Title: An Ember in the Ashes
Author: Sabaa Tahir
Publisher: Harper Voyager
Rating: 5 stars
I’d been eyeing An Ember in the Ashes for quite some time, but for some reason, it was a really difficult book to get your hands on in South Africa, which in turn made it really expensive. So I decided to wait until the paperback was released and subsequently forgot about the novel until I came across it while lurking in Exclusive Books during my lunch break. I was two minds about purchasing the book because let’s face it, I already have so many fantasy series on my TBR list (more like a mountain). But against my better judgement, I thought what the hell. It’s only one more series to add to the 300 others I am hoping read in my lifetime…
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 realise that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.
An Ember in the Ashes was everything I wanted in a YA high fantasy novel.
The world building:
I was instantly drawn into the world Sabaa Tahir created. It was brutal and dark while at the same time rich and atmospheric. It felt familiar and yet so unique, melding a Roman Empire-like setting with Middle Eastern mythology and y’all know how I love that shit.
I will admit that I was thoroughly annoyed by Laia during the first half of the book, but I am glad she annoyed the living shit out of me. It made her character arch and development so much more effective.
Elias is my absolute favourite. I get a thrill out of complex characters, especially characters that could be read as the anti-hero. He is extremely flawed yet strong and his backstory is interesting.
Magic and Mythology:
The magic in this world is very mysterious and enigmatic. Many of the magical beings are borrowed from Middle Eastern mythology and the mythos and history of the world are intricate and interesting. We get to see a particular character develop an intriguing ability and it is not clear how this ability work. I am very interested to see how this plays into the next novel.
I love the fact that the villain is female and is evil for no other reason other than for sake of being evil. I am hoping that her backstory will develop in the next novel and pray that Tahir does not destroy the character by revealing that she is a scornful female who had her heart broken by some dude, which resulted in her becoming this cold leader. I hate the fact that female villains tend to be evil due to unrequited love. Nah fam, please just be evil for the sake of evil…
Think the King’s tournament in Throne of Glass but a million times better. While I was reading An Ember in the Ashes I couldn’t help but think that this was what I expected from Throne of Glass, Maas move aside, Tahir did it better… It also has a bit of a Tri-Wizard Tournament feel.
There is so much more I’d like to say about this novel but I can’t without completely spoiling it. If you have not read it yet, you need to asap. I am definitely ordering A Torch Against the Night.