An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publication Date: April 28th, 2015
Goodreads Rating: 4.21 stars
“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 received this ARC by winning a giveaway from Sabaa Tahir. This in no way influences my voice or opinions in the following review.
Gosh… Where do I even start with this one? This book was incredible. I don’t even know exactly how to get out the words I’m looking for to describe my feelings about this novel, so bear with me…
This story takes place in two different points of view. You have Laia; the orphan girl, the slave, the guilt-ridden sister, the naive young woman who is starting to see the world for exactly what it is, brutal and unfair. Then, you have Elias: the unwanted boy, the soldier, the trained killer, the brutalized young man who sees the way the world could be, if only he could find it in himself to make it happen. These two are the burning embers in the ashes, preparing to light the world on fire, if only they can follow the right paths to lead them to their destinies.
Elias is easy to love. A forlorn boy trapped in a world he wants nothing to do with. Seeing a future for himself better than the one he is destined to follow. Hoping for something, anything, that can free him from the imprisonment he was forced into as a child. He’s a young man who wants nothing more than to make a future for himself that doesn’t involve killing everyone around him. He sees the world differently than the soldiers that surround him and knows that he doesn’t fit in. Because of this, I fell in love with him instantly. He’s lost in this sea of armor and brutality and my heart just broke for him. He only wants what any normal person would want: happiness and freedom. As a reader, I followed him on his journey to try and find it, and I will tell you, my lovely readers, that his journey may surprise you.
Laia, on the other hand, has not been so easily taken to by some readers and bloggers. I’ve heard a few claims that she just wallows and whines through most of the book, and to that I say that I can see your point. Here’s the truth though, you, as a reader, cannot go into reading a new book EXPECTING the main female character to be the next Celaena Sardothien, Hermione Granger, Meghan Chase, etc. In many ways, Laia reminds me of Sorcha from Daughter of the Forest by Juliette Marillier. Both suffer greatly and sacrifice for their loved ones, but they suffer silently and beautifully. There’s something to be said about a character who, rather than murdering and fighting through a problem, finds their strength within and chooses a less violent route.
Laia faces the demons not only in the world around her, but in herself, to find out who she is and how she can make a difference for the ones that she loves in a world that is bent on tearing everyone apart. She is forced to dig deep to find the strength to stay true to herself and stand up, against all odds, for what she believes in. This is her bravery, her fighting spirit, and her strength. I can tell you that you will not find Laia brandishing a sword and cutting through some guts (although you may in the sequel, not gonna lie), but you will find her fighting viciously for her life and the lives of those around her. She is strong, believe it or not, because she is human and nothing more. I have to tell all of you who have read this novel to ask yourselves this: would you have suffered as beautifully as Laia and still stayed on the right path if your lives were switched? I daresay that you would not – I would not – but Laia would, and she does…
As far as the romance is concerned in this book, you DO have love triangles, I will warn you! I actually really didn’t mind them though. You have a love triangle for Elias and a love triangle for Laia, but each person that Elias and Laia have to choose between (someone else or each other), represent a different part of their life and a separate path towards an unknown destiny. Please excuse me as I try to explain what I mean without giving away any part of the story! I can see that if Laia does not choose Elias, she would end up in a very different sort of circumstance than if she does, and would probably develop as a character in the opposite direction. If Elias does not choose Laia, skies, his entire life could be in even more of an uproar and he would turn into a different person. It’s a delicate balance between what is right and wrong, and which choice is the right one for them, as individuals.
I loved all of the characters, including every single one in the love triangles. The depth and reasoning behind each character was true and well thought out. The beauty of this story and the love triangles it holds is that the main focus doesn’t solely lie on the love interest, but rather the corruption and brutality, and each character’s main goal. The love triangles, in my point of view, were formed, but the main focus stayed off them, which was really nice to read. I never knew which way Laia and Elias were going to sway and I am still not completely sure about the paths they chose for themselves in the end. I can guess at what will happen, but I’m sure that Sabaa will continue to prove me wrong!
In truth, I can’t say anything more without giving the story away, but overall, I was completely in love with this book. I was considering giving my ARC away, but I found myself just clutching it to my chest and literally curling myself around it as if to protect it from my own thoughts. I pre-ordered it that night. I told my friends that this may be the book that I have to have every single copy of, seeing as I’m already keeping the ARC and the new hardcover I’ve bought. I just… I can’t… I don’t even know how…
JUST PRE-ORDER IT ALREADY!!! Because I’m holding on to my copy and every copy I can get my hands on unless you want to see a desperate blogger sobbing in the fetal position… I’m not ready for that and I’m pretty sure you aren’t either!! So, here, I’ll make it easy for you. The links below lead you to the pre-order sites. It’s $6.00 off the hardcover right now if you pre-order it. It comes out exactly ONE WEEK from today, on Tuesday, April 28th. I promise you that you won’t regret it. If you do, than you can tie me up and throw me to the ghouls.
PSSTT!!! The Amazon one is actually a few cents cheaper!
Also, Ms. Sabaa Tahir, any publisher would be INSANE not to pick up your sequel because this book was pure brilliance. It was so beautifully written and just turned into this amazing masterpiece. I LOVE it and I know many other people do as well. I can’t wait to read book two and I’ll be jumping and crying for joy the day you announce that your sequel has been picked up by a publisher who knows your worth. You are a phenomenal author and I look forward to any other books I will be seeing from you. Keep at it. You’re wonderful.
So, that wraps up my review and all of the emotional capacity that I have reserved for one day. Have any of you read it yet? Do you agree/disagree? What did you think of it?
I hope you all have a great week and a wonderful rest of your day!