An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes #1) by Sabaa Tahir

January 31, 2016
Book Review, An Ember in the Ashes, Sabaa Tahir, InToriLex, An Ember in the Ashes #1
Published By: Razorbill  
Format Read: Kindle Edition (453 pages)
Genre: Young Adult/ Fantasy/ Romance/ Dystopia
Series: Book One of the Amber in the Ashes
Source: Purchased  
An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1)
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 tend to shy away from Young Adult Fantasy, but this rocked my socks off. I understand why there are mixed reviews about this book. But it worked for me because it had just the right amount of brutality and unique elements to balance out some common Young Adult tropes. This was fantasy done well. Although the characters Laia and Elias both start off skeptical about the supernatural, they quickly learn the world has so much more to teach them. Laia was not always a likable character to me, but her courage and will as the book went along out shined her naivety. Elias struggles against knowing the right thing to do, and having the strength to do it.
“I'd rather die than live with no mercy, no honor, no soul.”
The plot moved along well, the surprising relationships and society relations, made me very curious about whats to come. The Tribes, the culture, the Augurs, the training and the fighting all work together to develop a world that is imaginative and full of possibilities. Laia and Elias are both trying hard to navigate hard choices and deal with loss in their own way. The Commandant is a harsh and broken character who serves as a powerful reminder of how unforgiving and unfair the world can be. There were some times where rape and violence disturbed me in it's casualness, but the hope that kept the characters going kept me engaged and reading more. There is complex romantic feelings between Elias and his best friend Helene, Elias and Laia, and Laia and Keenan, a member of the reistance. The hard trials they go through keep them from ever being able to fully explore their feelings, but it's still developed well.
“There are two kinds of guilt: the kind that drowns you until you’re useless, and the kind that fires your soul to purpose.”
The only thing that is keeping this from being a five star book for me is that I wanted a bit more world building. I would recommend this to everyone, there is something here for readers of all ages. I enjoyed the diversity here and the changing points of view flowed together seamlessly. I haven't read much fantasy set in a middle eastern setting, but this was a great glimpse into that place even though it was fiction. There is enough complexity with the characters, supernatural elements and ruling class to keep the series exploring new and interesting relationships and situations along the way.


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.


Laura @BlueEyeBooks said...

I actually just finished rereading this book today and I totally agree with you! I get so engrossed in this book simply because of how pivotal a scene or a character can be like The Nightbringer or The Trials or the complications with the rebels. There definitely could have been more world-building though. The most I got was when I read the inside cover and it said the world was inspired by ancient Rome. I can't wait to read the second book! Lovely review :)

Laura @BlueEyeBooks

Unknown said...

I'm the complete opposite i'm OBSESSED with YA fantasy! but i'm glad to hear you enjoyed this so much! this is definitely one of those books that I've had on my TBR for ages now but haven't had a chance to get around to. great review!
Emily @ www.rabbitholereviews.com

InToriLex said...

Exactly I just wanted a bit more, that I didnt have to read between the lines about!

InToriLex said...

Definitely do, you won't regret picking up the book!!

Angel Erin's Book Obsession said...

Fantastic review! I really liked this one myself. I can't wait for the second book in the series. :)

InToriLex said...

I'm patiently waiting for the Sequel!!

Lis said...

I still haven't read this book, but I am dying to! I've read only good reviews about it!

InToriLex said...

Yes, definitely do when you can!!

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