Genres: Fantasy, Drama, Young AdultRelease Date: April 28th, 2015
Source: ARC from Publisher
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Set in a terrifyingly brutal Rome-like world, An Ember in the Ashes is an epic fantasy debut about an orphan fighting for her family and a soldier fighting for his freedom. It’s a story that’s literally burning to be told.
LAIA is a Scholar living under the iron-fisted rule of the Martial Empire. When her brother is arrested for treason, Laia goes undercover as a slave at the empire’s greatest military academy in exchange for assistance from rebel Scholars who claim that they will help to save her brother from execution.
ELIAS is the academy’s finest soldier— and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias is considering deserting the military, but before he can, he’s ordered to participate in a ruthless contest to choose the next Martial emperor.
When Laia and Elias’s paths cross at the academy, they find that their destinies are more intertwined than either could have imagined and that their choices will change the future of the empire itself.
This book has had it's fair share of hype even though there are still a couple of months before it comes out but the question that arises now is whether it lived up to the hype or not. As someone who doesn’t pay as much attention to the hype, I cannot answer that question with certainty but I can say that I wholeheartedly adored it. It’s one of those books I would have finished in a day had I not needed a desperate break from the brutality.
Sabaa Tahir has written a book that is bound to blow your mind or have you getting excited because it is so wonderfully crafted. It may not be the most original book; some aspects of it reminded me of other books I had read, but what is important is that Tahir adopts those aspects and makes them her own. Which is why I ended this book on a very high note.
I don’t know where to start breaking down this book because practically everything about it screams amah-zing.
But I figure the characters would be the best place to start. Laia and Elias are worthy characters. For starters, I was just happy to come across a character named Elias, but that small fact aside. I absolutely adored the characters and their strengths.
Laia has grown up believing she could never be a strong or brave as her brother or mother who everyone referred to as the lioness. And really, I am not going to tell you she is a typically strong female lead. She isn’t. But she is strong, in a whole other way. She doesn’t start off as brave in the classic definition. She is not ready to do what she is going to have to to gain her brother’s freedom yet she does it anyway because she loves her brother and because he is her only family left. She does what she has to and while she is not happy about it, while it scares the heck out of her, while she isn’t even sure about her ability to make it through this alive, she pushes through and that is where her strength lies. That is why I adore her so. She isn’t classically strong, she is strong because she has no other choice which turns her into a character that becomes strong in a way that you cannot help but admire and relate to.
Elias is just as fantastic in his own way. He never wanted any of this. He hates the empire and he doesn’t want to be a martial. He isn’t out to save the world. He just wants out. He wants to be free. He doesn’t want to constantly hide who he is and he doesn’t want to have to kill people. At the last moment, when he is about to desert, something happens (I will not reveal this something so as to avoid spoilers). What makes me admire Elias is that even though he has a somewhat low opinion of himself (as a result of his fear of turning into a stone cold murderer like his mother), he somehow manages to retain his beliefs and almost always do what he believes is the right thing. That is his way of saving himself. His ability to do the right thing makes me adore him, especially considering that even his best friend doesn’t share all his ideals and thinks that he is out of line for believing certain things.
Is there a romance between the two characters? I am sure plenty of you are curious and I have to answer that question with a sad no. I personally think the two would make a great couple but that just isn’t happening now. We can only hope it happens down the road. I would like to mention that there is a bit of a love square situation but, it’s a lot more complicated than just that. If you’ve read the Seven Realms series, think the first two books (those are the only ones I’ve read so I don’t know what happens in the other two and cannot take those into consideration).
The world building on the other hand is a lot more straight forward. The blurb said something about a Roman-like world and I actually kept on seeing it as more of a middle-eastern-like world. There are so many mythological aspects weaved into this book too, like Jinns!!!!! That definitely got me excited and I cannot wait to learn even more about this world in the future instalments of the series.
In terms of plot, this book is brutal and I don’t say that easily. Tahir doesn’t hold back on us. Laia for example, goes through a lot not just emotionally, but physically as a result of her ‘owner’. The author doesn’t dance around this but instead shows us and inadvertently makes us feel the misery of the slaves. It’s one of the reasons why I had to put down the book instead of finishing it that very day. Elias faces his own internal conflict with his beliefs and the beliefs of everyone he is surrounded by and he needs to find a way to be himself.
This book is also paced beautifully and is neither too fast or too slow. The tension is just right in this instalment although I imagine things are definitely going to get more intense in the future instalments.