe in their capability of fighting for their freedom.There’s nothing I love more than characters who know what they want and stops at nothing to obtain it.
The character development was unbelievably impressive. When I read the first few chapters, I had no idea that both Laia and Elias would turn out to be such strong leads. Told in dual perspectives, the chapters were basically planned to let readers know that both MCs experience different kinds of hell in their own pacing. And as expected, they emerged victorious from all their hardships, and the journey towards victory made them stronger, independent, and all the more easy to root for.
The world building was phenomenal with An Ember In The Ashes. Sure, we didn’t get to see the entire Empire, but we experienced maximizing the feel out of Serra, the Blackcliff Academy, as well as a few others. I can sense that Sabaa focused on those areas enough to let her readers actually build a vivid environment where her characters could live in. I find it impressive that she was able to pull off improving one area at a time, seeing that there’s quite a lot going on all throughout the book. Also, the addition of the maps found on the endpages of the Hardcover edition? Genius!
I also wanted to point out how impressive Sabaa was in leveling the amount of romance < action in her story. If you’ve read it, you would get the feeling that romance might not have been one of Sabaa’s priorities when it came to telling Laia and Elias’ story. Personally, I’m not a big fan of authors trying so hard to blend the romance and action aspect in Dystopian novels, but with Ember, it was a perfect mix. There was no major romance scenes which, in my opinion, worked out great for the story. It didn’t need much of that, to be honest. The premise of the book didn’t require as much swoony instances, and I’m glad Sabaa honored that. She stayed true to her writing, and for that, I commend her. But, when the MCs engaged themselves in romance, I happen to LOVE that fortunate happenstance. It was limited, and thus, duly honored. I truly approve!
“The only thing that disheartens me about this book is that it took me more than a year to actually get to reading it. There’s a definitive reason why An Ember In The Ashes is named The Best YA Book of 2015, and I’m glad I got to see that for myself. Such a fantastic read for fans of Marie Lu’s The Legend Trilogy.”
Characters – 3.50
Plot – 4.00
Writing Style – 4.00
Pacing – 4.00
Ending – 4.50
TOTAL – 4 Stars
“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.”
“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.”
“All the beauty of the stars means nothing when life here on earth is so ugly.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The field of battle is my temple. The swordpoint is my priest. The dance of death is my prayer. The killing blow is my release.”
“Fear is only your enemy if you allow it to be.”
Check out this giveaway I have on Twitter! All you have to do is check out and follow my account @JMCabraal, retweet my giveaway tweet, and you’re all set! I’ll be using Tweetdraw to pick one lucky winner! Up for grabs is a Paperback copy of An Ember In The Ashes! I’m linking the giveaway tweet below for everyone’s convenience:
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.