Title: An Ember In The Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
My rating: 4.25/5
Goodreads rating: 4.30/5
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
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 can understand the hype of this book. I always knew this was going to be a good book, just read the summary. A book inspired by ancient Rome? I signed up straight away. And can I say the maps at the start of the book are beautiful? Well, they are beautiful. Stunning in fact, sometimes I forget about the amount of work that goes into them. I really really liked this book. But I didn’t love it (oh no, an unpopular opinion!). I think it was because of the romance, because I fully supported the action in this book.
This book is told by two people, Laia and Elias. Laia lived life with caution and fear after her sister, mother and fathers got killed by the empire. This was until she sees her grandparents get slaughtered in front of her and brother get taken away to be tortured. Something snaps and she does anything she can to save her brother. Elias wanted to desert the Blackcliff, but after receiving some wise words he decides to boycott his plans…only to be trapped in a deadly competition to become the new emperor.
Yep, those two sentences are pieces of rubbish, because I just can’t explain this book of the plot clearly, without letting some spoilers out. Loads of stuff happens in this book which made it very action packed. I enjoyed immensely the dual POVs and the book really did well to include both of them as they both added interesting elements to the plot. It seemed like there was loads of mystery, though when I look back at it, everything looks crystal.
There were some great plot twists in the novel and I loved how everything wasn’t all daisies and sparkles in this book. There were some twists that I didn’t want happening and some I had to close the book for. There was a moment in the book were my eyes were filling with tears! Tears! The plot was probably one of the strongest things going for this book.
The writing in this book was superb! The world-building was so brilliant and vivid, I could see where she got the inspirations of Rome from. The descriptions were never boring or lengthy or did it feel like she was constantly info dumping on us. Everything was calm and it read very smoothly. I loved how she wrote both Elias and Laia individually. They were both very solid characters and their thoughts seemed realistic to the situation.
The part I didn’t like though was the romance. The romance just read so average and cliche. I couldn’t push myself to like it. At all.
“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.”
One of the things I loved about Laia is how she wasn’t the typical tough, fight ready protagonist like Katniss or other Katniss clones. She was scared and only really spurred on because of her brother, not because she wanted to start a revolution. It was refreshing to read a protagonist that was scared. I enjoyed reading from Elias’ view as well. He was the average-top-of-the-class-solider-with-an-agenda protagonist. He had some solid characterisation and development that made him a delight. But the romance….
I don’t care what anyone says, it was insta-love.
The Commandmant was so cold, cruel and creepy! She was just horrible and is rivaling Dolores on most hated antagonist in my mind.
What I liked:
- Plot was brilliant and interesting!
- Writing was smooth and vivid.
- Characters solid and enjoyable to read
What I disliked:
- Some plot points were predictable
- The insta-love and the two connecting love triangle (it was weird)
Verdict: This book was really good and entertaining. I can see why it has so much hype surrounding it and I will be picking up the second book in the duology which I am super excited for! But even the lovely writing and intriguing plot couldn’t cover up the insta/cliche love I saw. I still recommend though!