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August 20, 2015

Book Review: An Ember In The Ashes

Title: An Ember In The Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin Random House)
Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy, Dystopian


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.


The story describes a Dystopian society called Empire, which is divided into Martials, the ruthless soldiers who show no mercy to the Scholars who were overthrown by the Martials, some five hundred years ago. Events are shown through the perspectives of Laia, a Scholar and Elias, a Martial.


1. Laia, an orphan who saw her grandparents killed and brother Darin, taken into custody by the Martials, vows to bring back her brother and thus begins a series of events which leads her to get into the Blackcliff Military Academy as a spy for the Resistance, which is a group of Scholars fighting against the Martials.

2. Elias, a Martial, who was brought into Blackcliff to be trained into a Mask (a soldier) but secretly hates it. She finds him enslaved by the rules of Blackcliff and was going to run away from them, when he was made a candidate for the new Emperor. He finds himself fighting against his own people to become the Emperor, a title which he doesn't even care about.


There are some amazing characters who want to help Laia, even if it means it will kill them; Izzi and Cook, Keenan, Sana and others. There are some ruthless characters who want nothing but power and they can go to any lengths to torture others and establish their superiority, like the Commandant, Mazen and Marcus. And then, there are some characters, who are not happy with their situation, yet they remain loyal, like Helene, Dex and Faris.


There are books which make you smile. There are books which fills you up with emotions. And there are books which will drive you mad with fury, and An Ember In The Ashes is one of them. I did not feel happiness or fluttering butterflies when I read this book, only rage uneasiness and fear, and hell, I loved it.

I couldn’t put this down even for a minute; the story pulls you deeply into the lives of the characters and you can almost feel like living inside the story and witnessing everything with your own eyes. Such is the detail with which Tahir has written this book. You forget what is real and what is not, and you’ll find yourself getting more and more drawn with each passing page.

I loved it how the characters aren't perfect in any way and how they hate their situations. The characters develop eventually, into some badass people who are determined to change their lives, along with those they can help with. They know how to find happiness even when they are suffering the worst.

Surprisingly, I enjoyed the two love triangles. Helene and Elias had a very beautiful friendship which was compromised when Helene started falling for him. Laia and Keenan had quite an interesting relationship, and I don’t really like their chemistry, yet I can’t make myself to hate it, either. Laia and Elias have something which cannot be explained. It’s complicated. There are sparks of love, sympathy and even empathy in their relationship. And again, I cannot hate it or even love it, either.

“Nan always said that as long as there is life, there is hope.”

Then there are characters which make you dread for life, which makes you relieved that you don’t live in the Empire. The Commandant is an arrogant creature, who can go to any extent for power and dominance. You can feel yourself fret whenever Laia sneaks out or even gets up late. You get Goosebumps every time Commandant is in the scene and you feel yourself standing beside her. Then there is Marcus, whose thirst for authority can be seen when he kills his own twin. He is another character for whom establishing his authority is the only life goal.

I can only say, that I need a sequel to this or I’ll cry myself to death, I swear.
As J. K. Rowling says, “There are stories which live with you forever”, and when you turn the last page of this book, you know that this story will live with you forever and beyond.

Have you read An Ember In The Ashes?

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